When I first announced this challenge back in December, Ken Gagne was one of the first ones to lock in his choices – but he chose a week in May rather than January. So I’ve had quite a while to consider his choices, and I’mma be honest, when Mortal Kombat the movie was one of them, I had a moment of wondering if this whole idea had been a terrible mistake! Letting other people pick movies for me? Who knows what could happen? Well, what’s happened has been wonderful, and even the movies I haven’t been looking forward to have given me a lot of pleasure.
This is a video-game based movie made probably before video-game based movies got the bad rap they have now, adapting the long-running fighting game series to the screen. I’ve never played Mortal Kombat (I’m a gamer, but fighting games aren’t my thing), so I had to look up on Wikipedia whether the story here has any relationship to the game, and apparently it does – so strange to me that a fighting game would have this amount of lore, but there you go.
The emperor of Outworld wants to take over Earth, but his representatives need to win ten Mortal Kombat tournaments in order to do so. If it’s explained EXACTLY why this is, I missed it, and I’m not sure it’s particularly important. The important thing is that the protector of Earthrealm, Lord Rayden, finds three people he thinks can defeat the emperor’s right hand dude Shang Tsung in the tournament: young martial artist Liu Kang, with a prophecy and a revenge motive, Hollywood hotshot Johnny Cage, with an ego problem, and Special Forces type Sonya Blade, who’s after a crime lord and gets pulled into saving the world.
It’s remarkable how similar the larger story is to the Power Rangers movie I watched a few weeks ago; I ranked that one lower than I wanted to (I enjoyed it, but it’s pretty cheesy/teen show-esque and it came up against some tough competition), and this one ended up quite a bit higher, largely because it is still over the top, but is a bit easier to take seriously because of better acting and fighting. Basically, imagine the Power Rangers movie crossed with Enter the Dragon and there you go.
The fight scenes are all pretty fun – my favorite was the one between Johnny Cage and Scorpion that started in a giant tree farm (no idea why they were there), but ended up in a hellish orange dimension with rickety poles and bridges and cages everywhere. It’s a marvelous set-piece design. I haven’t played the game, but I definitely recognized and got a kick out of the ends of fights when someone would go “FATALITY!” or “FLAWLESS VICTORY.” I did kind of expect it to be more gory, since that’s also something the game is known for, but this is pretty tame in the blood and guts department.
The overall story/lore is a bit silly, but you gotta take that as it comes with a movie like this, and I enjoyed it a lot. I wish some of the narrative transitions were a bit easier to follow (I thought I was paying attention, but I’ll grant I may have drifted a time or two), but nobody’s watching this for the story. I thought the fights were fun and paid off, and that’s what really matters in a movie based on a fighting game.
Stats and stuff…
directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, written by Kevin Droney
starring Christopher Lambert, Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Talisa Soto
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Mortal Kombat entered my chart:
Mortal Kombat > Three Times
Mortal Kombat < Rango
Mortal Kombat < The Music Man
Mortal Kombat < The Garden (1968)
Mortal Kombat < The Far Country
Mortal Kombat < November
Mortal Kombat < The Last Hungry Cat
Mortal Kombat < A Generation
Mortal Kombat > The Ugly Dachshund
Mortal Kombat < The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
Mortal Kombat < Hare Conditioned
Mortal Kombat < Sharps and Flats
Final #1810 out of 3636 films on my chart (50%)
It is now my #3 Paul W.S. Anderson film, my #24 Martial Arts film, my #3 Video Game film, and my #22 film of 1995.
Mortal Kombat was recommended by Ken Gagne, a friend from Twitter.
A few quotes…
Shang Tsung: Your brother’s soul is mine. You will be next.
Johnny Cage: We got a guy with things comin’ out of his hands, we got another guy who freezes stuff, and then there’s a man, who as far as I can tell, is made out of electricity. I mean, how did he disappear like that? What is goin’ on here? WHO IS THIS GUY?
Sonya Blade: Let’s just think this through. There IS a rational explanation for all this.
Liu Kang: He’s Rayden, god of lightning and protector of the realm of Earth.
Johnny Cage: Oh yeah. THERE’S your rational explanation!
Lord Rayden: You’re about to embark on a secret mission. You have been chosen to defend the realm of Earth. In a tournament called Mortal Kombat.
Lord Rayden: I have looked into their souls… and yours. One of you three with determine the outcome of the tournament. The fate of billions depends upon you.
Shang Tsung: FATALITY.
Johnny Cage: [while fighting Goro] Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole.
Liu Kang: You can look into my soul, but you don’t own it.
Shang Tsung: Johnny Cage, I challenge you!
Liu Kang: No! You’ll fight me. I am Liu Kang, descendent of Kung Lao. I challenge you to Mortal Kombat.
Liu Kong: Flawless victory.
A few more screenshots…