So far, the record of computer game-to-movie adaptations is dismal: Super Mario Bros, Double Dragon and Street Fighter were all knocked out of the ring before the opening weekend figures were in. Based on the most violently famous (or famously violent) game of all, Mortal Kombat Movie is, like its heroes, battling for the existence of its species.
As if it wasn’t handicap enough, this also falls into the dreaded category of First American Movie From A British Director Whose First British Movie Wasn’t That Much Cop, as Paul Anderson (responsible for the tragic Shopping) rises to bat after the strike-out of Danny Cannon’s Judge Dredd.
The filmmakers try to solve the problem of turning an experience which merely consists of a series of fights into a story by… ignoring it, presenting a film which merely consists of a series of fights. The set-up is mixed between Enter The Dragon and Dr. Strange as cosmic hero Rayden (Lambert, doing the David Carradine role) and villain Shung Tsu (Tagawa) pick up sides for a martial arts tournament which will ultimately decide the fate of the Earth.
In our side are Chinese kicking-ass sensation Liu Kang (Shou), Rambette Special Forces butt-wooper Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) and pride, bum-bashing movie star Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), all of whom have martial arts moves to show. Stood in opposition are tons of ill-tempered, smug, super-powered stooges, one of whom has four arms.
Anderson does a wonderful job of edging humor into silliness – Lambert gets a few clever looks – and the art direction and effects are fine. But all the head-crushing and thigh-flexing doesn’t make up for the monotony of a story that merely traipses from one combat (sorry, kombat) to another.
By the time the great, world-saving bout comes around, it’s impossible not to wish that Shung Tsu would settle the fate of humankind by asking Liu Kang what the capital of Venezuela is… rather than involving him in yet another round of supernaturally assisted dirty brawling.
The whole point of the first Mortal Kombat film is that by defeating Shang Tsung’s warriors in the tournament, Liu Kang and the others prevent Shao Kahn’s forces from invading Earth. All of it is thrown out the window in the first few minutes of this movie. Shao Kahn’s forces begin falling from the sky, and Earthrealm starts merging with Outworld. Man, this is stupid. Why did it matter if Liu Kang and the other fighters took out Goro and Shang Tsung, if Shao Kahn can still take over Earth anyway? Also, don’t give me that crap about Liu Kang rescuing his brother’s soul from the evil sorcerer. I could care less. The rules of Mortal Kombat are that Outworld had to win ten tournaments to take over Earth. Well, they didn’t win, but they are still invading. What happened to the rules?
Rules are very important. When we turn the faucet, water should begin to flow. If you put your trash at the curb, the garbage truck will stop by to pick it up. Feeding a crisp dollar bill into a snack machine should cause a bag of M&M’s to come out. It is very upsetting when the rules are broken, because it is unfair. People get hurt, even worse, when the basic truths that hold our existence are is actually flawed. Just ask all those people killed by falling vending machines.
Or you could ask any Army soldier returning from a one year Iraq deployment that finds out his wife is five months pregnant. It is also a tremendous violation of the rules.
Outworld’s invasion of Earth is an interessting choice of special effects. It looks like Earth is being destroyed by flaming hemorrhoids from outer space. Faced against that kind of invasion, Rayden and the others make a run for it (except for Johnny Cage, who has himself killed by Shao Kahn). The god protector of Earth shows Liu Kang how to use a secret underground network of wind tunnels to quickly travel anywhere on Earth. See, there are these big metal hamster balls. You get inside the ball, and the hurricane at the center of the Earth shoots the ball through the tunnels. The hard part is that you have to lean hard when your exit comes up, otherwise the ball might fall into a yawning river of lava, or, even worse, you might end up in New Jersey.
Garden State my a**.
Rayden takes his guts to a distant temple to ask the Elder Gods why the rules of Mortal Kombat have been flawed. The three gods tell him to get over it. Elsewhere, Liu Kang and Kitana are looking for a powerful warrior named Nightwolf, but encounter a cyborg (Smoke) that looks suspiciously like the alien from “Predator.” Fortunately, Sub-Zero’s younger brother is there to defeat Smoke, and then tangles with Scorpion (who suddenly attacks) until the reptilian ninja grabs Kitana and takes off. Poor Liu Kang is left standing there without any hot Outworld princess wearing latex to ogle. He continues on his journey to find Nightwolf.
There is a very confusing section of the movie involving Nightwolf training Liu Kang in “animality.” Even more confusing is that Jade suddenly shows up and offers Liu Kang a happy ending. When he resists romantic friction, the female newcomer shrugs and makes use of her martial arts abilities against Shao Kahn’s forces.
While the others were being punked by the Elder Gods or trying to escape the rub-and-tug mafia, Sonja finds Major Briggs. He is bound to a metal table in a secret government lab. The pair have some adventures before meeting up with everyone else (minus Kitana, who is Shao Kahn’s prisoner) at the Temple of the Elder Gods. It is where audiences get to see the new and improved thunder god. Let me tell you something: I think that Rayden is having a midlife crisis, which is sort of odd for an immortal. Moreover, but he is having the kind of midlife crisis where a dude bleaches his hair, turns into a vegan, and begins wearing all kinds of goofy outfits in a misguided attempt to look trendy.
Why can’t he just get a Harley and a girlfriend? I don’t want the immortal protector of Earth to look like a purple version of Peter Pan. To make things worse, Rayden acts as if he is the aforementioned vegan stereotype. He keeps telling the others that the only thing they need is to believe in themselves. This film is like some sort of after-school special, what with the self confidence message and a grown man dressing like Peter Pan.
I get the feeling that a rabidly loyal MK player wrote this script…when he was 13.
The group enters Outworld to save the Earth by rescuing Kitana and defeating Shao Kahn. During this, Rayden starts telling the others about his family. His father is an elder god, his brother is Shao Kahn – all of the embarrassing personal information that a guy going through his midlife crisis seems compelled to tell casual associates who don’t care, don’t know what to say, or don’t want to know. Egad, this is even worse than an after-school special; it is daytime soap. What can possibly happen next, Liu Kang realizing that Kitana is actually his half-sister? Sonja revealing that Jax is her baby’s father? Kitana finding out that her father did not die in a plane crash like she thought he did?
Arrgggghhhh! I don’t watch soap operas, because they drive me nuts. Mortal Kombat movie is driving me nuts!
The film does end, and with a climatic final battle between good and evil that somehow manages to be just as nondescript as the rest of the fights that preceded it. Even Rayden’s death fails to make the final battle interesting. I was like, “What? Lord Vegan is dead? Good! Who else needs to die so that this vapid film can finally end? Kill ’em!” When the fight is over, the script cheats by returning all of the characters to the temple where the movie started, and bringing Rayden back to life as an elder god. Sindel is also freed from her service to the forces of evil, so she appears looking happy and dressed as if she is ready to star in a feminine hygiene commercial.
Thank God that the Mortal Kombat film finally does end, and by “God” I don’t mean Lord Peter Pan the Purple. To be honest, Rayden’s transformation into an elder god makes him look like Pigpen from “Peanuts.” Great, Earth’s patron immortal is the Deity of Dirt.