As we stumble further down the rabbit hole, we come to my favourite gaming movie and as of 2014, the 4th highest grossing gaming adaptation of all time.
As it was one of the movies I grew up with, I’m unashamedly enthusiastic about it. I watched it over and over again I firmly rank it as one of my all-time favourites.
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Mortal Kombat.
When I was younger, I loved all things martial arts and that goes some way to explaining why I fell in love with this. Watching it again, I was expecting to go in with my critic’s head on and pick out loads of different bits that made it a poor movie. But, I actually found it really difficult to do that. That’s not down to any bias that’s invoked in me from my youth, it’s simply because it’s a very good movie.
Let’s get the most obvious comparison out of the way first. Mortal Kombat was released a year after Street Fighter and even though they’re both based on the same format, they couldn’t be further apart. Where Street Fighter didn’t know what it wanted to be, Mortal Kombat knew exactly what kind of movie it wanted to present to us.
I mentioned in my last review that Street Fighter didn’t keep things simple and that’s exactly why Mortal Kombat works so well. It didn’t deviate from what the game is, rather it embraced it, loved it and gave it back to us with finesse.
It’s always going to be hard basing a movie on a Beat ‘em up. People know - or at least think they know - what to expect and if that’s not delivered you’re running a mighty fine risk. Mortal Kombat takes no risks and what we get is something that’s enjoyable, fun and downright entertaining.
In the lead up to the movie, one or two things happened that at the time would have been considered fatal. Ultimately though, they saved the movie.
Firstly, Jean-Claude Van Damme was approached to play Johnny Cage but declined as he wanted to focus on Street Fighter. Secondly, Cameron Diaz was signed on to play Sonya Blade before breaking her wrist a week prior to filming.
Let’s face it, those two are big hitters and their departure or refusal might be the death knell to any other movie. It seriously helps Mortal Kombat though. What we’re left with is a relatively unknown cast and because of that, no performance outshines the next, making it a level playing field.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s really hammy in parts but by having the cast we have, we avoid the pitfalls that Street Fighter fell into with Van Damme and Raúl Juliá.
This point is really important because the two things Mortal Kombat embody are interesting characters and martial arts. The beauty of this movie is that each character is exactly as I remember them from the games. Raiden is electrifying (sorry!), Shang Tsung is menacing, Johnny Cage is cocky and both Sub Zero and Scorpion are perfect.
Add to that the choreography and martial arts and this movie is an absolute blinder. I talk about it to people and I almost find the things I’m saying ridiculous. But, it’s actually based in logic and experience. As I said earlier, I grew up loving everything martial arts based. That extends to the greatest martial arts movies ever made, the Bruce Lee collection. Lee was and is the master of his craft and the fight scenes in his movies provide the blueprint for everything else in the genre.
Mortal Kombat must have analysed that blueprint because the choreography is brilliant, breath-taking and brutal. It actually feels like you’re watching a martial arts tournament and it doesn’t stop from start to finish. Let’s not forget that it IS Mortal Kombat though. You need an element of magic and sorcery without ruining what you’ve achieved with your other angles. I talk about balance a lot and it’s a particularly hard thing to achieve in a movie like this.
But, congratulations Paul Anderson. You absolutely nailed it. Whilst I can’t quite give you top marks, you’re more than deserving of your rating. Even if Dan does tell me off for being generous.
4* - A movie that Tsung to my heart. Before it was ripped out.