Mortal Kombat (1995), or I Had No Taste As A Kid…

19 12 2009

I had to interrupt my viewing of The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai today. I seem to be doing that a lot lately, but with the end of the year rushing up to meet me like a tide of joy and effulgent triumph, I can’t keep my mind on only one movie. In a moment of extreme inspiration, I decided I needed something extremely action-packed and filled with suspense, danger, some martial arts, and topped with heaping helpings of awesome! But, unfortunately, all I could find was this, the smash hit of summer 1995, Mortal Kombat! It’s so cool they spelled combat with a K! Other than the faux etymology, however, there’s not much to rave about in this video game adaptation. I don’t know if I needed to let you know this, though, because depending on the demographic I cater to, you’ve probably already seen it and purchased the smash platinum soundtrack! Everybody my age, as a rite of passage, has seen this at some point in their lives, expecting some sort of action epic, and I’m sure when they were young, as I was when I saw it, they were blown away by it all. But I implore you, if you want to keep your nostalgic fuzzy memories intact, don’t watch it again as an adult, because you will be astoundingly disappointed.

Mortal Combat with a K is based on the SMASH HIT VIDEO GAME of the same name. Basically, once a generation, the top fighters from all over the world are invited to participate in a tournament to test their skills against people from Earth and beyond. That’s right, I said beyond; people from all the other mystical realms of the cosmos (?) are competing in this, especially one realm known as the Outworld. The leader of the Outworld has sent his most powerful sorcerer, known as Shang Tsung, to defeat the fighters from the Earth realm and gain entry into their world so he can do evil stuff to it. Three unlikely warriors are chosen; Johnny Cage, an actor whose attitude might be bigger than his skill, Sonya Blade, a special forces unit member who is looking for vengeance for a dead partner, and Liu Kang, a man who is also looking for vengeance who seems chosen by the Lord of Lightning, Rayden (who is a white guy, for some reason, even though everybody who worships him is Asian…). With Rayden’s help, can these three unlikely heroes take charge of the destiny of the Earth realm and stop the evil surge of the Outworld? Probably!

Mortal Combat with a K is an epochal action epic. At the time, the early CG effects, the animatronics, and the music were unbelievably on the mark as far as timing. It was like the Transformers of 2009; it was the movie that everyone went to see for the spectacle of it all, because everyone had apparently already seen it. But, like all epochal epics, it has aged terribly. The effects now seem very embarrassing, the creature effects are on the level of an episode of Sesame Street, and the hairdos look like they were all ripped off of extras from Demolition Man. How times change things! It’s good for a laugh, but I promise you that it does not hold up very well. You know that quality The Wizard of Oz has, that timelessness and bold character it exudes despite the year the film was shot and the adjusted budget it ran on? Mortal Combat with a K looks at that timelessness, shrugs its shoulders, and starts doing the Macarena!

This is professional plebeian Paul W.S. Anderson’s first big-budget movie, and his second feature overall. For his second shot, it’s honestly not that terrible. Considering this is the guy who would later mindfuck the die-hard fans of the Resident Evil series forevermore, this is a somewhat tolerable mindless action film. Sure, it goes limp about halfway through after a barrage of good-versus-evil poppycock and a parade of characters we don’t care about getting beat up, but it has some engaging fight scenes and a few inventive martial arts sequences (my favorite battle was between throw-away villain Reptile and Liu Kang; good stuff!).

The actors fare a little worse. Christopher Lambert dons some white hair and an inexplicable accent to play Rayden. He doesn’t actually fight; he just laughs in that weird Lambert-esque cackle and strings together various taunts and phrases. Not too good. Robin Shou, who plays Liu Kang, is without a doubt the standout. He’s a good actor, a great fighter, and I can buy him being the Chosen One. Good all around hero. Bridgette Wilson plays Sonya, to my chagrin. This was a bad choice for her. She is a bland asshole character the whole movie, she doesn’t try to branch out a single iota, and worst of all, her fight scene is fucking shameful! It is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t try very hard, and that’s what kills me. Whatever training she went through to get the part, it was a total waste, because she just does not give it her all, and I can’t get behind anyone who half-asses their job for six-figures. Linden Ashby is a good jerk, though, as the one and only Johnny Cage. His smooth-talking and his one-liners seem to come naturally, which always helps the flow of the comic relief.

Mortal Combat with a K is something to watch with your friends and laugh about. It sure gets the cheeks red of someone who talks it up (I know a guy who thinks this movie is like manna from heaven). I listened to Bren’s copy of the soundtrack this afternoon, and could not control a Category 5 smile as it erupted from my face. It’s kitschy, straight-faced in the face of its own insanity, and it has an animatronic giant with four arms named Goro who gives his best O-face every time he wins a fight! What more could you want from a comedy? I give Mourtul Kaumbāt 5 1/2 Caucasian gods of Asian people out of 10!

Tomorrow I should have a surprise review coming up! Until then!!!