Martial Arts
Mortal Kombat
Dir: Paul Anderson
Star: Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert
Cert / Year: 15 - PG13 / 1995
Format: DVD R2

Once every generation a band of warriors are selected to complete in a tournament called Mortal Kombat. They must represent the Earth realm against the Emperor's enslaved realm of Attworld, for the greatest prize of all, that of the Earth. If the Emperor's forces win ten straight victories he can conquer our realm, he has won nine. Up against his servant the evil Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and his army, are three warriors Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) and Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby). Together they must overcome their fears, and with a little help from Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto) and Rayden (Christopher Lambert) they must face their enemies. Let Mortal Kombat begin...

There are examples of films want to be computer games (Tron, The Last Starfighter), but here we have one of the increasingly common trend of video games that have been made into films. Up until Mortal Kombat the track record of such endeavours he has been poor to say the least, take the awful Super Mario Brothers or even worse, the total bomb that was Streetfighter (just don't start me on this one). Only more recently with Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy have things improved. So where does Mortal Kombat fall into this range, well I'm happy to report very much at the upper quality end.

The reason for the failure of the early movies may have down to the subject matter. The games they were based upon were simple early arcade console affairs. Whereas more modern games are more complicated, requiring as they do characterisation and plot to sell the game. This means that they translate to film in a far more easy manner. But hold on, Mortal Kombat was a simple arcade beat em up just like Streetfighter, so why does it work. The reason why it worked where Streetfighter failed was due to the fact that it didn't try to add plot and characterisation. It was a film of the game, in essence a series of fights.

The script chosen is effective in as much it provides enough scope to establish the characters before the fighting begins. When it all kicks off (no pun intended) it is adequate in providing a reason for the fights, if not any logic as to when they happen, It does however deliver some cool and funny one liners. On the whole the tournament idea is very similar to the Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon, which is not a bad thing.

Paul Anderson is a very exciting director. His depth of visual composition is often stunning, and his ability to shoot action is spot on. His choice of movie has not led to critical acclaim, consisting as they do of audience pleasing (well that was the intention of them) no brainers. This film follows this trend, and his work here is very impressive. A mixture of clever locations, fantastic sets and good matte work have been combined in a sumptuous manner to provide some spectacular backdrops for the fighting.

The fights themselves are a mixed bag. Rarely do they meet the standards of the Hong Kong cinema films, this is mainly due tot he lack of martial arts training in some of the cast. Good use of CGI and some slick direction do help, but occasionally it proves a little difficult to paper over the cracks. Don't get me wrong the fights aren't bad, just compared to the very best they are a little slow. On the up side each character has retained some of their special moves from the game and these are pretty spectacular.

The cast are for the most part adequate. Robin Shou and Linden Ashby are the best of the bunch, both have martial arts training and it shows, what's more they can act. The three special warriors (Subzero, Reptile and Scorpion) are great in their fights. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is an excellent bad guy, but is found lacking during the fight scenes. On the other hand Bridgette Wilson looks a little lost, and Trevor Goddard is way out of his depth as Kano. A real touch of class is provided by Christopher Lambert he steals every scene he is in (shame he isn't in more).

Mortal Kombat has its faults, the editing is patchy and confusing times, the story has trouble finding time for plot progression in amongst the fights, and as mentioned the fights can't compare to a Hong Kong marital arts movies. However this is still the best computer game conversions to date. If has stylish direction, fantastic sets and some cool characters. In all a cracking piece of fast paced action, with more than a nod to its video game roots. Not quite a flawless victory, but let Mortal Kombat commence.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 A little grain but is still very good.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Energetic with good effects and good spatial distribution.
Features Character biographies
Verdict Pretty good transfer with so few extras that this disc fails to kick butt.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Theme Back Top Home