12 hour work days suck and a week of them is going to be pretty brutal but it will make the weekend that much more relaxing if I manage to survive. Now I don’t think there is a single kid that was alive in the early 90’s that did not play, or at least see someone play a rather violent arcade game called Mortal Kombat. Man, were the parents and censors in an uproar over this game because of the fact that after beating your opponent, you could perform a “fatality” on them, which were often rather brutal ways to kill your opponent. So with all the press surrounding the game, and since there were already movies in the works for two other popular video games, Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter, it only made sense to try and make a movie based on this game. So let’s see just how good of a job they did with today’s movie, Mortal Kombat.
The plot: Liu Kang, a Shao-Lin monk from the Order of Light who had left his temple, wakes from a dream where his brother is killed by a man names Shang Tsung and re-reads the letter that informed him of this and asks him to come home. Elsewhere, Sonya Blade, a Special Forces officer, leads a team into a club in order to locate Kano, a leader of the Black Dragon crime syndicate, who had killed Sonya’s partner. Inside his office in the club, Kano receives word that Sonya is there and lets Shang Tsung know, who tells Kano to make sure Sonya gets on the ship but warns him not to touch her. Johnny Cage, a martial artist turned actor, is leaving the set of his latest film after a stuntman screws up the scene when he is told that there is someone there to see him. Johnny approaches the man sitting in his chair and is surprised to see his former teacher there, who comments about the press giving him a hard time and says that the best way to prove them wrong is to enter and win a special tournament that is held once a generation. His master hands Johnny the invitation then leaves but once he is out of sight, he transforms into Shang Tsung. Meanwhile, Liu Kang has returned to the temple and when his grandfather tells him that after Liu Kang left, his brother had stepped up to take his place for the tournament and Liu Kang berates his grandfather for filling his brother’s head with nonsense. At an assembly of the monks, Liu Kang announces that he plans to go to the Mortal Kombat tournament and defeat Shang Tsung but the temple leaders refuse to allow it since he had left the temple. Suddenly, Raiden, the god of lightening, walks into the assembly and chastises Liu Kang, saying that he had already ran away from his destiny once and that he is still running. After Liu Kang is easily beaten by Raiden, he says that he is going to the tournament, with or without the temple’s consent, and leaves and as they watch, his grandfather says he isn’t ready and Raiden says there is no choice. In Hong Kong, Johnny meets Art Lean, another fighter entering the tournament, as well as Liu Kang, though they get off on the wrong foot. When a strange boat enters the harbor, they board the boat, as does Sonya when she sees Kano getting on the boat as well. After running into Johnny while looking for Kano, Sonya starts searching below deck and meets Shang Tsung, who welcomes her. When Liu Kang and Johnny show up to help her, Shang Tsung summons Scorpion and Sub-Zero, two ninjas that were deadly enemies but now under Shang Tsung’s power. When the two ninjas make ready to attack the group, Raiden appears and fires two balls of energy to knock the two ninja’s out before chastising Shang Tsung for having his men attack Raiden’s fighters before the tournament starts. After Shang Tsung leaves, Raiden explains what is going on, about how the Emperor of Outworld will invade Earth if his forces win 10 tournaments in a row and so far, they have won 9. Arriving on a mysterious island, they see a strange woman on a nearby hillside watching Liu Kang and after the continue walking, Shang Tsung tells Reptile, a lizard-like creature that can turn invisible, to watch Princess Kitana. The tournament fighters are treated to a feast before Shang Tsung has the assembled fighter watch a demonstration, where Sub-Zero faces another of Shang Tsung’s fighters and kills him by freezing him solid. When everyone leaves, Liu Kang follows Shang Tsung and Sonya and Johnny follow after him. They soon come to a chamber, where they see Kano talking with Prince Goro, a 4-armed creature who rules a subterranean kingdom in Outworld. As Shang Tsung shows up to warn Goro about Liu Kang and Kitana, Liu Kang and the others leave, but Shang Tsung hears them and sends his men to attack them. Finding themselves lost in the underground maze, Liu Kang sees Kitana and goes to follow her but he finds himself briefly attacked by Reptile before it disappears. Johnny ends up leading the group back to where they saw Kano and Goro, where they defeat Shang Tsung’s men that attack them but when more men appear ready to fight, Raiden safely leads them out of there. The next day, the tournament begins, and when Liu Kang defeats his first opponent, he can only watch as Shang Tsung absorbs the soul of the defeated fighter. Shang Tsung has Sonya fight Kano, who Sonya manages to kill. Meanwhile, Johnny fights Scorpion in the woods but after the snake-like creature that Scorpion shoots out of his hand dies, Johnny tries to finish off Scorpion but ends up being teleported to Scorpion’s Lair. Johnny continues his fight with Scorpion and when Scorpion takes off his mask, revealing that he is nothing more than a skeleton, and begins to breath fire at Johnny, Johnny uses a shield to defend himself, then uses the shield and a spear to defeat Scorpion and make him explode. Liu Kang fights with Kitana, who gives him hints about how to win his next fight, when Shang Tsung stops there fight and chastises Kitana. Liu Kang is then brought to a temple, where he ends up fighting Sub-Zero but when Liu Kang gets the upper hand, Sub-Zero begins using his powers to project a freezing bubble that starts to expand. When the bubble knocks over a bucket of water that Raiden had placed there before the fight, Liu Kang realizes what Kitana had meant and flings the other bucket at Sub-Zero, which turns into an ice spear when it hits the freezing bubble and stabs Sub-Zero, causing him to freeze up and die. With his warriors starting to lose, Shang Tsung has Goro enter the tournament and he begins to kill the fighters, including Art. Later, Raiden talks with Liu Kang, Johnny, and Sonya and says that Goro and Shang Tsung can be beaten but first, they will have to overcome their fears that they have. While Liu Kang tries to meditate, Sonya tries to talk Johnny out of challenging Goro but Johnny insists, saying that he didn’t want what happened to Art to happen to Sonya. Johnny tells Shang Tsung his request and Shang Tsung agrees, saying that he will challenge the winner, or another of his choosing should Johnny win. Johnny faces Goro and as Goro goes to strike him, Johnny quickly does the splits and punches Goro in the crotch. While Goro roars in pain, Johnny runs off and Shang Tsung tells Goro to follow after him. Johnny comes to a dead end overlooking a steep drop and hides until Goro shows up, and Johnny continues to fight him before eventually kicking him off the cliff. Hearing Sonya scream, Johnny races back in time to see Shang Tsung dragging Sonya through a portal to Outworld, saying he chooses her to be his opponent. With Raiden unable to follow, Liu Kang and Johnny are forced to follow alone and make their way to Outworld. As they head to the Emperor’s palace, Liu Kang senses something watching them and manages to grab the invisible Reptile before throwing it down into a statue. The statue suddenly absorbs Reptile, transforming him into a green-clothed ninja that quicly begins attacking Liu Kang. Liu Kang manages to defeat the ninja, then kills Reptile when it manages to get free from the broken statue. Kitana meets Liu Kang and Johnny, then tells Liu Kang what to prepare for when he faces Shang Tsung as she leads them to the palace. Inside the palace, Sonya is chained to a wall and Shang Tsung tries to get her to accept his challenge but she refuses, saying her friends will come for her. When Liu Kang and the others reveal themselves, Shang Tsung tries to challenge Johnny but Liu Kang challenges Shang Tsung, forcing the final battle to be between the two of them. The two men begin fighting but when Liu Kang starts to get the upper hand, Shang Tsung summons some of the warriors he defeated to battle Liu Kang. Liu Kang defeats the warriors, then heads off to fight Shang Tsung but when Shang Tsung transforms into Liu Kang’s brother, it distracts him enough for Shang Tsung to get the upper hand. As Shang Tsung starts beating Liu Kang, spikes begin rising from the floor below but Liu Kang fights back and some of the souls Shang Tsung absorbed start to leave him. Liu Kang eventually succeeds in defeating Shang Tsung, knocking him off the balcony and impaling him on the spikes below. As Shang Tsung’s body rots away, a pillar of light forms as all of the souls Shang Tsung absorbed are free to go to the afterlife and Liu Kang is able to say goodbye to his brother. Returning to Earth, Liu Kang, Kitana, Johnny, and Sonya head to the Temple of the Order of Light, where Raiden greets them and congratulates them on their success. Suddenly, storm clouds appear overhead and the temple is destroyed as the face of Shao Khan, the emperor of Outworld appears and Raiden and the others prepare to fight.
Mortal Kombat did not get a lot of positive reviews from the critics, earning only a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Despite an effective otherwordly atmosphere and appropriately cheesy visuals, Mortal Kombat suffers from its poorly constructed plot, laughable dialogue, and subpar acting.” The audiences didn’t seem to care, as the movie would be # 1 at the box office for three weeks in a row and would ultimately make over $122 million worldwide, making it the 4th highest grossing video game movie of all time as of 2014. The soundtrack for the film, primarily a mix of techno and industrial music, also enjoyed success as it would go platinum after two weeks of being released.
As far as video game movies are concerned, this wasn’t bad but it could have been better. Admittedly, the acting was a mix of being decent and being pretty bad but I will give props to Robin Shou (Liu Kang), who also had to serve as fight choreographer for some of the fight scenes. The story was pretty good, staying fairly close to the video game while making some changes to it that honestly didn’t detract from the movie. Some of the computer animations were good, especially the backgrounds but I was a little disappointed with Reptile’s lizard form. To be honest, my favorite part of the movie is the soundtrack but this is still an entertaining movie, in spite of it’s flaws.
Rating: 3 out of 5