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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mortal Kombat (1995) review

Overall verdict: 6.5/10

The Good: Awesome production design and special effects(for its time), sticks close to the look and feel of the game, fast paced fights and radical fight choreography, appropriate humor,

The Bad: out-of-this-world plot, one dimensional villians, a few gapping plot holes.

Current Availability Status: DVD out of print

In every generation, the best fighters from across the globe come together to compete in a tournament called "Mortal Kombat". But whether they come for the fame, the glory, for vengeance or other reasons, Mortal Kombat serves a darker purpose as a pivotal point in a war between earth and an evil realm called Outworld. Already the out-world fighters led by the evil soul sucking sorcerer Shang Tsung and the four-armed giant Goro have won nine past tournaments. If the fighters of earth lose this last tournament, then earth would come under the rule of the Outworld Emperor.

This adaptation of the controversially violent video game series follows the adventure of Liu Kang, a man seeking his brother's killer, Johnny Cage, a washed up film star looking to boost his reputation as a fighter and Sonya Blade, a SWAT team leader with a vendetta against another Mortal Kombat participant called Kano. The unlikely trio form an uneasy friendship which develops as the film progresses. For a movie based on a game known only for its violence, the characters are given a decent amount of development. Impulsive, vengeance obsessed Liu Kang learns of a greater purpose in his life, Johnny Cage grows from selfish stuck up snob to a genuine friend willing to risk his own life for others and proud Sonya learns a lesson in humility and how to trust in her teammates.

A straight out "Flawless Victory" goes to the awesome production design that preserves the otherworldly look of the video game but does not go overboard or end up looking cartoony. Unlike campy video game movies that came before, Mortal Kombat takes itself seriously with only some well placed humour in between all the doom and gloom. The deadpan sarcasm of Christopher Lambert's Raiden, exaggerated hamming of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa's Shang Tsung and witty one liners from Linden Ashby's Johnny Cage all work well within the surreal context of this show, constantly reminding the viewer that this is, after all, a video game adaptation.

Fans would be happy by how closely the movie sticks to the game in both the look and feel of the characters. Even the special moves like Cage's Shadow kick, Sub-Zero's ice blast and Liu Kang's Bicycle kick are featured. The fights are short but a sure crowd pleaser; high flying wire stunts that are over used in so many modern movies are kept to a minimum, giving each fight an unpredictable and raw style that does not look overly choreographed.

Though Mortal kombat manages to toe the line without falling into campy territory, it never goes beyond its perimeter as video game adaptation. The film delivers only what fans of fighting games want; good fights set to a raving heavy metal/techno soundtrack and lots of action with a paper thin excuse of a story to connect one fight to the next. In fact it is possible to just skip ahead to every duel, watch just those scenes, and be satisfied at the end of the day as the credits roll and that memorable Mortal Kombat theme song plays.

In the unstable field of movies adapted from video games, Mortal Kombat still ranks among the best, being able to please both fans and casual movie viewers alike by being just as fun as actually playing the game. Those looking for anything deeper than superficial fighting video game fantasy would do well to look elsewhere.

*****************************Review End******************
Go For it: if you love the Mortal Kombat games and would like to see the first good video game movie
Avoid it: if you expect all the bloody gore similar to the games or never did like video game movies in the first place

Entertainment: A
Story: C
Acting: B
Characters: B+
Music: A-
Replay value: A
"Brains": C

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