I can’t even count the number of times my brother and I watched Mortal Kombat when we were kids. A movie based on one of our favorite video games? Yes please!
While we absolutely adored it back then, I had no idea how well it would hold up when I finally watched it again for the first time in nearly 15 years.
Answer? Even though it was much easier to see the flaws of the movie as an adult (particularly an adult who’s actually reviewed movies for a living), my inner 11-year-old didn’t give a damn. I still love it just as much as I did when I was a kid.
The story for the movie is pretty much identical to the story of the games: there’s a big martial arts competition between Earth and the Outworld. When the Outworld wins 10 Mortal Kombat competitions in a row, then the evil emperor, Shao Khan, will be able to invade Earth. At the beginning of the movie, they’ve won nine.
Our heroes are Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade: three disparate people who come to the competition for different reasons. However, one of them is our only hope to keep Earth safe from Shao Khan.
One of the first and most noticeable flaws was, not surprisingly, the special effects. Being from 1995, they definitely haven’t aged well. Reptile in particular was pretty bad, and it was fairly easy to see where he’d been digitally inserted.
On the other hand, Goro still looks really, really good. Not perfect, obviously, but not nearly as dated as a lot of the computer effects. I was pleasantly surprised to see he still looked huge and intimidating.
Then, the fight between Sonya and Kano was kind of disappointing. It wasn’t terrible, but considering the history between the two of them and Sonya’s desire for vengeance, I was really hoping for more from it.
That being said, the rest of the movie? Is just pure campy entertainment.
All the actors seem to realize exactly what kind of movie they’re in, and embrace it with relish. Christopher Lambert as Raiden looks like he’s having a blast, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is great as Shang Tsung. He’s such an unapologetic scenery-chewing bad guy and the movie wouldn’t have worked half as well without him.
The dialogue is sometimes so-bad-it’s-perfect, and the snarking between Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage is endlessly entertaining.
My favorite fight remains the one between Johnny Cage and Goro, partly because of the split punch (which made me laugh just as much as it did when I was 11) and partly because it’s the only flawless victory in the entire movie.
I had forgotten all of the nods to the game: Scorpion’s “Get over here!” and “Come here!”, the “Finish him!”, “Fatality,” and “Flawless victory,” and Johnny Cage’s “Friendship” fatality with the autographed picture, just to name a few. Every time I saw another game reference, I giggled like the 12-year-old I actually am.
Is it objectively a good movie? Okay, probably not. But I really don’t care. It’s such camptastic fun that it is, to this day, one of my favorite movies.