Video Game Adaptations: Mortal Kombat

I hate you Paul W.S. Anderson.

I really, really hate you. In fact, I wish nothing but bad things for you and I curse your ancestors for inflicting your continued and painful ineptitude on a mostly undeserving world. I also resent a system that has allowed someone with so little obvious talent to rise as high as you have, although I do applaud you for doing so. I was taught to never resent the success of geniuses, hate unjustly rewarded mediocrity, and for me, you are the embodiment of that. Or you would be if you ever made it to the dizzy heights of “passable”.

Everyone else, you may be pleased to hear that I have now got over my persecution complex with the cunt and am just treating him the same way I treat Milton Keynes: nothing good will ever, or has ever, come out of there, and it’s just bad luck that occasionally I have the fucking place inflicted on me.

Lambert experiences a Quickening. In his pants.

In the case of 1995’s Mortal Kombat, I don’t particularly give a red fuck about it either way. I’m not especially attached to the game, being just a standard beat ’em up with mildly amusing finishing moves, but looking back at it in hindsight, this is an almost perfect exemplar of everything that can go wrong with a video game adaptation, particularly a fighting game one, and as such is worth little more than absolute contempt.

I’ve talked about this at length before, but when adapting a tournament based fight game, you face certain problems integral to the genre. One in particular, lack of coherent narrative, you can attempt to solve a number of ways. The Streetfighter films just ignore it, with variable results, but others such as Tekken and this, Mortal Kombat, attempt to tie the tournament into a story of some description. At least here the makers of the game actually were nice enough to provide a suitably mythical reason for fighting (it was originally meant to be a Van Damme vehicle) in that the tournament is legendary, takes place regularly and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Throw in a destined to fight in it character (in this case Liu Kang, played by Robin Shou), some interesting sidekicks (Sonja Blade, played by Brigitte Wilson, Jonny Cage, played by Linden Ashby), some eye candy (Kitana, played, of sorts, by Talisa Soto), a sensei figure (God of Lightening Raiden, improbably played by Christopher Lambert) and some decent villains (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung and “Prince” Goro by Aardman studios, I think) and you should be away to the races.

Kano always enjoyed his morning dump.

Unfortunately they aren’t. This film is fucking shit. The problems start with the script- it’s nigh on incomprehensible. The game made life hard with different fucking realms and shit like that, but really, this is an inordinately dumb film. Take, for example, that Liu wants to fight Tsung to get revenge for his brother’s death. This is fair enough, and pretty standard fight motivation (think Kickboxer) but here he goes straight out to Challenge Tsung. Raiden stops him saying something along the lines of “you aren’t ready”. Er…. fair enough, I suppose there is still nearly two hours of this claptrap left. However, because they need to bring events to a head Cage goes out to randomly challenge Goro. Raiden’s reaction: “One of them finally gets it”. Get’s what, you gnomic cunt? Seriously, precisely what does he “get”? The fucker has gone precisely against your instructions. The entire film is full of maddening and contradictory shit like this.

Teaching handstands at the special school was always a challenge.

Then there’s the fact that the game, in an attempt to keep things simple, basically had characters only distinguishable by their special moves, and a few iconic characters (Sub Zero and Scorpion) who were basically identical ninjas in different coloured garb. The film, therefore has to include as many of these characters and moves as it can. Which then brings on the sheer monotony of “spot the character” and spot the move. To make things worse, the game also contained a variety of catchphrases: “Finish him”, “Get over here”, and “Flawless victory”. The film, clearly, should have dispensed with these, as it’s fucking laughably stupid when Tsung stops the fight and says “Finish him” or watches the battle end and comes out with “Flawless victory”. As for the fucking music, Jesus tittyfucking Christ, it’s awful. They’ve clearly tried to take the music from the game and adapt it, but it’s some kind of hideous mid 90’s pop-house mash up containing the basic MK theme. Not good.

Awful. Just plain wretched, and a disgrace to CGI. Even in the 90's.

Against this crap, the actors are clearly doomed. Shou wanders around in a state of perpetual confusion, Lambert attempts to pull some kind of twinkly-eyed nonsense that just comes across as both cheesy and creepy, and the less said about the rest of them, aside from Soto who looks good in leather, the better. I will waste a few words on Tagawa, though, who does his best with the admittedly piss poor material to chew some scenery and do a proper villain bit, but he’s swimming against the tide harder than a salmon with a severe case of blue balls.

"GET OVER HERE, and bring my pork scratchings with you"

This is, ostensibly, a fight movie, so surely the fighting in it is up to snuff? That’ll be another fail then. The, admittedly frequent, fights are boring, repetitive, incomprehensibly shot and just plain fucking horrible. The need to incorporate the moves from the game into the various bouts has, sort of, tied Anderson’s hands and as such you get scenes such as Sub Zero squatting like he’s trying to squeeze one out on a toilet without a seat while waves of blue “freezing” energy flash out from him. He’s then despatched with the greatest of ease. The sole moment of interest in the fighting is when Cage does the splits and punches Goro in the knackers, which did at least make me laugh (and goes a long way to the film ducking the Orangutan of Doom).

Scorpion's morning breath was a force to be reckoned with.

Which brings me on to the Special Effects. This was 1995, so CGI should have been totally out of the question. Sadly, it wasn’t. The Reptile effect is honestly one of the worst effects ever put on screen, and were I Anderson, then I would have limited the use of it. Pity he fucking didn’t, really. There’s loads of examples of fucking appalling effects work in this film, and if I had the inclination, I can pick other highly illustrative examples. Luckily, I have no interest in that.

Even claymation is vulnerable to a good wallop to the happy sack.

What’s really sad about Mortal Kombat is that they were aiming so obviously low with it. This is a film that aspires to nothing more than dumbhouse and by being an incomprehensible, boring, shoddy and flat-out obnoxious load of wank fails to even make those heights. There is, and I’m nearly sure of this, a way to make a fairly solid dumbhouse fight game movie, and I’m also nearly certain that they were on the right lines here, but the execution is just mired in crap that what we are left with smells roughly the same as the seat of Knowles’ wheelchair.

"Square go?" said Chinese Begbie.

Overall, this is a horrible, rotten, stinking, festering, rancid arsehole of a film, and one that I truly detest. I’m sure there is something semi-entertaining lurking in here, but I’m equally sure that Anderson and the writers didn’t have the talent to get it out. The game made life almost impossible for anyone attempting to adapt it, but really, the frankly piss-poor effort here does even the flimsy one-on-one concept of the game no justice at all. Needless to say, I don’t recommend Mortal Kombat, it is, frankly, wank.

Sadly, I’ve also recently watched the sequel, which is, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, even worse.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

15 responses to “Video Game Adaptations: Mortal Kombat”

  1. Jarv says :

    Awful shit.

    That is all.

  2. Droid says :

    I barely remember this movie, as I saw it when it first came out and never since, but I remember it being terrible. There is, admittedly, very little you can do with the story unless you dump it entirely like the Streetfighter movies do. But Andercunt doesn’t have enough imagination to do that.

    • Jarv says :

      It’s just awful. I remember it as being terrible but mildly enjoyable. However having rewatched it, it’s actually more annoying than I recalled. Lambert is inexplicable, the script is awful and the fighting is boring.

      Fucking Andercunt.

      What’s annoying is that there is the germ of classic dumbhouse in here, or at the very least something as entertaining as Van Damme’s The Quest, but it fails at everything.

      • Droid says :

        The concept itself could be entertaining. But a lot relies on basic things like making the fighting a) exciting, and b) varied.

        I recall the sequel being even worse, if that’s possible. I remember watching it with a mate, and we were getting stuck into the alcohol and just making dumb comments all through it. Like, one character is frequently flipping, so I drunkenly state “Why walk when you can flip?” That at least made it mildly entertaining. Frickin’ shithouse though.

      • Jarv says :

        The sequel is almost mindboggling in how shit it is. It’s even more of a mess, and I had three goes at it.

        I couldn’t be bothered warning about Spoilers. Don’t think it matters in the slightest.

  3. Droid says :

    Also, a couple of corrections in your review.

    You said “Shou wonders around” when you mean wanders. (you say this in a few reviews)

    You also say “squeeze on out on a toilet” when it should be “one”.

    You can disregard if you like. You can also delete this comment either way.

    Here to help.

  4. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Man, this was crap…but the sequel is soooo much worse. I seem to remember there being scenes of cgi in that one that were, literally without exaggeration, still pixelated or not fully rendered in places. And it jumped around like nobody’s business–what a bloody mess and replacing chris lambert with an even more inexplicable James Remar.

    Also, it’s strange how we never really found a place in schlock for Lambert. He’s got what it takes; see Greystoke, Highlander, Subway. And yet, nada.

    It is however marginally better than Double Dragon or that first Streetfighter movie.

    When are you reviewing Mario Bros?

  5. ThereWolf says :

    Thankfully, never been anywhere near this movie – though the sight of Lambert with lightning coming out of his eyes is vaguely compelling.

    But something good DID come out of ‘Mortal Kombat’; this review (and particularly Kano enjoying his morning dump).

    Well done!

  6. tombando says :

    Never saw these. Didnt Drew write the sequel to this? Sounds pretty horrible, i think Jarv took one for the team here.

    • Jarv says :

      He may well have done, given that it’s practically incoherent and has had the kitchen sink thrown at it. Also, the only likeable character from the first film is killed in the first 5 minutes (a decision that really hurts it).

      He’s a shit writer.

  7. kloipy says :

    i will also say that the sequel is miles worse than this. At least this one has some fun bits in it, but the sequel is devoid of everything. I would have killed for a KMFDM or Orbital song in it hahaha

    But Jarv you are forgetting the most important part. Tony Jaa was a stand in for Robin Shou!

  8. Just Pillow Talk says :

    Heh…this was on tv a couple of months ago and I started watching it but then decided to do something else, like sleep or something. I’ve never seen the sequel.

    Video games should never be made into movies.

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