Mortal Kombat (1995)
When I say Mortal Kombat, the first thing that pops to most peoples minds would be a series of 'wicked' violent fighting games that had super cool finishing moves and a dude that yells "GET OVER HERE!" Others may remember the string of movies that it had - you know, all two of them - and others still (like, maybe one person) might remember more still. Well, trip that nostalgia up, cause tonight's fine delicacy is best served with a basting of blo- wait a minute, pg-13? Did this movie just Finish itself before the fight even started?
I'm gonna tell this slightly out of movie-reveal order, just for the sake of (you're reading the plot part anyways) flow. There are multiple universes or realms within existence - one such being our home here on Earth, another being a rather depressing place known as Outworld. The current ruling man of Outworld (the Emperor if you will) want's to invade Earth, but as the super-powers of the universes would have it, he can only do so if his champions win a tournament named Mortal Kombat ten times in a row. This isn't your little brothers chess championship though, no. It's a no-holds barred martial arts death match between the participants, and Outworlders know how to spit fire and freeze people. So far, Outworld has won 9 straight tournaments.
A shaolin monk who moved to America to escape his destiny awakes from a nightmare in which his little brother was just killed by Shang Tsung - an evil sorcerer from Outworld who steals his victims souls. Turns out that dream wasn't far off, when he opens a letter informing him that his brother was dead and he should return to the temple immediately. Motivated by revenge, he informs them that with or without their blessing, he is going to enter the tournament to avenge his brother. Elsewhere, a tough lady-cop is tracking down a wanted killer who murdered one of her partners. It seems a certain sorcerer has taken a liking to her, and the murderer is being used to lure her to said sorcerer's little island combat party - the murderer of course being enticed by a sweet paycheck. The last of our main hero characters is introduced to us with a dramatic fight scene that is promptly ruined when one of the cast forgets his choreography and doesn't fall down. Annoyed, he starts to walk off the set when a crew member informs him of someone wanting to meet with him - a man who delivers a fancy scroll invitation to him, one that he should attend as it would earn him incredible reputation as a martial arts master should he win it.
The three stories all combine at the tournament of course, and things really don't start out so terrible - outside of being menaced by two ninjas that can freeze things and grow monsters out their hands. They meet (get saved by) the god of Thunder, whose rooting for them and drops the entire history of Mortal Kombat and why Earther's really need to pull out a win, and even shows up a few other times to help out discretely. We see a series of fights, some far tougher than others, until the time that Tsung decides to pull of the kiddy gloves and send out Goro - a crazy four armed monster - to start dealing with the pitiful humans. Can the heroes overcome their own personal problems to triumph in one on one combat against the horrors they face?
Plot wise here, it didn't really come out all that bad considering it's using an (at the time) two dimensional fighting game as it's base. The reasoning for the characters to be there is not only individual to each of them, but serves as a solid enough tie for all the karate-style action to grace the screen across its run time. There are certainly some moments where things can seem a bit goofy (such as the Tsung "romance" part), but for the most part the plot is pretty solid. Actors mostly help things along as well - although they aren't necessarily the best performances you've ever seen, they (most the time) don't seem very phoned in either. That sassy Motorhead accent the actor for Kano pulls off actually had me convinced for the longest time it was actually the singer.
Effects work is a little mixed bag. This is obviously a time when CG wasn't nearly as great as it is today, so from a current generation standpoint it's certainly rather lacking. I wouldn't go as far as to say it was necessarily super bad at the time either, although it sure as heck was no Jurassic Park. Practical effects hold up far better though, with Goro still looking pretty cool (although rather stiff). Probably the largest let down when it comes to effects work is in regard to the fact that the amount of blood in this movie is rather non-existent. Although this isn't a huge deal from a entertainment standpoint, it feels like it's a bit of a slap against the source, which was known for its violence. I mean, heck, that's the main reason most folks would have chosen to play it over Street Fighter was those brutal finishing movies and all that wonderful red splashing.
Despite that, the soundtrack for this movie is pretty rad. Who wouldn't find themselves humming that Mortal Kombat theme? It's very much a high-octane kind of soundtrack, with most the fights being backed by some cool tunes. Choreography during those fights wasn't so bad for the time - very much kind of Power Rangers without the sparks, nothing nearly as super-cut and heavy speed focused as modern stuff tends to be. The movie does a decent job with it's cast, and part of this is in part by keeping the actual game characters on-screen to a rather small amount - the main three, our electric god, two other good-guy type characters that aren't as center-screen, and then five or so badguys - while the other part is keeping the plot simple enough they all mesh together. The heroes all have their individual reasons (all three of them), and then the one "main" badguy has his little story going on, so the actual main story always ends up taking the center of screen time.
It's a fun watch, but I wouldn't say that most people would necessarily run out to the store to buy it. There's some great one-liners, some fun characters, and some entertaining for the time fights to be had. If you ever wondered what it would be like if they made a movie of the Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat, then this is essentially it (you know, plenty of fighting but little blood). Parents may want to watch it before letting their kids view it, just to make sure if they would be okay with the few on-screen deaths (with only one actually having any 'blood' in it). I enjoy it, and would argue it's still one of the better video game to movie adaptations out there.