It’s EVO this weekend and since there is a bunch of movies based on fighting games it felt only natural that we would tie the two together. A movie review every day this week though – I’m going to need something to psyche me up. If only there was some beautiful composition out there that will send pure energy through my veins into my very lifeforce. If only…

Okay, NOW I’m ready to do this. Mortal Kombat was not the first fighting game adaptation losing out to Street Fighter by a year but it was the one I was most unsure about. I know what to expect from Street Fighter and I know so little of the others that I have never formed a pre-opinion. Whenever I bring up Mortal Kombat, however, I get a mixed response. Some people swear it is an entertaining film while others are quick to dismiss it. I just had to do this one first just so I can finally learn where I stand. Is this film a flawless victory or did it make me wish for a fatality?

The story starts with a series of intros for our main heroes – Liu Kang wakes up after a nightmare where his brother is killed by Shang Tsung, Sonya Blade is going after Kano who killed her partner and Johnny Cage is an actor desperate to prove that he is not a fake martial artist. All of these stories lead to them being invited in some way to participate in Tsung’s Mortal Kombat tournament. Under the guidance of thunder god Raiden, they are set to defend the realm of Earth again Tsung who will take control of it if his forces win the tournament. Along the way our heroes fight some familiar faces such as the aforementioned Kano, Goro, Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Reptile.

The first 40 minutes of the film are mostly setting up the tournament but once the fighting starts it pretty much is the rest of the movie with some plot thrown into the mix to keep things moving along. When Mortal Kombat allows itself to go full on martial arts movie that’s when it truly becomes alive. Very few fight scenes are similar to each other and they manage to do a pretty good job representing each character’s fight style from the games, at least to what I remember. The only negative I have here is whenever Goro has to fight it can feel a little clunky but I’ll give the movie a pass for this one only because I feel they did the best they could with Goro without cutting him completely.

The soundtrack is badass though and really fits Mortal Kombat to a tee. There are plenty of references to the game with Tsung’s quoting of “flawless victory”, “finish him” and “fatality” throughout the movie and when Reptile transforms into his human form you can actually hear the announcer from the game call his name which was weird because they do not do that for anyone else but also kind of cool at the same time. It’s clear the filmmakers had a decent level of respect for the source material and considering the director would go on to do the Resident Evil films – as well as the upcoming Monster Hunter film – that’s not too surprising.

Some of the CGI does not hold up well, especially when Reptile is in his, um, reptile form. However, there are some effects that still look pretty good and the production as a whole is fairly good. Most of the action may take place on one island but they made sure to include a variety of different backdrops for each fight making each one feel more unique.

Of course, Mortal Kombat is not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. My biggest gripe is with the performance of most of the cast – they all look the part but it is clear that acting is not everyone’s strong point. Doing some research I found out that the main cast did most of their own moves and stunts which I can respect but the acting on a whole is not great. They are not helped by a very basic script that does not allow anyone except maybe Johnny Cage and Shang Tsung to develop much of a character.

The pacing could have been a little better – the first Act feels too long because there is little action and it just barely gets to the first tournament scene before I could lose my interest. Towards the end of the film Tsung kidnaps Sonya Blade and someone who has been built up as a complete badass is turned into a damsel in distress who must be rescued by the men which kinda ruins Sonya a little. If there was a scene where they fought and the bad guys cheat to kidnap Sonya that might have been better. Cage and Kang get several fight scenes to show off their skills and how cool they are – Sonya gets one. Heck, Kitana barely even gets that which probably explains why this is the first time I’ve brought her up.

However, I did enjoy Mortal Kombat as a whole. It is not a movie to be taken too seriously even though I have spend the last 881 words taking Mortal Kombat too seriously. It is a fun movie and one that could act like a gateway to bigger and better martial arts films. Once it gets running it does not stop for anything and the result is an action-filled second half with increasingly great fight scenes. A better script and some better actors – though again doing research they seemed to have a lot of bad luck pre-production on this front – might have improved it but I can see why the film did surprisingly well at the time and I can see why some people still enjoy it to this day. It is not a perfect movie, but compared to some of the others I’ve reviewed for this project, it is a whole lot of fun.

FINAL SCORE:

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