Review – Mortal Kombat (1995)

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This review was requested by ryukang, thanks so much for the suggestion! I always had a bit of curiosity with this one. If anyone else would also like to request a review, you can head over to the request form right here.

mortal-kombat-52358f76765c5Moral Kombat is a movie that I’ve had a bit of curiosity about for a long time. I’ve always held back because I was never really into the video games that it was based off of. Additionally, there’s somewhat of a curse surrounding movies based off of video games, which is ultimately what kept me away all these years. Mortal Kombat is now a 22-year-old film, so there are some pending questions I have for it, regardless of not being a big fan of the games, which makes this a perfect movie to review. So, let’s get into it.

Based on the popular video game of the same name “Mortal Kombat” tells the story of an ancient tournament where the best of the best of different Realms fight each other. The goal – ten wins to be able to legally invade the losing Realm. Outworld has so far collected nine wins against Earthrealm, so it’s up to Lord Rayden and his fighters to stop Outworld from reaching the final victory… Written by CyberRax (IMDb)

PEOPLE
★★★

This category is all about the people in the film. This covers their acting ability, if the characters themselves are any good, if they work well together as a team, if they are deeper or flatter as characters, and if the casting director even did their job right. These are all very important issues to consider while reviewing film.
  1.  Acting: ☆☆
    • First thing up is “acting”.  Oh boy. You know how in Batman: The Moviethe acting is so bad that you’re not sure if they’re actually trying to be serious or just embracing the silliness? That’s sort of what’s going on here in Mortal Kombat, the acting is terrible, everything they try to make come off as serious is downright laughable. The difference between the aforementioned film, is I think, in the long run, Batman: The Movie embraced its practically grandpa humor, and because of that, audiences everywhere still love it. No stars.
  2.  Characters: ★☆
    • This is probably where most people would say two stars, but let me try to explain where I came up with one. I’m guessing as a gamer, you are noticing characters left and right throughout the film, and awwing at each one. However, I’m not noticing the same thing. I’m watching this as virtually new to the game series. I’m basing this completely off of the question on if they are good or memorable characters. For the most part, they are really two-dimensional characters without a ton of background. The main characters, or otherwise, the good guys – are the ones that aren’t memorable in the slightest (in my opinion). I believe the bad guys are, though. So I’m split down the line here. I will give it one star.
  3. Good Casting: ☆☆
    • This comes down to two main points  – acting ability in part, but mostly it comes down to…can anybody else play these roles? First of all, as I mentioned above, the acting was pretty bad, but that might also be a mixture of script and a stupid director making bad decisions in the mid-90s. If I had to guess, their acting might have been better given a better script. However, there’s no way to tell. So, we’ll ignore that for a second.  Can anyone else play these roles? Truthfully, I’d have to say yes. A few names actually came to mind while watching, actually. For instance, could Jean Claud Van Damme play the actor people underappreciate but actually is a great fighter? Yeah…pretty sure he could. Zero stars for the casting.
  4.  Good Importance: ★★
    • Here’s one of the saving graces. I was actually impressed with how each and every character had their own personal goal and reason to be at that island. Some are there to fight, some are there to find somebody, some are there to prove something to themselves, and even the bad guys have individual plans and reasons to be there. For a movie like this, you practically never see that. This means there was actually time and energy spent in giving these characters depth, even though they are still sometimes two-dimensional at the same time. They are written to be important, and the perform as two-dimensional…hard to explain. Two stars.
  5.  Good chemistry: ☆☆
    • Initially, I would have given this one star, because it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. That is until they attempted to introduce romance into the mix. Look, that was just a bad idea. Nobody had romantic chemistry because they never even try to build tension there. They just expect the audience to believe these characters have romantic chemistry and move on from there. Sorry, that’s not how it goes, guys! Zero stars.

WRITING

This category obviously covers the writing aspect of the critique. First, you want to know a little bit about the script. Specifically, how is the dialogue? Are they saying anything memorable or inspirational…or was it just a bland conversation to keep the story going? How was the story itself? Was it well-balanced or over-convoluted? Was it original? Was it even interesting? Once again, all very important questions
  1.  Dialogue: ☆☆
    • Ouch, this category took a major hit in all subcategories! It’s easy to tell that the major problems with the movie really came down to this, the writing of everything. First of all, we have dialogue. The things spoken in this film are especially cheesy and so bad that you kind of laugh and snort at how bad it truly is. When you notice specific parts of when spoken lines are especially bad, this category gets zero stars, because that affects the quality of the film.
  2.  Good Balance: ☆☆
    • There is a hidden balance beneath everything, I believe, but it is quite drowned out by bad decisions scattered throughout. For instance, you have Johnny Cage randomly walking through a forest, where he runs into a bad guy, and then all of a sudden they are in another realm of sorts, and it never tells you why he was in the forest in the first place, or how he got out of that realm, either. There are things like this here and there in the movie that take away from the natural flow of things. So for this one, I unfortunately have to dock it both stars, so zero stars here.
  3.  Good Story: ☆☆
    • The story is as basic and as stereotypical as it comes. I mean, Balls of Fury had the same basic story. Think about it,  the best of the best gather in one room to battle it out and figure out who the winner is. How many times have we seen that, and how good of a story can that even be? In essence, it’s sort of a sports thing, so that really washes out character narrative, which might’ve helped the story develop, but all-in-all, it’s not the best story either. Zero stars.
  4.  Originality: ☆☆
    • As I just mentioned above, how many times have we seen this type of thing? Sure, the concept of the Mortal Kombat games fits snuggly in this type of movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly original. I also understand this came out before a lot of other movies that had the same thing going on, but I watch movies in the perspective as someone going in for the first time…today. They will think about these other movies that have the same concept, and they might even think of them as better examples. We can’t disregard that fact. Zero stars.
  5.  Interesting: ★☆
    • Because this was based off a video game, regardless if you play the game or not, the movie is interesting completely based off of that fact, so this gains at least one star. However, it didn’t get the other star because it didn’t continue being interesting. It pretty much stopped at the first point. So in the long run, this only got one star.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES
★★★★

Never forget that there are hard-working individuals working on this film day in and day out. It’s a great story, yes, but people helped make that possible. People like the directors, who have to take written word on a script, and somehow translate that for the big screen in a way an audience would understand. Editors, who are given a ton of material and expected to further make that idea and image the director has already – into a reality, like the director of photography, whose job is to make this movie look amazing…whether that means natural settings and landscapes, CGI, 3D, technical effects, or otherwise. The production crew, who are in charge of making advertisements that aren’t false, and don’t give too much away. Finally, the sound crew, who are in charge of everything the audio has – sound effects, sound editing, music, you name it. These are all puzzle pieces.
  1. Visuals: ☆☆
    • Oh god, the visuals. So, this was like PlayStation 1 all over again. It was really bad when the visuals game into play.  The setting, the powers used, and just…the entire thing with Goro…holy crap, he looked like a claymation model most of the time. Then there was Kano, who had a silver toy strapped to his face, I’m guessing that little red plastic piece he was supposed to see out of? Man, the visuals in this are beyond bad. Zero stars.
  2.  Directing: ☆☆
    • The direction is specifically bad, because it shouldn’t have been that hard to advance some of the characters further and especially shoot a fight scene. Some fight scenes had perfectly acceptable angles and things like that, but others (like with the claymation bad guy) was close-up and never centered on what we wanted to see, which gave me a headache as to what I was even seeing. zero stars.
  3.  Editing: ★☆
    • The editing in the movie was mostly fine, but it sort of worked hand-in-hand with those close shots the director made with the Goro fights. The director shot it really close, and the editor cut it in really short and quick intervals that further made it look dizzying and terrible all at once. So some of it was good, some of it wasn’t – one star.
  4.  Advertisement: ★☆
    • As far as I could tell, the advertisement for this movie was mostly okay, but being a 1995 film, trailers were almost always terrible in the 90s. What I mean by that, was they almost never give the movie justice, they actually make it look worse because the effort they put into trailers back then isn’t the same as it is now. For that confusing rant, I give the ads one star.
  5.  Music: ★★
    • Funny enough, music is another one of the movie’s saving graces. MORTAL KOMBAT! Then, the electric techno music comes in…come on, that’s clearly a catchy little ditty. I’ve heard it a million times before, and I have never seen the movie. Clearly, it was catchy for other folks too. I actually like it, here. Two stars.

NARRATIVE ARC
★★★★★★★★

Have you ever been left wondering what it was about a film that felt…off, but you couldn’t place what it was? Well, a lot of people actually aren’t educated on the traditional narrative arc structure – which is seen in almost every movie or book story. With a missing piece, you might not understand what feels missing.
  1.  Introduction: ★★
    • The narrative arc category is actually the biggest saving grace the movie gets because it does follow a relatively easy-going narrative for the most part.  So, the intro here basically does what its supposed to, it introduces us to all of the characters and what steps they take to ultimately move on to the next portion. The one part that’s missing is the main setting, but I’m going to forgive that one. Two stars.
  2.  Inciting Incident/Crossing the Threshold: ★★
    • I first had the thought that this occured prior to the movie starting, because the reason everyone ultimately heads to the tournament is because of something that happened in each of their lives prior to the film beginning. That being said, I believe the proper inciting incident is when they are all invited to actually go to the tournament, and the crossing of the threshold is when they board the ship.
  3.  Obstacles: ★★
    • Do I even have to explain this? It’s a video game about a bunch of fights, those fights are the obstacles. Get it? Cool. Moving on.
  4.  Epiphany/Climax: ★★
    • As with any good video game with a ton of fighting, there’s typically a big boss fight. Personally, I think they picked the wrong big boss to fight, but needless to say, they still picked a big boss, there was still a big fight as you’d normally expect, so I have to give this two stars as well.
  5.  Falling Action: ☆☆
    • It mostly just ended right as the final boss fight ended. To be perfectly clear, it sort of ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger, which even worsens this subcategory. So, no stars here, but that still gave this category eight out of ten stars…that’s not bad.

OVERALL ENTERTAINMENT
★★★☆☆☆☆

Here’s something most critics overlook because they’re always so keyed in on critiquing the technical elements of a film. Well, that may be statistically accurate, but the numbers that are released aren’t always reflective of what we enjoyed about it…which is when we say the movie was under-appreciated or whatever. This category focuses on pure entertainment.
  1.  Rewatchability: ☆☆
    • It took me 22 years to watch it the first time, and watching the movie didn’t really give me any type of notion that I’d want to see it again. So for this, I have to give it zero stars.
  2.  Fun: ★★
    • Now, I’m a known lover of martial arts in film. So much so, these movies have inspired me to choreograph my own kung fu fight moves. That’s besides the point. I would definitely say that this movie was indeed fun. Mostly because of the fighting, sometimes because I was laughing at the ridiculousness of it all…but still. It is fun. Two stars.
  3.  Impulse to buy it: ☆
    • Without the notion of wanting to see it again, I don’t have any urge to buy it, either. Zero stars.
  4.  Impulse to talk to someone about it: ☆☆
    • Other than this review, I don’t really have the biggest urge to talk about the movie, either. Zero stars.
  5.  Sucks the audience in: ★☆
    • Again, it’s mostly because of the fighting, but the film sometimes does suck the audience in. If you’re talking about the dialogue scenes or anything like that, it doesn’t really suck you in. So, take that as you will, folks! One star.

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SPECIALTY QUESTIONS

These are special questions written by you before seeing the movie, based on expectations, questions, stereotypes, you name it. If it’s a Tom Cruise movie, have Cruise-isms, if it’s a horror film, ask how scary it is, if it’s a sequel, ask if it fits in with the universe or if it was even needed to begin with, you catch the drift.

MARTIAL ARTS?
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #1

Here is the first specialty category question – Martial Arts. This comes down to a few subcategories, such as the choreography, the entertainment factor behind it, how memorable it really is, things like that. For me, I had a lot more fun with the actual fight scenes than I thought I would. A few of them could have used some work, but as far as the action and the martial arts goes, I think this film did a fine job making sure that all worked relatively well. For that, I give it the full 10 stars.

VIDEO GAME?
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #2

The second specialty question comes down to the whole video game aspect. Can I tell, and is that a good thing? How is that handled? First of all, yes, I could tell it was all based off a video game, but I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied with the way they decided to roll with it. I liked the use of different locations on the island used as rounds you’d typically see in the video games. I liked how each fight seemed to get a little bit harder, even though you never really knew where each team stood in terms of the ratings. So, as far as the settings and difficulty, this film did a pretty great job. 10 stars here.

AGE WELL?
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

SPECIALTY QUESTION #3

The next question comes down to if this film ages well for a film that’s over two decades old? Good question, fair question, but not in the slightest does this movie age well! As I mentioned with the visuals earlier, this film looks so bad. The graphics look like they were rendered with the original PlayStation, the dialogue is really cheesy – like it would be in only the mid-90s, and it just gives this overall “aged” feel throughout the movie. For that, I have to give it zero stars.

MAN SPIDER?
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #4

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the biggest gamer, but whenever I thought of Mortal Kombat, there was really only one character that I associated with the game – the big dude with the multiple arms. The only way I was ever able to call him was the man spider, because, in Spider-Man, there’s a character like that as well. I associated this character with the game, so I expected to not only see him in this movie but be able to associate the movie with him as well. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. Yeah, he looks like crap, but he is there, and he is hard to forget. 10 stars.

HALFWAY DECENT
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

SPECIALTY QUESTION #5

Finally, the last question is one I use almost every time, is it halfway decent? How I like to explain this one is…could I make it better? Most of the time I can’t, but every now and then, I truly believe they should have hired me instead. For Mortal Combat, I think there were parts in the movie that I couldn’t have done any better than them, but there were other parts that I would have never let slide. So for this category, it’s more half and half than anything, so I’ll have to end up giving this one five stars.

RATING: 54/100

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4 thoughts on “Review – Mortal Kombat (1995)

  1. Good review. I actually like this movie. I know people tend to be mixed on it, but I don’t mind. At least you’re honest on it, and yeah, it’s not really what one would call an Oscar-caliber movie, but I freaking love it.

    I’m actually quite surprised (in a good way) that you liked the narrative more than the characters and acting. Normally, the people I have heard that critiqued or bashed this movie would give some negative points towards the narrative for being rather simple, but I always liked the plot of the movie, and I do feel the simplicity of it is what makes it great (it is an Action movie based on a fighting game, after all).

    If I had any disagreements with the review, it would be the characters, acting, and visuals. I think the visuals look great. Sure, the special FX look incredibly dated by today’s standards, but they worked well for a modest budget movie back in the day, and I felt the production design was very stylish, and mirrored the video game. I actually felt the characters were all likable in their own ways, mainly Liu Kang and Johnny Cage (the two lead males). The acting is not bad for the genre. Again, nothing that will win awards, but the cast do a good job, in my opinion.

    Other than that, well done job with this review, and I’m actually kinda glad you weren’t entirely harsh on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally, and I do understand your point about back in the day – but I do review films blindly. If someone watches it for the first time ever today, like me, what will their reaction be? How will it actually stand up against their initial expectations and question about it? That’s what I’m all about.

      If you were born today, then every visual you ever see is going to look incredible, which means the first time you see this…you can appreciate its history, but the experience you have with it will be dampened overall.

      Like

  2. This review made me want to watch Mortal Kombat again! I first saw and loved the film as a kid, so I think of it through nostalgic lenses and ignore all its obvious flaws. The cheesy dialogue is just so much fun to quote. And the martial arts sequences are fantastic.

    That said, I’m a bigger fan of the series on Youtube, Mortal Kombat: Legacy. I wish the team behind this hadn’t dropped out of the big-screen remake project! That’d have been cool.

    Like

  3. Oh, Mortal Kombat. Such fond memories. I still love this movie, despite it being dated and such hammy dialogue. But you can agree that this movie is ten times better than its sequel.

    Like

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