What’s your favorite video game movie? Yeah, that’s a tough question, because none of them are exactly good. However, I would mine is the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. It was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and stars Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Christopher Lambert, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The film served as a loose adaptation of the first Mortal Kombat game and the first of the Mortal Kombat film series (if there is such a thing). Overall, the film received decent reviews, made a good amount of money, and spawned a sequel. For those who chose to block that memory out, the second movie is called Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and it was, well, not that good. Yes, I’m being very, very generous. That movie was trash with dumpster fire for a topping. That movie is fun to talk smack about, but it’s predecessor is actually just fun to watch.
Now I’ll admit, I was seventeen when I first saw the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. I chose not to watch it before, mainly because it’s a video game movie, and sadly, those never turn out the way we want them to be. I was skeptical, but it was also around the same time the 2011 Mortal Kombat game came out, and I was on a bit of a Mortal Kombat fanatic crusade. Playing that game turned me back into a Mortal Kombat nut again, and I figured it was time to give the movie a shot. I rented it from Blockbuster (it existed at the time) and watched away. What did I think of it? Well, I thought it sucked. It was corny, ridiculous, and the special effects just don’t hold up today. It was just like any other video game movie I ever watched.
That didn’t stop me from playing the game, but it reassured me that video games and movies will just never mix. That’s fine, but at the same time, it’d be nice to see at least one good video game movie. Some time after I watched it, I stumbled upon a tweet by none other than Ed Boon. Boon always likes to tweet and he occasionally uses it to troll us fans. However, this one particular tweet was no attempt to troll. Boon posted a poll that asked fans what their favorite video game movie was. The movie that had the most votes was, you guessed it, the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. Fans clearly had a soft spot for it, and its votes were significantly higher than the other choices. I for one was pretty surprised to see those results, and apparently, so was Ed Boon.
People liked the video game movie based off of his video game on top of the others. That made him happy, rightfully so, and it kind of made me happy too. Now I realize the competition isn’t much of competition, because they are all very bad movies. However, looking at that poll made me want to give the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie a second chance, and I did. I rewatched it, and oddly enough, I had more fun with it the second viewing. Perhaps it was because I lowered my expectations, or maybe it was because I rewatched it knowing exactly what it was, but I truly enjoyed it. The critic in me silenced and the fanboy in me took over, and as a result, I actually had my one and only favorite video game movie.
Multiple viewings made me like the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie even more. Heck, I even bought the Blu-ray bundle pack, which included both movies, and the first season of the Legacy series. No, I didn’t care that Annihilation was a part of the pack, because I just wanted the first movie and those episodes of Legacy. As martial arts junkie and video game nut, it was the perfect gift for myself. With Mortal Kombat 11 releasing last year, I decided to revisit the movie again, and with that viewing, I realized why it had grown on me.
Unlike many other video game movies, 1995 Mortal Kombat stays true to the source material. Sure, it does make some changes here and there, but the overall tone is still Mortal Kombat. So what exactly is the tone of Mortal Kombat? Well, let me break it down in the simplest way possible: it’s basically Enter the Dragon meets Big Trouble in Little China. It’s martial arts blended with every outlandish fantasy element you can think of. There are powerful gods, Shaolin monks, blind guys with magic swords, undead ninjas, and a Hollywood action star. Seriously, can you get more insane than that? Actually, you can, because that’s not even the craziest part of Mortal Kombat.
The bread and butter of the series has always been the excessively violent gameplay. The brutalities and fatalities are so gory and over-the-top, they’ll make you spit out your lunch. What separates them from other violent video games is that they manage to actually make it funny. Johnny Cage’s fatalities are gruesome, but he can make you laugh when he’s uppercutting someone’s head off. He cracks jokes, makes his opponent angry just by smirking, and is an egotistical, but lovable jerk. He’s a fan-favorite of the series, and Linden Ashby captures those qualities perfectly. He portrayed Cage as an arrogant, big-mouthed celebrity, who wasn’t really all talk. His Johnny Cage kicked a lot of butt and even defeated Scorpion.
Then there was Robin Shou as Liu Kang, who played him more like the reluctant hero. This is different than how we’re used to seeing Liu Kang, but they gave him a dead brother in the film, which was a nice touch. It made him more human and more relatable, and of course, his action scenes were the most epic. Bridgette Wilson played Sonya just how she supposed to be. Sonya is a soldier at heart, but her tunnel-vision obsession with Kano often clouds her reality. Their rivalry is a standout in the games, and it shows in the movie. He was the reason she entered the Mortal Kombat tournament and in a climactic fight scene, she gave him a “break.”
Finally, I can’t talk about the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie without praising Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s performance as Shang Tsung. He captured everything that makes the villain so great and makes us want to see him get the worst fatality. Tagawa made Shang Tsung the cunning, deceiving sorcerer we all recognize from the games and hearing him deliver the famous, “Your soul is mine!” line was flawless.
Speaking of Shang Tsung, that fight scene in the end with Liu Kang was all sorts of epic. If there’s one thing the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie did brilliantly, it was the music. It played in the beginning and during the final fight between the hero and the villain. The deep starting off point with “test your might,” then slowly building up to the explosive and powerful “Mortal Kombat!” was enough to get anyone pumped up. It added on to the crazy fun and makes for some perfectly good workout music.
Overall, what makes the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie awesome is its crazy action and tone. That’s the formula the games follow and it’s what kept the movie going. The only thing it didn’t follow from the movies was the excessive violence. The PG-13 rating put it on a leash, but that didn’t stop it from being entertaining. If you’re a fan of martial arts flicks, video games, and crazy fantasy, then it’s a movie that’ll spark your interest. Yes, it’s corny as it can get, but you know what? That’s what Mortal Kombat is all about and it knows it. It does the characters much justice, delivers some great action scenes, and once again, that incredible music will get you going. Video game movies should take some notes from this movie, because it actually respects its source material. I seriously hope the upcoming 2021 Mortal Kombat does the same.