With the announcement that Furious 7 director James Wan will helm a Mortal Kombat reboot film, it seems like the right time to ask: can he improve upon the original? The 1995 adaptation of the popular arcade fighting series, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, was mostly beloved by fans at the time.
And yet, I watched it again recently to see if it's still the gem that many remember. Here's what still works...
By far the best thing about this movie is the characters and the actors who portray them:
- Christopher Lambert's Raiden is hilarious yet badass.
- Johnny Cage -- played by Linden Ashby -- is the cocky, likable hero that we all love.
- Robin Shou was a perfect representation of Liu Kang.
- This film version of Kano played by Trevor Goddard revolutionized the character and made him Australian in future games.
- And Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was an amazing Shang Tsung.
Other than a couple characters, I felt that they did a great job bringing the characters to the big screen. The actors all succeeded in portraying their roles in unique ways while staying loyal to the game. Robin Shou would continue to be one of the ONLY good things about the terrible sequel.
Great portrayals of the characters combined with awesome fights? You basically got the most important elements right there. That's right, after all these years, the fights still hold up with great choreography (most of the time), great cinematography, and the fact that most of the actors do their own stunts and fight scenes.
The greatest highlights are the Liu Kang vs. Shang Tsung climax, the Johnny Cage vs. Scorpion fight, and the Liu Kang vs. Reptile fight.
If anything, watch this movie for the fights: they are plentiful, and all of them are incredibly fun to witness. Just turn off your brain and enjoy the martial arts goodness.
The Practical Effects and Sets
Something that is often overlooked in this movie is the practical sets, which all still look really good; some even look like they came straight out of the games' venues without looking goofy. And other than one effect (which we'll get to later), the practical effects such as makeup and costumes are all top notch as well.
Be honest with me here: you have Techno-Syndrome 7" Mix on your playlist, don't you? Yeah, that's what I thought. By far the best thing about this movie is the now iconic theme song that you can still find being played at a club if the DJ is awesome enough. All you have to hear are the words "Mortal Kombat" yelled out and you are instantly sucked into the song that will never leave your head for the next five months.
Though to be honest, the entire soundtrack is downright amazing, such as Goro's theme, the music that plays during the Liu Kang vs. Reptile fight, and so many more.
I've never been against movies setting up a sequel if done right; it's always fun to get people psyched, and I don't deny that this ending gets you pumped for the next story with the Earthrealm Champions. The evil Emperor Shao Kahn has entered Earthrealm, thus breaking the rules of the tournament! Oh boy, can't wait for the sequel! Surely it will be just as amazing, right?
...oh. Well, at least the ending of the first movie still gets you hyped up!
Not Everything Aged Well
Goro, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero. Ugh.
While the animatronics on the Shokan Prince were impressive for the time, and are still okay when Goro is simply walking around and speaking, they turn to garbage when the character enters a fighting scene. The puppet moves awkwardly, the character constantly cheers -- which turns him into an annoyance -- and to be honest, Goro is just sort of thrown in there at the last moment. This is something that will NEED a motion performance in the reboot.
Oh, did you forget that Scorpion and Sub-Zero (the most iconic characters from the games) were even in this movie? Well, no one can blame you since they are basically throwaway minions of Shang Tsung with no backstory other than ONE. SINGLE. LINE!
Not only that, but they never speak a word except for Scorpion, who was voiced by the co-creator of the games, Ed Boon. So no Sub-Zero/Scorpion rivalry, both are killed off in this movie (yet Scorpion returns in the sequel somehow *shrug*), and they have barely any screentime. Good job, movie, you ruined two icons.
Even Worse Is the CGI
With something like The Fifth Element, the effects aged like fine wine, making the movie immortalized as a classic. But then you have something like Mortal Kombat where the CGI aged like milk.
Anyway, yeah, the CGI SUUUUUUUUCKS in this movie, and it wasn't even that good for the time: the monster form of Reptile looks like something out of a bad Nintendo 64 game. There is one CGI shot in Outworld which goes across the landscape and up a tower and it is just cringey (though I'd still take this movie's CGI over the sequel's).
So Does The Movie Hold Up After 20 Years?
Well, this is coming from a fan of the games when I say: yes. Is it perfect? No way, but if you're looking for a fun action romp and/or you are a fan of the Mortal Kombat franchise, the movie is still fun to watch for the characters, fight scenes, and the amazing music. Even with advances in CGI technology, James Wan will need to film a pretty great movie to make us forget about this one but it is not an impossible task for I have faith in James Wan after his many great films.
Check it out and see for yourself. Just stay FAAAAAR away from the sequel unless you and your friends are hanging out and you're looking for something to laugh at.
What needs to be in the Mortal Kombat reboot for you to see it? Tell us in the comments below!