Over the years, it seems like the video game movie genre has been having something of a renaissance, with what was once a genre condemned to poor reception has now been replaced with improved projects. Movies like “Detective Pikachu” and the “Sonic” movie have proven to be critical and financial successes. And with the upcoming “Mortal Kombat” movie coming to theaters and HBO Max soon, I figured it seemed appropriate to return to the first cinematic endeavor of the popular fighting franchise.
The plot centers on the eponymous Mortal Kombat tournament, which pits Earth and realm of Outworld against each other with their champions. With Outworld on the cusp of taking over Earthrealm, Raiden (Christopher Lambert), the god of thunder brings together three champions to fight for Earthrealm: Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), a Hollywood actor looking to use the tournament to improve his career, Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), a cop in pursuit of the crime boss Kano (Trevor Goddard), and Liu Kang (Robin Shou), who’s out for revenge after his brother is killed by Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a sorcerer and champion for Outworld.
While the cast doesn’t give Oscar-winning performances, they’re not the worst actors director Paul W.S. Anderson could muster. Ashby, Wilson, and Shou do solid jobs as the champions for Earth and play off each other with their banter. Trevor Goddard chews the scenery in every scene he’s in and acts like any person would when dealing with sorcerers and four-armed giant. But Christopher Lambert really steals the show as Raiden. He plays the thunder god as a snarky Greek chorus to the main characters. It feels reminiscent of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool with the charm conveyed onscreen.
Fans of the games will appreciate the attention to detail when translating the game to the big screen. I’m not going to harp too much on the lack of blood or the PG-13 rating, because keeping the gory executions that the series is known for would have just blocked fans of the arcade game from seeing it. But the overall story is as simple as it needed be; just a save the world story with tournament fighting and a splash of revenge. The only issue is the final act could have been stronger and utilized all three of the main characters in the climax.
The action is well-choreographed, with many of the cast members doing own stunts. Each of the fighters use the movement to reflect their character. And when the theme song starts beating, it’s just a boost the adrenaline.
I used to watch this when I was fifteen and it has aged really well and just as entertaining as I remembered it. It’s not perfect, but you can tell that the movie just wants to have fun. So shut your brain off, enjoy the movie, and pre-game before the tournament returns to the silver screen.