15 February 2011

OMENS: Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Starring Christopher Lambert, Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, Trevor Goddard. Script by Kevin Droney. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Release: 18 August 1995. New Line Cinema, 101 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Three people - Liu, Johnny, and Sonya - are selected by the Gods to participate in a interdimensional tournament called Mortal Kombat that will decide the fate of the universe!

MORTAL KOMBAT is a member of the small category of films that are a perfect marriage of badness and greatness. By all means, this is a bad movie. The XENA and HERCULES series got a lot of flack for being corny in general and cheesily acted, but ladies and gents, they are masterpieces compared to the hilarity that is on display here. Hell, I gained a bigger appreciation of actors' ability to display emotion from any given season of POWER RANGERS than MORTAL KOMBAT. It's laughable, but the real beauty about it, is that it's so damn enjoyable. So, in the bestest way, MORTAL KOMBAT is a true guilty pleasure. Much like DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION a year or two ago. Both are bad, bad, baaadd movies, but they are just so efficient in their execution in that regard that they can't help but be loved and marveled at.

At the video store I work at people often come by and ask for MORTAL KOMBAT, and often we're sold out because that is one of our top selling martial art films (next ton ONG-BAK). A lot of people have told me it was a pretty good movie, stored that in my memory bank, and checked them out. Not many people bought the sequel, ANNIHILATION, so if they're willing to buy this and not get the other, I can't imagine how bad it must be. Yikes. But truth be told, I'd buy MORTAL KOMBAT and rewatch it, and subsequently show it to my friends. It's like TROLL 2 in that regard.

So what works with MORTAL KOMBAT? It's the fact the movie is so damn enjoyable. The badness equals greatness. What other film will we have Christopher friggin' Lambert play some god-like figure who enlists the help of three paper-thin characters and shoot blue lightning from his hands and eyes and wearing a dumb outfit? There is no other, I say! The inclusion of Lambert, his attire, and his supernatural powers and cringe-worthy dialogue is very nearly worth an standing applause and 100% recommendation alone. At the very least, seeing the ex-Highlander in another role is cool enough.

But in all seriousness, the acting in general is just bad. And frankly, I do use the term 'acting' loosely. Robin Shou is the main protagonist that we're meant to identify with, Liu Kang, who primarily is giddy for the tournament so he can kill Shang Tsung, (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) the antagonist who murdered Liu's brother. Both Shou and Tagawa are just so bad. Tagawa seems to talk in slow-motion, and also enjoys pointing when ordering people to kill each other or snatching up another soul. For some odd reason, watching Tagawa enunciate his words becomes more compelling than the fighting scenes...of which there are many. Shou I wished was dubbed over, because his many grunts and ACTION! strikes are giggle-worthy, let alone his 'dramatic' dialogue: 'I am the Chosen One'.

Linden Ashby is perhaps not only the seemingly most skilled with the fight scenes (rather surprising), but also the funniest and relatable person as Johnny Cage, an actor who feels harassed by the press who don't believe he does his own stunts. So, of course, entering in a tournament that will decide the fate of the universe is the best way to convince people. And then there's Bridgette Wilson. Frankly, I haven't a clue why she's there. Well, for that matter, I guess Ashby falls into that category, too. Both Ashby and Wilson do their own little fights, but stay to the sidelines when the final fight gets going.

About the fights. Sad to say, they're pretty lame. As in unconvincing. When there's actually hand-to-hand combat. There's a lot of kicking, leaping, and soaring through the air. Jet Li/Jackie Chan-esque fights these are not. Plus they're shown in slow-motion often, and the awkwardness of the 'fight' becomes even more apparent. So the fights - basically the one thing that audiences are expecting to be amazing beyond everything else in an martial arts movie - are rather disappointing and sloppily done. Although the majority of the fights are below average, there are two that are definitely worth mentioning. A fantastic fight between Johnny Cage and this skull ninja dude in a fiery environment is not only cool in setting, but also execution. Plenty of physical contact...and even fire balls! And the final fight between Shou and Tagawa is pretty brutal and living up to the title, but it's difficult to get into sometimes thanks to the unintentionally funny 'AHHHHHHHH!!!'s and 'HIYEEEEEEEE!!!'s.

One aspect of filmmaking I don't often comment about is set design. Why? Hell if I know. I think it's cos I just usually don't pay too hard of attention to that area. But MK features some rather gorgeous and creative sets and models. The dimensional the protagonists are transported to blends gothic and mystical very well, full of dark blue lighting barely peaking through, statues of gargoyles and other imaginative creature creations, and other miscellaneous decorations that originated from the creativity of the designers and artists. It's pretty impressive stuff, truth be told. The buildings, the castles, the interior sets: all very way cool. The creatures themselves are awesomely designed and executed. Well, the non-CGI ones; those are quite horrendous. Specifically I'm speaking of Goro (pictured right), a beast of a killing machine that both intrigues me with its mechanics and impresses me with how splendidly he's pulled off. The lip movement (I assume dubbing was involved), the fighting choreography, etc. Pretty cool accomplishments, all things considered.

MORTAL KOMBAT is awesome. Yes, the movie is bad, laughably often. But it's also fun and enjoyable and highly, highly entertaining. I will recommend it to anyone, and will now happily converse with the customers picking this baby up and giving my opinion. Hell, maybe someday I just might check out the sequel. Unfortunately MK ends streaming tonight, but that shouldn't stop you. Nothing should stop you. Like TROLL 2 before it, MORTAL KOMBAT demands to be seen, to be loved, to be enjoyed. But I would not be opposed to a remake. With the rather intriguing premise it holds and some new martial arts experts, a fresh MORTAL KOMBAT movie may just be spectacular.

Netflix Rating: Liked It


Fletch said...

I get your reasoning, and The Beach is not one of Boyle's masterpieces, but it's still funny to see this getting a higher rating than it got.

MK is indeed a lot of fun, which is more than I can say for that pos Street Fighter movie they shat out. The thing is, for the flat as a pancake premise it had to work with, it was really way better than it should have been. Sure, the acting is pretty terrible outside of Shou, but Anderson did a decent job with what he had to work with.

Never did see the sequel, though I'm guessing I'm not missing much.

Andy the Time Lord said...

Oh absolutely it's way better than it should have been. Hell, back in '95 if I was old enough to see it, I'm pretty sure I would have declared this BEST MOVIE EVAAAHHHH!! Maybe I would have broke into a few tears a la Justin Bieber fans. I've never really been on the anti-W.S. Anderson camp (even taking into consideration AVP), and his work here is very well done - if only he could just lay off on the whole slow motion thing a bit.

Taking a quick look at Wiki, apparently a third film is in development that would see the return of Sonya, Johnny Cage and director Anderson! Now that I'd watch! Shou was in ANNIHILATION, so at least there seems to be some sort of continuity.

Fletch said...

You saw the fake trailer/advertisement for a new Mortal Kombat that came out a year ago or so, right? That thing was pretty badass.