VIDEO: Mortal Kombat (1995)

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Mortal Kombaaaaaaat! Cecil reviews one of the best examples of how to do a video game movie the right way.

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  • You did forget one thing about Goro: His voice! Kevin Michael Richardson does the voice and it was a great choice for a large imposing figure like Goro. But instead of just making him sound like a brute, there was a touch of nobility in his voice which just shows how good Richardson’s vocal range is. He’s cursed with a voice of awesome! His voice is more awesome than Keith David in my opinion (Flame sheild UP!). His most recent work has been Panthro in the new Thundercats series and Shredder in the new TMNT series (Thanks again Sofie!) but he does have good range outside that voicing Cleveland Jr in the Cleveland show, impersonates Bill Cosby on a few episodes of Family Guy and even voiced the Joker in The Batman, seriously!

    Either way though, I’m glad that this, Silent Hill and to a lesser extent, The Street Fighter and first Resident Evil movie showed that not all video game adaptations are irredeemable. Even if they’re not critical darlings of films, when they stick to their source material outside of certain limitations (A 15 or and 18 would have been much better for it), they can still be entertaining and watchable.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Good call in regards to Goro’s voice.  I always thought he looked a little goofy but his voice went a long way towards me looking past that lifeless face.

      A great review, and once more I learned a great deal.

      • Cecil_Trachenburg

        Thanks! :)

        Even though his face crossed the uncanny valley, it still looked more believable than many other all digital characters. (although they are getting there with movies like Tron Legacy) The Avengers had the best all digital characters I’ve ever seen. There were scenes with Scarlet Johanson where I didn’t know it wasn’t her.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Kevin Michael Richardson is quite grand, as I said above I always have more material to cover and sometimes I just have to cut stuff for time. (he’s also great in Gravity Falls!)

      As far as video game movies go, I really think a World of Warcraft movie has the potential to be incredible. They just need to work closely with the wizards at Blizzard and pick the right storyline to follow. If they do it right they have an easy trilogy that will make billions.

  • Muthsarah

    Yeah…I…I think you’ve won me over on this one.  I didn’t like this movie when it came out, but I see it deserves more credit than I gave it back then (it’s not like video game movies have gotten any better).  The production values really do make the film, at least from the clips here, as do the really impressive attempt to be faithful to the games.  It’s shame about Reptile, though, which just isn’t good enough for post-T2 Hollywood; they shoulda left him out with Baraka and doubled-down on Goro.

    I love that you threw in the Siskel clip as a capper; if they both liked a movie so clearly not-targeted-at-them as this, it’s gotta be good.  I don’t mind that they cast a white guy as Raiden; he’s supposed to be a god, not a human, so who cares what human form he takes?  It’s a nice shout-out to a movie it clearly took some inspiration from.  But why did they have to turn Sonya into a kidnapping victim for the final act?  That pissed me off at the time, she (and Liu Kang) were my favorite characters from the first game.  At least Liu got to be the big hero of a martial arts movie; it would have been so easy for them to make it all about Johnny Cage to “better appeal to general audiences” and lazy film convention (like they did with Sonya).  If the star of your movie doubles as a fight choreographer, you probably have a quality product.

    I think I’ll give the movie another look, but after this, I don’t think I’ll be able to resist picturing JCVD and Mask-era Cameron Diaz.  That’s gonna be all kinds of distracting.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg


      The production was amazing and even more so when you realize they were only working with 18 million. Reptile was the only weak link IMHO, everything else looked grand. They wanted to make an awesome all digital character but just couldn’t pull it off. Oh well, he wasn’t in it very much and was kind of cool at the time.

      Yeah, having Sonya as the “damsel in distress” was a leftover silly old troupe. Especially when she is supposed to be one of Earth’s greatest fighters.

      They went the smart way with this by not having it revolve around just one character. The game had all these interesting characters so by giving them roughly equal time, it turned out well. The easy route like you said would have been to focus on just Johnny Cage but thankfully they realized that wasn’t the best idea.

      I hope you like it this time around.

  • Ciy

    As a fan of the games I really love this film. You review, as always, is well informed but i notice you forgot to mention the influence that it had on the video game after.  Like Kano’s appearance and country of origin or Shang Tsungs “Your soul is mine” catch phrase. I’m not sure if other movie adaptations of video games influenced the games after so it’s possible MK was the first. 

    The fighting in this film, for me, was something to look closely at, as you can tell when an actor can fight (as they use wide shot and long takes) and then they couldn’t (using closes ups and cut aways). If you watch the film again see if you can spot the differences.
    It’s funny to think that Cameron Diaz could of been Sonya as the actress they got is really bad. Her performance almost reminds me of Kristen Stewart (Twilight), the only difference is that Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (Sonya) could smile. I get that her character was angry all the time but out of all the rest of the cast, she was still pretty weak.

    Though your reviews are always great, i have only one criticism, which is some times your voice becomes a bit monotone. I understand that quick talking and short descriptions are used keeps the flow of the review and prevent it from dragging, but at times it makes it hard to listen to. Sorry.

    A side from that, your editing is great, your jokes were funny and it’s always nice to learn more about the development of the film. 

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      The movie had an impact on the game for sure. Kano had hair in the later sequels, Liu Kang started to look more like Shou, etc. There is always material I would like to put in the videos but I cut them for time so it doesn’t turn into an infodump. I may revisit this stuff later when the new MK movie is set to come out. I may even take a look at MK Annihilation and talk about what they did wrong.

      Actually, many (not all) of the close ups and cutaways were still the actors. They had cut the movie with wide shots but said it didn’t look right so the recut and put in the close ups in because it gives the fights scenes more impact. The actors, even Wilson, did a bunch of their own stunts. (the henchman fight in Goro’s office was a major one)

      I wonder how it would have worked out with Diaz. She was stunning back then before she had all that plastic surgery. If you thought Wilson was bad in the role, you should see how terrible
      Sandra Hess was in the sequel.

      Glad you enjoy the show. I don’t know what to tell you about my voice, it’s the way I talk. I’m not one for putting on a fake voice or getting fake riled up over things. I just am mellow and I guess that is how it comes across sometimes. I’m also not one for putting in a music bed unless it is needed. No problem, I appreciate your honesty. ^^

  • Jeff Bradford

    Dude! Title screen = Major Awesomeness! I loved this movie, and watched it many times as a child on VHS, and yes, the opening music does make me want to go to a dojo and beat the shit out of the students. Very good review, man, it really brought me back to those good old days when movies didn’t have to have a deeper meaning for a lot of fans to like it. It was the best Video Game movie of its time. You know what is another underrated movie in my honest opinion? The Island (Yes, directed by Michael Bay)

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks! I wanted to do something nifty and I’m glad it paid off.

      I agree. Movies don’t always need some deep meaning…there is nothing wrong with just being entertaining.

      I like The Island. It had some incredible action sequences that Bay is known for. I enjoy most of his stuff, I just think the Transformers is when he lost his mind. The Rock is awesome.

  • Necroglobule

    I wish they would have snuck in a “Toasty!” after Scorpion’s death.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      That would have been grand.

      • Necroglobule

        Honestly my favorite part of the games was always Dan Forden’s little cameos. I’d always be Scorpion in MK 2 just to hear it during the fatality. Never failed to make me smile.

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          “Toasty” and “Frosty” were said constantly back then whenever me and my friends played. Never got old.

          • Necroglobule

            Damn I miss the early 90’s.

  • Randolph Quazalpene

    Great review.  This is the one video game movie I can stand.  When this came out I remember going to see a week or two after release, and wondered why I had waited to go.  For those too young, that starting music in full movie surround sound….awesome.   I don’t own it unfortantely, but now that I look back i’d buy a special edition with all the in behind the scenes they did for it.

    Soooo many disappointing video game movies since than. The worse, the very worse imo is from one my favorite fighting game series, King of Fighters.  While the games do have a underlying plots you have to kind of dig for and “get it”  The KOF live action movie was just…um…. I mean it had Ray Park in it who has some stunt cred, but… main villian on Roller Blades…seriously…


    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks! Oh yeah, this was right around the time when Regal Cinemas started opening on the East Coast, replacing all the old garbage theaters that hadn’t updated their screens or sound systems in years. Hearing “Mortal Kombat!” blaring through surround and looking at a crisp bright new screen, it was amazing.

      Unfortunately, there is no special edition on DVD or Blurray. Actually, the best version as far as bonus content is the laserdisk which has a behind the scenes and producer commentary.

      King of Fighters was goofy. They had a few ok fight scenes but not much else.

  • MephLord

    I think you’re running out of Good Bad Movies based on video games.  And I agree this one was much closer to its source material than Street Fighter in at least having a coherent storyline rather than shoehorning characters into a movie just to have them there.  Just like your review of DOA, Mortal Kombat was staying true to its fanbase of those who played the game, while still keeping away from an R rating (that’s clearly why Goro didn’t pull the guy’s head and spine out in that one fight).  Silent Hill also fit the fans of the game by keeping the same atmosphere.  I don’t know if there are any new fighting franchises to adapt (since Tekken really went off the rails), but I doubt we’d ever see a Virtua Fighter, Battle Arena Toshinden, or Samurai Showdown movie.  I think a Soul Caliber movie would be pretty interesting however.

    • Although why anybody would want Mortal Kombat without an R rating is beyond me.  Maybe there’s a cheat to put more gore in?

      • MephLord

        I agree the movie would have been better with an R rating, but it might not have been in as many theatres (I’m Canadian so I use Canadian spellings).  So at some point, economics come into play for distribution decisions by studios.  And having an R rating meant a lot less distribution for a lot less screens for people to watch, so I can understand especially for a movie with a relatively large budget to opt for less gore if the return is better…makes sense.

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          The producers also said they were targeting this specifically at kids so R rating was not even on the table.

      • Cecil_Trachenburg

        Considering video games are still thought of as “kids toys”, think about how that was over a decade ago. They had a hard enough time making the movie, having it rated R was out of the questions. (even though the game was beyond R rated in terms of violence) The only way for them to make it was to go the PG-13 route and push the rating as far as they could.

        They opted to overcome the lack of gore by having some amazing fights and thankfully, it worked.

        • Muthsarah

          This is one time where I would have been perfectly fine had they set out to make an R-rated film (or “Unrated Cut”) but only put a specially-edited PG-13 cut into theatres.

          The game was “beyond R rated”?  Hmmm…maybe I WAS desensitized or something, I never found it graphic or disturbing at all.  It just looked cheesy and cartoony.  I wonder if any of the censors grew up with siblings several years older than them, and being exposed to stuff well before you’re “supposed to”.  It’s damn fun sometimes, kids live for that.  MK was a phenomenon even for grade-schoolers back then.

          • Cecil_Trachenburg

            Keep in mind, this was one of the games that was presented to congress that prompted the video game ratings act of 1994, which led to the creation of the ESRB. While now the fatalities of MK are looked at as humorous, at the time seeing someone’s spine being ripped out in a movie would have instantly granted them an NC-17. The graphics look cheesy now but they were state of the art back then. I’m sure 15 years from now we’ll look at Gears of War and think it looks fake.

            If you ever have a chance, check out the documentary “This film is not yet rated”. It’s all about the phony movie ratings board and how puritanical they can be.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      There’s a few left but I’ve covered most of the big ones. (aside from the Resident Evil series, which I might just do as a series retrospective)

      I’d love to see a Soul Caliber movie because it has the potential to be both batcrap crazy and filled with amazing weapon fights.

      • You mean you’re not going to declare your love of any Uwe Boll movies?

        Sorry, I guess I’m a sadist when it comes to reviewers.  And with good reason- I watched Hellrasier: Revelations!

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          Its ok, I have a weird affinity for Teenage Caveman after all.

          His movies wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t boring. There are plenty of hilarious moments in them but as he started making more, they just got worse. House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark are pretty funny, but Bloodrayne and Dungeon Siege are dreadfully slow.

          Believe me, I can sit through some crap movies and be entertained but pacing is a major component. You can be “bad” but you can’t be boring.

  • robert roy

    hey mr bad you see the nostalgia critic review mortal kombat and phelous review that was ok

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Never saw NC’s review. I saw Phelous’ reviews of Conquest (well, some of them) but not the movie.

      •  Mr Bad?  Can I call you that from now on?

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          I insist!

          I now have my super villain name. Mwahahaha!

  • Alexa

    While I do like this movie, not a big fan of the director. Sure he did a good job here, I just think he made all of the Resident Evil movies into a vanity projects for his wife Milla Jovovich. Plus his take on the Three Musketeers was pretty bad.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      I’ve liked the guy ever since Event Horizon. I think he does a great job of making movies look way more expensive than their budgets. I also don’t think the RE movies are vanity projects for Milla, even though I know a few folks feel that way. For me they are kickass action movies that took a huge left turn from the source material but in a way that works.

      Haven’t seen 3 Musketeers yet but I did hear that one was kind of bland.

      • MephLord

        If Milla wanted a vanity project she would’ve starred in Zoolander 2: Yuppies in Russia and just played herself with her ethnic accent with a bunch of stupid Russian and USSR stereotypes.  So I agree Resident Evil was far from a vanity project for her.

  • katmore9

    Awesome review! I really hope you are able to keep up these video game-movie reviews. Street Fighter, Double Dragon, now Mortal Kombat. Nice!

    First, I really liked the intro you did just for this review. Nice touch.
    I love this movie. (I skipped school with 2 friends to watch it one afternoon. Yeah, I get caught afterwards, but this movie was worth it.)

    The background info, as always, was amazing. For instance, the Johnny Cage-Scorpion fight taking 10 days and choreographed by Robin Shou was good to know. That scene is easily my favorite fight in the whole movie, so the effort was definitely worth it.

    It was also interesting to see that Cameron Diaz was offered the role of Sonya Blade. Though I’ve never really liked her, Cameron would have been a good fit here (or possibly Uma Thurman). That list of actors up for the role of Liu Kang was impressive and top-notch.

    I also found it surprising that the producers of the movie actually consulted kids/fans for critiques. I can’t imagine that kind of respect for fans taking place today.

    Man, there’s so much to comment on… maybe another post.

    2 things:
    1) I think out of all video game-based movies, Talisa Soto is the hottest actress to play a major role. (I honestly don’t know if that can be disputed.)

    2) Have you watched the Mortal Kombat web series on youtube? If so, your thoughts on the first season?