Thursday, 11 December 2014

Blu-ray Review: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Movies based on video games have never been, well, any good to be honest. They often miss the point of what make the game likable and sometimes it's simply a case of the game not being the right fit to be a movie. In 1995, New Line Cinema had the brilliant idea of releasing a film based on the fighting game series Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat first released in 1992 by arcade specialists Midway and was so controversial, it was responsible for the forming of the North American games rating board, the ESRB. Mortal Kombat is also notable for: spelling things that usually begin with a C with a K, it's violence that led to the ESRB's creation, and also its lack of creativity because it uses "palette swaps", different colour character outfits, and turns them into different characters. Nevertheless, the series is still going to this day, thanks to Warner Bros buying it after Midway went bankrupt in 2009, and there's a new entry, Mortal Kombat X, that launches in 2015.

Anyway, the movie, is it any good? And is the Blu-ray transfer up to scratch? Well, I'll answer that by taking a look at the case that it comes in.

The packaging for Mortal Kombat is as basic as you can get. Expected for a re-release to be honest. It looks nice though, the front cover has the famous Mortal Kombat emblem on it. On the back, it gives you all of the various information. It also includes a spelling mistake as it spells the name of Raiden as "Rayden".

So what about the movie itself? Well, Mortal Kombat, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (who also directed the first and several more Resident Evil movies, so he seems to like adapting games) is a movie about a tournament called Mortal Kombat. This tournament sees kombatants (see what I did there) from Earthworld and Outworld (kind of like a parallel universe) face each other to find a victor. After winning nine times in a row, Outworld ruler Shao Kahn has his lieutenant Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) host the tournament so that he can win the tenth tournament, which would allow Shao Kahn to invade Earthworld and take over. That's a video game premise for you right there.

Anyway, to stop this, Earthworld has to send three fighters to win the tournament and they are: Liu Kang (Robin Shou) who is looking for revenge after Shang Tsung killed his brother, superstar actor Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) and Special Forces agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson, now Wilson-Sampras, as she married Tennis legend Pete Sampras in 2000). They are guided by, who I personally think of as the star of the show, Elder God Raiden (Christopher Lambert). Lambert is brilliant as Raiden but as good as he is, it's slightly disappointing that he doesn't look like the character does in the games, like the Japanese thunder god that he is.

Anyway, each of them, except Raiden since he's a god he can't participate in Mortal Kombat, must fight their way through the tournament. In the tournament, characters from the games are the ones featured, including: Kano, Kitana, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Goro and Reptile. The characters all appear true to their design in the games, except for Reptile, who is made with terrible CGI. I suppose there's nothing that can be done about that, the movie has just aged. The fights in the movie are fine by movie standards but do lack the brutality that the games are known for, for obvious reasons.

Visually the movie has come good looking locations and the designs do take some inspiration from the games, as you'd expect. The High Definition remaster of Mortal Kombat is a competent one as the film is in 16:9 widescreen and the colours and visuals are crisper than in SD. Though there is grain on the movie which is a result of the HD remaster. Nowadays, films aren't used and it's all digital.

Sound-wise, Mortal Kombat supports 5.1 surround sound and it's clear enough. Now, I can't mention anything about this movie without mentioning the fantastic theme song and the remix. It's one of the best theme songs from a movie in my opinion and it's actually a shame that it doesn't get used in the games in some way.

The general plot in Mortal Kombat follows very much the typical action movie of the sort but with the story of the games being used to craft it. There are some differences, I think the biggest is that Scorpion and Sub-Zero and on the side of Shang Tsung. In the games, Sub-Zero is very much against him. Scorpion is neutral and only has one enemy, Sub-Zero.

This storyline is kind of expanded in the special feature that's included with the movie and that is an animated movie called Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. It follows some of the plot of the movie, but it focuses more on added some information on certain characters' background. It explains characters like Goro, Scorpion, Sub-Zero for example. For these flashback sequences, it uses complete CGI, which is as bad as it sounds coming from 1995. The main story uses CGI backgrounds with hand-drawn characters. Why the difference I don't know. It looks dated and sounds it with the cheesy dialogue and bad voice acting. It was an interesting watch, but it wasn't good. This wasn't remastered either, which is expected. Also included is the theatrical trailer, again in SD.

The Mortal Kombat movie from 1995 is an action movie from the time, it's cheesy, over the top, has aged special effects but endearing in its own way. It's a fun, cheesy movie and surprisingly so a video game adaptation. It's aged, definitely, but that doesn't mean that it can't be enjoyed.