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Guilty Pleasures – Mortal Kombat

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Today marks the twentieth anniversary since the Mortal Kombat game came into existence. It’s the kind of game that your parents were warned about, a title that was filled with more blood and gore than that tragic incident I had with Santa back in the winter of ’82.

And the film, while nowhere near as violent, was just as horribly cheesy and stereotyped as its video game source material. And sweet Marilyn Monroe, did I love it for that.Before we even begin, you have to understand that in the ealry nineties, video game films were considered box office poison. Films based on games were the second leading cause of death back then, just behind Chuck Norris related blunt trauma incidents.

So getting this film made, was a battle in and of itself. But the effort put in, made it a cult favourite with gamers. The characters were perfectly cast, and those who were deemed to fantastical, were tweaked to match the world that was created for them, just enough.

Robin Shou was a spot-on intepretation of a vengeful Liu Kang, Linden Ashby carried the swagger and pomp of Johnny Cage like a reborn John Saxon from Enter the Dragon, while Bridgette Wilson rounded at the trio as the tough as nails Sonya Blade.

Then you had Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa brilliantly typecast as the villanous Shang Tsung, stealing souls left, right and center, while Christopher “Highlander” Lambert gave an inspired performance as the Thunder-God himself, Raiden.

What more could you ask for, when it came to perfect casting, for that time?

But what’s really endearing, is how the film managed to incorporate as much of the source material as possible, without alienating audiences unfamiliar audiences.

A paper-thin story, though it may be, the cast and crew expertly managed to transition those bits of fluff, into setpieces for the various fights in the film, from beating up Capoeira brawlers with bad dance moves, through to showdowns with frosty ninjas and their hellish counterparts, all culminating in a showdown with a badly animated robot with a bad suntan, and Shang Tsung himself.

Which brings me to another facet of the film that I loved, was that each of the three main cast members had a chance to shine. Sonya versus Kane, Johnny Cage versus Scorpion and Goro, and Liu Kang versus everyone else.

The fights were great, lengthy and energetic, in an age when such fantasy epics were slowly dying, while the visual side of the film was spot-on. And of course, who could forget that catchy Mortal Kombat theme?

But you want to know what the most amazing thing about this film is? It was directed by Paul “Resident Evil” Anderson. Back before his whole emphasis on style over substance became more cliched than a Baysplosion, this film was a breath of fresh air.

It’s pretty dated by now, but it’s still a fantastic slice of nineties fun.

Last Updated: May 23, 2012

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