Welcome back to another edition of “Eh, What’s New on Netflix”! The series where you and I delve deep into the Recently Added section in the hopes of finding precious jewels, priceless diamonds, or possibly just old copies of E.T. for the Atari 2600 that no one even knew were buried here. Anyways, after sifting out all of the dirt, what we’re left with is 1995’s Mortal Kombat, a movie which I’m sure many of you have seen, but I haven’t. I’m not sure why I’ve never seen it before. Maybe it’s because in the mid-90s my mother still thought that she could keep me from seeking out these sorts of movies and this was one of the few that I couldn’t get my hands on. Maybe it’s because even back then I knew that adaptations of video games are fucking awful and if I knew what was best for me I would just stay as far away as I could. Whatever the reason, I’ve spent the past twenty years of my life with this massive hole in my movie-watching history and what better time to fill it in than the present!
By the way, for full emersion, start playing this now
If you are for any reason unfamiliar with Mortal Kombat, it’s based on the ‘90s digitized fighting game of the same name, and is focused, above all, crazy fight scenes. A team of Earth’s best martial artists are chosen to come to Outworld and fight in a tournament (called “Mortal Kombat”) in order to prevent an evil Emperor from coming to our planet and claiming it for his own. This is the first place where the movie veers into lunacy. Most of Earth’s fighters appear to have been selected by Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), their main opponent in the tournament. That can’t possibly be fair, can it? So, there are several human fighters but the only ones the movie cares about are movie star Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), hard-ass cop Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras), and former monk and apparent Chosen One Liu Kang (Robin Shou). At first they don’t like each other, then they fight together, then they like each other, friendship conquers all, yadda yadda yadda. You can all figure it out. What I really want to talk about here is the structure of the tournament.
Now, as I’m sure you all know, most tournaments are structured something like this:
Competitors face one another, and then they move on to the next guy until only one remains. Mortal Kombat seems to start out that way, with Liu and another fighter in a ring with an audience. This seems like how shit is going to go down. Then for the next fight, we have Cage walking around a forest all alone when he is attacked by Scorpion. This is apparently a completely legal fight within the rules of the tournament. Then, we just go straight back to the ring and Sonya’s first fight. Goro fights some dude named “Art” whom everyone gives a shit about for some reason in a ring with an audience, but Liu fights Sub-Zero off by themselves. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to who fight what or where.
But then shit really gets off the rails when Cage out of nowhere just challenges Goro. Turns out that is a thing you can do here. Then Shang Tsung declares that not only does he get an automatic bye to the final round, but he also chooses who he gets to fight. He picks Sonya, takes her away with him (by the way, Shang Tsung is SUPER rape-y towards Sonya, like, all the time), but Cage and Liu follow and Liu challenges Shang instead. I’m leaving out various other fights that happen throughout the movie that I’m not sure are part of the tournament or just occur because the bad guys are just like, “Fuck the humans. Lets do this shit!” I seriously don’t know. This is all just madness! At least in the video games there is a clearly defined progression of who you have to go up against.
At a certain point in this I stopped taking real notes and just started writing down questions. What special knowledge does Liu have? Is it possible to win the tournament by forfeit? How did Kitana know how the final confrontation would go down? Does Goro have testicles like a human male? Seriously, who the fuck is “Art”? Most of these questions go largely unanswered, but fear not! At the end, they set up the sequel! Liu, Cage, Sonya, and Raiden will fight the evil Emperor, who is the size of Godzilla for…reasons. According to IMDb, the only major returning actor in 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is Robin Shou, and I have no idea how if the plot is actually a continuation of the first movie or not. Maybe I’ll watch it someday. Maybe it has someone rip out someone else’s spine. If so, it would instantly become the better movie.