Why 1995’s ‘Mortal Kombat’ Is The Rare Video Game Movie That Works

Eventually, studios and filmmakers will crack the code for video game movies. We come at a time where there are more good superhero movies than bad, but for decades superhero movies could never imagine how faithful they should be to the source material and how much they should try to appeal to the uninitiated. Video game movies are in a more complicated position because while superheroes had decades of narratives to draw from, video games sometimes don’t even have stories (what’s the narrative of Pac-man?) And only as technology has improved have games put more effort into creating compelling characters and plots rather than using them as the thinnest premise for the game.

And yet, even though video games have put more effort into their stories, movies that adapt those games have struggled to bring them to the big screen. The Assassin’s creed Games have a great mythology that allows them to span eras, but the 2016 movie was largely a flop. tomb Raider– which threw moves back when games had thin storylines and a reboot when games got heavier on the plot – struggled to really figure out how to translate the franchise’s appeal from one medium to another. Even a hit like Sonic the Hedgehog makes the bizarre decision to take a character whose defining trait is speed and put him in a car for most of the movie.

But back in 1995, the director Paul WS Anderson He managed to figure out how to take a thin video game plot and turn it into a funny movie Mortal Kombat. Interestingly, Anderson would go on to take on the horror series. Demonic resident and basically turning it into an action franchise, but that’s another story for another time. With Mortal Kombat, he followed the line of taking the video game seriously enough that there would be references for fans, but he also understood that some kind of narrative was needed that would appeal to people who had never played the violent video game.

Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat 1995

Image via New Line Cinema

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The solution, with a script credited to Kevin Droney, it was basically ripping off the 1973 Bruce Lee classic Enter the Dragon. For those who have never seen it, the plot is that there is a criminal lord who runs a martial arts tournament, and in order to defeat that criminal lord, several good martial arts guys go to the tournament, but each one has their own reason. personal. to compete. This plot fits well into the game, where the stakes were that you needed to “win” Mortal Kombat to prevent the forces of Outworld from taking over Earth. The challenge was how to fit such colorful characters into that framework.

Anderson correctly thought that the more you tried to explain to these people, the worse off you would be. Taking the time to explain why Kano has a metal eye or why Sub-Zero can control the ice does not add to his story, and only emphasizes the ridiculousness of what is happening. It is much better to accept them at face value and hope that an audience member who has never played Mortal Kombat ride with him. Anderson wisely uses this latitude to make the movie as funny as possible, like a scene where Johnny Cage and Scorpion are fighting and then being transported to some kind of hellish dimension made of cobwebs and ladders. Where is this dimension? How did Johnny Cage come out when he defeated Scorpion? Where did he get the autographed photo that he used for his doom like he does in the game? No matter!

Johnny Cage and Scorpion in Mortal Kombat 1995

Image via New Line Cinema

This willingness to embrace the silliness of its premise is what makes 1995 Mortal Kombat Very funny. Rather than straying from the more outlandish aspects of the game, he leans toward them and trusts that the audience will stick with them. Naturally, there will always be audience members inclined to break down every element of a movie that doesn’t have a tortuous explanation, but Mortal Kombat He knows how to be carefree and work from his simple plot to give people the fights they are looking for. It’s a testament to how well the movie works that these fights are still PG-13 despite being an adaptation of a game known for its R-rated violence. Mortal Kombat it deviated from the original material, but still gave fans enough of what they wanted to make it feel like a true adaptation.

Is not that Mortal Kombat it’s a great movie. It’s cheesy, the acting is stiff and the ending scene doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t matter because on some level, Mortal Kombat he knows what it is and is not ashamed of it. You are not trying to “elevate” the game nor are you trying to make money so fast that you completely ignore what people like about the source material. Instead, he walks the line between two competing audiences, the fans and everyone else, and manages to do something that serves both of them. Even if you never played Mortal Kombat, you understood the concept of a martial arts tournament and the forces of evil that want to take over the Earth. From 1995 Mortal Kombat It didn’t need to be amazing; it just had to be fun, and as the years have shown, that’s been a high bar that most video game movies fail to clear.

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