How Mortal Kombat (1995) became the most controversial, best, most definitive, or at least most honest video game film of all time…..
Last week, the Mortal Kombat 2021 movie was released. With that in mind, I thought it would be good to look back at the first Mortal Kombat movie, which came out in 1995. Although the sequel was released two years later (Mortal Kombat Annihilation), it failed at the box office, meaning audiences had to wait almost 25 years for the next Mortal Kombat movie. For the record, I’m not going to elaborate on Annihilation because it lacks the character and charm of the original film. But what made the first Mortal Kombat movie so successful?
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Why did Mortal Kombat do so well at the box office?
In financial terms, the numbers don’t lie. The film was released with a budget of $18 million and brought in over $124 million. As I said before, the less I say about the sequel, the better: ….. but so far these are pretty impressive numbers. The context for this success comes from another culture that was more obsessed with traditional martial arts. Even though it was in the previous decade, movies like Karate Kid sparked public interest in wrestling culture.
This, combined with the release of the original Mortal Kombat game, created the perfect storm. The game debuted on the SNES in 1992 and is still wildly popular today. At the time, it featured great graphics with explicit violence, blood and gore. Teens in America and around the world couldn’t get enough, and three years later the movie was made. Along with the audience’s thirst for martial arts and a compelling story, it was the perfect storm. It should be noted that this was no mean feat either. Traditionally, movies about video games often struggle when they hit the big screen.
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What was Mortal Kombat about?
Not surprisingly, the film is based on a video game. To be fair, he has stayed true to his roots and not denied them in order to appeal to a mainstream audience. The plot, directed by Paul Anderson, revolves around a tournament where the best fighters in the country compete against other ordinary opponents with supernatural powers. For example, in one scene Johnny Cage is chased by Scorpius, who literally takes Cage to the underworld.
The story goes that if the humans lose, Earth will be invaded and taken over by these alien warriors who plan to destroy it. In short, after much action, the humans win and return to Earth, only to hear the otherworldly emperor announce that he wants their souls to immediately create a sequel. It’s a movie trophy as old as time, but it is what it is.
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So, was Mortal Kombat really good?
Like all things in life, it depends entirely on context. Today it is rated 5.8 on IMDB, which means it is a slightly above average film in the eyes of the public. However, it is not fair to judge by today’s standards. For one thing, the graphics were pretty impressive for the time and didn’t look out of place. Monsters like Goro seem sloppy by today’s standards, but expectations were lower then. So don’t expect the 2021 remake to use a CGI comic, but instead consider respecting things that don’t age well either.
According to the story, that’s what it says on the box. If you’re expecting a deep cinematic masterpiece with iconic lines and meanings, this film is not for you. Just like you shouldn’t. On the contrary, Mortal Kombat is a pure adventure movie from start to finish. This means you can expect lots of fights, brawls and decent choreography.
Speaking of choreography: Mortal Kombat has taken an interesting path in that direction. Instead of limiting themselves to well-known actors, they included real martial artists from Japan and other Asian countries in the film. This gave the fight scenes a sense of realism that could not be achieved without real practitioners. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed either, as we find all the usual characters back, such as Liu Kang, Reptile and Kano. The team also filmed on location in Thai temples to enhance the context of the action.
Probably the biggest surprise of the film was the soundtrack. Mortal Kombat’s theme song has always been an icon and a hit with fans. However, no one could have predicted that the CD soundtrack would reach platinum status. OK, it was the 90s, which meant a bigger audience for music sales….. Still, it seems that more people than expected wanted to come and listen to the film’s music.
In short, if you go in with an open mind and know exactly what to expect, you will not be disappointed. If you’re expecting something different, you have to ask yourself why you want to see this movie in the first place. Therefore, Mortal Kombat is a good option if you have a few hours to spare and are looking for something light to watch.
Final thoughts and legacy of the original Mortal Kombat
While some critics may have been accused of snobbery, the film has been slowly but surely gaining popularity with audiences ever since. He is often praised today for staying true to the original video game. To continue with the critical analysis: The film had an undeniable influence on Mortal Kombat in pop culture. As mentioned above, this led to a sequel, as well as an animated series and even a novel based on the script. Since then, there have also been 18 MK video games and the count….. So you could say it was pretty good.
So don’t be afraid to see this movie. If you’re a games fan, this is great, but even if you’re not, this site is a delight and will keep you entertained. For more information, you can also watch the trailer, which honestly probably gives more information than I’m capable of.
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