You know, I really liked the original Mortal Kombat. Sure they ripped off the premise from another movie, but at least it was good (Enter the Dragon). I loved the games until the 4th one and was widely known as being one of its best and most devoted followers. So maybe all this is why my then-girlfriend's idiot stoner brother told me that he heard this movie was incredible, and I excitedly went to see it.
I'm a patient guy, and I have almost never felt the urge to walk out of a movie due to boredom (Tank Girl is the only other one I recall). But MKA here is a joke. If you really feel the need to see this movie and be surprised, then be forewarned because there are spoilers ahead.
Here's one right off the bat. MKA isn't a sequel proper to the original Mortal Kombat. The original MK was, reasonably, based on the first game. A couple future characters made cameos, but that's it. So it stands to also reason that MKA would be about the second game, the one most fans widely regard to be the best. But whereas the MK film was made at the time that part 2 was yielding to part 3, a lot changed in the extra couple years it took for this film sequel. As MK the movie was leaving theaters, MK3 the game was getting kind of a lukewarm reception, and people got sicker and sicker of it by the time MK4 came out. By now the games were in 3d and the storyline had gone from basic Enter the Dragon tournaments to all out apocalyptic robot wars and sorcerors controlling the fates of a bunch of new, generic characters. Until its decent reinventing in 2002, the MK games had hit a rough and oversaturated spot and would take 5 years to bounce back.
So here in this worst time comes MKA, which skips the best chapter of the games entirely and jumps in at sort of a story junction between the 3rd and 4th games, the worst. So we have characters from all 4 games running around and interacting, which is goofy as it is, and things get worse when sense is tried to be made of it. For example, (spoiler), in maybe the first 2 minutes Johnny Cage, a main character and semi-hero of the first movie, is summarily and unceremoniously killed off. My guess for this is because he wasn't in the 3rd game.
Soon after (more spoilers. In fact, there will be several so if you continue, do at the risk of ruining the wonderful cinematic experience that is MKA), robots from game 3 come in, negating the fact that their sole purpose in the games was to hunt Sub Zero, a character killed in the first movie. Leading the attacks by these fiends and others is Shao Kahn, who in the first movie appeared as a giant demonic face in the sky and here appears as....a masculine human being.
Making things moe complicated is that elder God Raiden, played by Christopher Lambert in the original, is here played by someone else and seems to not want to fight at all, as the character has gone from wizardly power god to short haired, weasely Power Rangers nerd, giving up his immortality in the process and teaching our heroes a thing or two about friendship and courage. Huh?
Sticking things out, unfortunately for them, are Robin Shou and Talisia Soto, who play central characters Liu Kang and Kitana and who've returned from the original film. This time, neither of them are allowed to do anything much more than look shocked at the stupid story developments, and Liu Kang engages in a few fights that capture none of the magic or uniqueness of the original film. And in fact this goes for any fight in this film that I care to remember. In the original, the fights were well choreographed and showcased a good selection of acrobatic and martial arts skill. Action was conveyed through close combat, good angles, and lengthy tradeoffs. And at the very least, there was a genuine moment or two where one might say "wow, that was a cool move!". This time, a lot of the action is illusional, with the camera making quick cuts and sudden moves to sort of convey that stuff is going on. There's nary an actual hand-to hand combat scene that lasts more than 30 seconds, and when you see what else was thrown in instead, you'll want to kill someone yourself.
For example, remember the character Baraka, with his beast face and bladed arms? He's here, and in fact is joined by several identical others, who assault Liu Kang with their reflective cardboard blades in a high-flying trapeze act straight out of the circus. And what about Sheeva, 4-armed character that should have been the answer to decently done Goro, 4-armed creature of the original film? Well, whereas he was conveyed through puppeteering and animatronics, here Sheeva is played by a tall woman in generic spandex who tries to look menacing and does a couple unthreatening hops with her cheesy extra special effect arms.
Things (don't) pick up later on, when Liu Kang randomly encounters Native American character Nightwolf, who explains that Liu must harness his "animality" to succeed. Anyone familiar with the MK universe knows that the "animality" was a ridiculous player rumor which supposed that the MK games contained a method of killing one's opponent by turning into an animal and committing not a fatality but an "animality". This dumb rumor was added to the 3rd game as fan service, and apparently delighted the producers of this film enough that it was actually explained as a real, feasible occurence. "Feel your animality", N.Wolf says to Liu, urging him to harness the beast within. Mr. Wolf then briefly shows Liu how to do it, and then asks,
"pretty cool, huh?"
We who haven't left the room yet are saying "no", but oh boy do we still get a fun surprise. At the end of the film, Liu Kang fights with big masculine guy (er, Shao Kahn), and instead of actual wanted fisticuffs, we get to see the two of them feel their animality and turn into giant, god awful stupid computer-generated beasts who do combat with each other. No, I mean it. They turn into giant computer animated beasts. And we're not talking about Gollum of the Lord of the Rings here- I mean big, shiny, plasticy-looking "we know we want to make big magical creatures but don't yet have the technology to do anything but make them eye-strainingly obvious" effects. Liu Kang could reasonably have turned into a cool chinese dragon or something, but instead winds up being this big-nosed, cross eyed, dopey dragon thing. Shao Kahn turns into something equally ridiculous and less memorable and the two have it out. Then at the last minute Shao Kahn's sorceror dad decides he's gone too far, disgraced the family name by becoming a crappy visual effect, and makes him disappear or something. Then everyone hugs, and more or less runs far, far away.
I hope that this has been an accurate rendering of what my feelings are for this film, because I actually haven't seen it in several years. I don't hate myself enough to watch it more than that. But if you want an actual review without the sarcasm, just look at it this way: It is an insult to the MK franchise and its fans, it fails as a follow-up to the fun original MK film, it fails TERRIBLY as a martial arts film, and in general it just is a dumb waste of time, an arbitrary, thrown-together cash-in sequel. Do yourself a favor and just watch the original, and if you still crave more, go play the games. And if you do insist on seeing this movie, then at the very least inject some fun into it like trying to figure out where those Baraka masks were purchased.
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