Viking Night: Mortal Kombat
By Bruce Hall
February 17, 2015
Does it bother you when the high point of a movie is the theme music? Ever find yourself tapping your feet or rocking out while the opening credits roll, only to realize no more fun will be had until it's all over? That’s my pain right now, having just re-watched 1995’s Mortal Kombat. The theme was written by The Immortals, side project of a band otherwise known as Lords of Acid. It's a pulsing, hypnotic dance number that, like most of LOA"s music, is evocative of a fetish party held in a smoky dungeon beneath a Dutch hostel. It's also perfect workout music for an interdimensional Kung Fu tournament to the death.
By the time the movie starts - especially if you were ever a fan of Mortal Kombat - you will be pumped up to see all manner of garishly outfitted weirdos punching off heads and ripping out spines. I know I was. And 20 years later, I'm still waiting.
It's not like the movie didn't have a chance. Paul W. S. Anderson would become primarily known for filming either video game adaptations (the Resident Evil series), or films so vapid (The Three Musketeers) they might as well be video game adaptations. And the film was indeed loosely based on the wildly successful game of the same name. The game was full of colorful characters and lots of stylized ultra-violence. It was wise to strike while the iron was hot - and on the surface, they got at least that much right. The film version is also an interdimensional Kung Fu battle for control of the earth. All manner of garishly outfitted weirdos do indeed fight for supremacy, and of course, they've all got a backstory.
Liu Kang (Robin Shou) is a former Chinese monk out to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of the tournament honcho, Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) is the world's most unconvincing Special Forces operative, who is on the hunt for Kano (Trevor Goddard), a boorish assassin who killed her partner and looks like he once tried to make out with a speeding train. Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) is a Van Damme inspired character who is more reminiscent of a drunken Bob Saget. He seeks to eradicate rumors that he's not as tough as he appears on screen - which is funny because he really doesn't look very tough on screen.
All are recruited by Raiden (Christopher Lambert), the Chinese thunder god who is for some reason white, and also considerably less impressive than Thor. Still, Lambert is weird and mysterious enough to pull it off and is a regular Daniel-Day Lewis compared to most of the people around him. But bad acting in a movie like this isn't necessarily a crime. Nobody's watching Mortal Kombat for its penetrating insight into the human condition. They’re watching for the fights - which are supposed to include penetrating insight into the human chest cavity.