Mortal Kombat: Part I

April 28, 2011 | By

Next week Canada will make use of the $300 million allotted to a federal election, and we’ll vote in what hopefully will be the lesser idiot for Top Job, or at least the lesser evil, and if the bigger idiot manages to climb back into the seat he’s wasted for the past few years (hmmm… what stone-faced, power-mongering dolt could that be?), perhaps the shifted ratio of official opposition power will remind the Top Idiot that sometimes listening to the populace is part of the job.

The beauty of a democracy with free speech is that you can actually use terms like idiot quite freely, but idiots dominate democracies, monarchies, dictatorships, and despotic personalized kingdoms, so perhaps there’s a better system out there wherein the populace can get their leader through a combination of brains, brawn, and skill, and if you’re a pinhead, you lose your soul and spend an eternity swirling around with people as dumb or ‘dumber’ as you.

Imagine being surrounded by arrogant & corrupt ministers building acres and acres of outhouses and gazebos (hundreds of Tony Clement), bulldog mouthpieces who deny everything because it’s a genetic disease (thousands of John Bairds), and soulless power mongers just like Steve.

Why, the inability to exert one’s ego past myriad mirror versions of yourself would drive you into an eternal state of jealousy, madness, and maybe inertness.

Most likely, Harper would still win if the mettle tests were reduced to Mortal Kombat. He’d just take a hockey stick and start beating away at his opponents, crowning each ‘flawless victory’ with a badly crooned Beatles song. Of course, he’d probably want to keep the souls of the vanquished for himself, and would throw a terrible tantrum, breaking his hockey stick in front of Shang Tsung, and whimpering the famous ‘Mortal Kombat’ battle cry.

Go ahead. Test 'your might', snapperhead.

When Mortal Kombat – the film – debuted in 1995, it wasn’t the first adaptation of a video game, but even after 16 years, it remains one of the best. It’s silly & absurd, but perhaps because the game it was inspired by Jean-Claude Van Damme, MK follows the familiar martial arts formula of combat, honor, team building, faith in higher mystic powers, and plenty of action sequences.

In today’s climate, MK is a classical video game film, and I’ve dissected its merits and lesser failings in a review [M] of New Line / Warner Home Video’s shiny new Blu-ray, but it’s worth noting how the franchise is being reinvigorated again after being exploited in every outlet during the nineties. After a sequel, animated series, live-actions series, and further video game upgrades, the original still stands tall, and it also remains one of director Paul W.S. Anderson’s best films.

Anderson’s gift lies is making striking visual montages using classical film techniques – lighting, composition – set to kinetic electronic music, and effects that are often a perfect marriage of practical and digital effects. In its day, MK was cutting edge, and it is worth noting how the effects still hold up well, including the animatronic puppet hybrid used for Prince Goto – something no one would bother with today, even though Goro is fairly effective in conveying a menacing, egotistical power-monger like you-know-who.

New Line / WHV have also released the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, on Blu-ray, but even the HD transfer might not convince ardent MK fans to complete their franchise collection. It’s good that it’s out there, but it’s still MK: Annihilation.

The TV series has been released on DVD in the U.K., but it’s either the pilot episode, or a 5-disc set that contains 10 of the 22 episodes that aired in 1998. The full series was apparently available at one time in Australia, via 6 separately sold volumes. Of course, it’s MK Conquest, and co-stars a young and utterly terrible Kristana Loken (Painkiller Jane).

I may in the near future attempt to watch the aforementioned franchise nadirs as related material for a blog on the bevy of music that was composed for the video games and filmic offshoots, but for now, it’s better to set that aside, and focus on the latest attempt to re-launch the characters in a YouTube serial, courtesy of Warner Premiere Digital.

The online serial, Mortal Kombat: Legacy, resets the MK universe into something more tangible, with an elite special ops team going after terrorist gangsters. Among the familiar names are bad boy Kano, (in)human weapons Scorpion and Sub Zero, and Sonya Blade (played by Jeri Ryan).

The fact the series is headlined by a mature actress is a new twist, and a smart one, considering the casting of athletic models and martial artists didn’t exactly save the 1998 TV series from the cancellation ax. I’ll post a review when all 10 episodes have aired, but for now, the curious can catch up on episodes 1 thru 3 via YouTube.

The fact one can’t say Mortal Kombat without hearing the battle cry in the background of one’s brain is a brilliant piece of marketing, and apparently the urge to scream MK resides in many folks, as a recent contest tries to suggest. This Google search offers up some variants, but don’t even think of trying the cry, because your neighbours will hear you, and know exactly what you attempted to accomplish so foolishly.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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