I’m a fan of Moral Kombat, indeed I was always more of a MK guy than a Street Fighter person and absolutely love the film with Robin Shoe and Christopher Lambert . With the new movie in theaters this weekend, I wanted to also revisit some of the old stuff! We’re going to start with this Dollar Tree find.
When I pulled out the MK legacy DVD, I was shocked to see it cut into episodes. I suddenly assumed I was looking at a TV series instead of the movie I expected. Turns out these are actually about 10 minute webisodes that all collect into a sort of feature anthology. Not a terrible idea, so we’ll still treat this as a film.
Part one actually starts off very industrialized, and believe it or not it’s actually a good look for Mortal Kombat. The factory building robots, this heavy foreshadowing for things like Sektor’s head and Kano’s mask. Sonya’s there though, and I’ve got admit, I think I actually like Jeri Ryan in this role even better and I did Bridgette Wilson (the actress in the original film). She’s got a harder edge t her than Wilson, though I think I would’ve preferred her a bit younger, nevertheless Jeri Ryan still pulls off the part. Michael Jae White as her partner Jax on the other hand, kind of strikes me as a bulkier Shemar Moore.
Sonya reports back in that she’s found Kano in the factory, and hearing this, Jax knows she’s gonna go off half cocked and sets off to rescue her. He’s not wrong, in the next scene we see her in a lonely hallway, chained to the ceiling with Kano coming in menacingly. Elsewhere in the factory, Jax and his team arrive in the rescue mission. It’s a good fire fight, not necessarily what you expect from Mortal Kombat but definately well choreographed action.
As the melee continues between Jax and Kano, Sonja frees herself and we get to explore the complex. Jaxdelivers one mean roundhouse punch to Kano and we pretty much see why he wears a mask now! It ends up when A bomb explodes and we see everybody recuperating how they can.
Our next is Johnny Cage, being hyped up in a sort of reality TV feature documentary. Unlike the original film, where Cage is at the height of his power, this shows him all washed up, unable to make the transition to big budget action films. It’s not his talent that’s in question, it’s his bad behavior off screen, picking fights with random people and getting into trouble with the law. I cringe a little bit when he tells is it agent “I haven’t worked since Power Rangers went off the air”. I hope this isn’t really a swipe at the green ranger Jason David Frank (a great martial artist, nice guy and regular on the con circuit). It might not be, actor Matt Mullins did in fact star in one of the Power Ranger spinoffs, Kamen rider. Either way, they’re honest in thier evaluation of film culture in 2010…The action film is dead, and you can see why he’s having a hard time…except he’s getting stabbed in the back by his agents and they’re pitching his show other people now.
Cage gets into a tussle with security and he takes them reasonably easily because, course hes Johnny Cage! Suddenly, time stops. A mysteries man walked out of the darkness offer him a place in the tournament.
I’m reminded again that these are a bunch of separate little vignettes when we transition to the next set which is a combination of animation and live action. It’s the story of Outworld and Sho Kahn’s rise to power, with his General Baraka. But it’s really the story of Princess Kitana , Princess Mylena and Queen Sindel.
The combination of animation and live action is bizarre, jarring in places. I was wondering if they went this route because they didn’t have enough footage shot. Either way though the character development is marvelous, far greater than anything we’ve seen before and generally more than the subject matter deserves. They really lean into the Game of Thrones fantasy aspects and it works.
Raiden’s story fast forwards us back to the present, here on earth and see him in a mental facility. It’s a strange take on the character and continuity.
Using a taser on Raiden is probably the worst idea ever.
Ultimately, he has to transcend his human form and release the god within. Of all these segments, it’s probably the most out of place, and were I watching just a film, I would have assumed it was added to fill time rather than as a passion project for the director, Kevin Tancharoen.
It doesn’t matter that much though, because the next section is what I’ve been waiting for. Subzero and Scorpion! We get an interesting origin for our two archetypal ninjas. It feels like a snowy ninja movie, and the first time those familiar robes are unveiled, sent a shiver down my spine. It’s a well done piece of homage to the kung fu films that Mortal Kombat draws it’s inspiration from. We have ninja clans and a dead shogun and a generational grudge and it’s beautiful.
Traditionally, we’ve spent more time following Sub Zero, but this time Scorpion is the star, and it’s really fascinating to explore how he became this kind of ghost, why he’s filled with vengence and why he’s back. It sets up the grudge match in the tournament perfectly.
We end the series with the robots, and interesting concepts where a particular clan has trained and brainwashed assassins for generations now turning towards cybernetics. Assasins are transitioned from humans and rebuilt into robots. It’s definitely a the section with the most body horror, but I do come I feel like I know a lot more about Sektor and Cyrax, and it brings the story full circle as we can see that this is what Kano’s factory was working on at the beginning.
Mortal Kombat and example of a dollar store find that isn’t at all what I expected it to be but still a nice hidden gem. Wish I’d had this movie 20 years ago at the height of my fandom, but I’d still be content to pop this in and watch it as a prequel anytime before I dig into the classic film. I recommend. Good action and good sci fi.
I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out why this film is so hated. I’ll admit, the font used on the titles is a little over the top and the use of classic Dracula protagonists names for modern characters is a little irritating, but honestly – look at that opening shot of the Demetre… The blue cast that contrasts with the red blood on the people and on the sails. It’s amazing. The footprints in the sand where we slowly see animal turn the human, it’s marvelously understated and yet perfectly effective.
We get a good bit of establishing banter with our characters. It’s perfectly clear who Van Helsing is, but Johnny Lee Miller himself still charms as well. I feel a little heartbroken when Selena turns down his date.
Downstairs, the thieves are quick and efficient. Omar Epps actually does a marvelous job being sinister. He has a cultured style to him that underlies his efficiency. I could actually really dig a pure heist movie featuring this crew… it’s almost a shame that they won’t live long enough for a sequel.
In a gothic cave chamber below Van Helsing’s office (Setting off a few traps to give us some fun, spiky kills) The chamber itself, adorned with vampire skulls, almost feels like a hammer film set. It’s more of an homage than anything else, because the rest of this film will do its best to be slick and modern.
Across the pond in New Orleans, our heroine Mary, he is having bad dreams. Flashes of Dracula, armor, and strobe lighting mix with her face until she awakens terrified. It’s a reasonable bit of foreshadowing considering Dracula is on his way to her in the thieves airplane. The first attacks from Dracula are fast and brutal, and more than once it’s succeeded in making me jump. Gary Tunicliff wields fake blood effectively, though I’ll dmit I wish Dracula’s de-ageing were a little less sudden. Then again, when you got Gerard Butler in your cast, you want to get his shirt off and have him looking pretty as quick as possible.
We effectively sidestep skepticism by having Johnny Lee Miller follow Van Helsing and almost immediately witness the vampires firsthand. They’re well done too, Gary Tunnicliffe chose to make them gruesome more by virtue of blood spatter rather then the physical deformity we see in Carpenter’s Vampires or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, there is no mistaking the red eyes and fangs for anything less than monsters. Lussier delivers us a kinetic action scene before Van Helsing takes Miller aside to explain the plot. There is a new twist to the vampire legend here, the idea that Dracula is patient zero – the first vampire, and that the methods that destroy other vampires simply don’t work on him. It’s a logical, organic addition to the mythology. We get additional foreshadowing as silver Mardi Gras coins are dropped from a balcony while Dracula wanders the streets of New Orleans. Foreshadowing is actually something Lussier is good at and the general confusion and massive activity that we get from this admittedly small-scale Mardi Gras celebration provides a colorful and acceptable challenge to our vampire hunters. It’s no challenge for Dracula though, as he finds Mary‘s roommate Lucy to continue the game of cat and mouse that he is playing with her and her father.
Lussier creates an almost Suspiria like atmosphere to introduce the brides and finally give us our first real confrontation with Dracula. We get great wolf and bat imagery as Miller savers Mary and they race after the Church for sanctuary.
We get bloody scripture, exploding bibles and massive cemeteries, not to mention one of the best crucifixion scenes I’ve ever seen and as we finally discover the origins of the first vampire.
There is some cringe here, brilliant dialogue like “we are also much more complicated than our names aren’t we? “Are undercut by goofy dialogue like “I don’t drink… Coffee”. The ever present Virgin Records marketing can get on your face a bit as well and the name itself is admittedly a bit hokey. Still, the imagery, the twist and the action all serve to make this one of my all-time favorite vampire films, second only to the Lost Boys. It’s an incredibly fun vampire romp, not overly grotesque like Fright Night or John Carpenters Vampires but still free of the over-the-top romanticism that Anne Rice and the later Twilight stories would infuse into the genre.