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“Mortal Kombat” - {Blu-ray} - (Canadian Import)
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Alliance
Release Date:
Special Features:



Mortal Kombat is directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil.) The film stars Robin Shou (Beverly Hills Ninja), Linden Ashby (Wyatt Earp), Bridgette Wilson (Billy Madison), Christopher Lambert (Highlander), Talisa Soto and Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa (both of whom were in Licence to Kill.) The musical score is by George S. Clinton (Austin Powers series), and the film is based on the video game series of the same name. ***

Mortal Kombat is the story of martial artists who, for one reason or another, find themselves whisked away on an old boat to a mysterious island, where they find themselves competing in a tournament. Liu Kang, an outcast martial artist from a monastery, has come to hunt his brother's killer. Johnny Cage, a washed-up martial arts movie star, has come to prove he isn't the fake the press makes him out to be. Sonya Blade, a Special Forces agent, has come hunting for a criminal that killed her partner. Once at the tournament grounds, however, our heroes quickly discover there is more than personal pride and vendettas at stake - the tournament is being run by an evil sorcerer out to steal souls, and who plans to use the tournament to take over the realm of Earth. ***

Video game movies. Let's not kid ourselves, 9 times out of 10 they suck. Mortal Kombat isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but unlike a lot of movies based on games, this one is actually good - and more importantly, fun to watch. ***

One of the great strengths of Mortal Kombat as a film is that it doesn't stray too far from the source material. It keeps the “tournament fighter” element, and although some liberties are taken with the characters/their backstories/the plots/etc., the end result is at least recognizable. The characters look like their game counterparts, and perhaps most importantly, act like them. No, the characters don't have a ton of depth, but at the end of the day, who cares? This was meant to be a popcorn movie, not some art house title. My only substantial complaint in this department is that the film, while violent, is not nearly as violent as its video game counterpart (this was obviously done to avoid an R rating, which would result in the filmmakers losing a good deal of the potential young teen audience.) ***

The actors chosen for these characters are excellent choices. Seriously, I challenge you to sit through the movie and not laugh at Linden Ashby's Johnny Cage. A movie like Mortal Kombat has a lot of game characters, and picking the wrong person for the role can be disastrous - not a problem here. Another major stand-out is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung, the evil sorcerer who has organized the tournament. And who could forget Christopher Lambert's Raiden? The dialogue throughout the movie is simplistic, but you'll be quoting it for years. ***

Of course, I'm not going to defend the movie like it's holy. A lot of aspects feel like wasted opportunities. Clearly, the filmmakers wanted to focus on the characters and story of the first game, but they couldn't resist the urge to bring in some Mortal Kombat II characters. Sticking with the first game's cast would have been ideal, allowing us to bond with said characters better. Some characters are reduced to what are, essentially, cameos. I won't go too in-depth here since I don't want to give anything away for those that haven't seen the movie. Still, it's a FAR better film than its sequel. ***

One minor technical complaint I have with the disc is a lack of menus. There is no top menu whatsoever, and the pop-up menu only brings up the audio options (of which there are but 2 choices.) I wish they had included a chapter selection menu; it's annoying to have to hit “next” until I find my desired chapter. ---

Image And Sound: Right away when it was released, people were quick to bash this disc, stating the print was poor quality and it was not a worthy upgrade from the DVD. ***

My question is “what disc were those guys watching?” The picture quality on this Alliance Blu-Ray release is a substantial improvement over DVD releases - and it is thankfully presented in the original aspect ratio, and not that cropped fullscreen garbage we got on the double feature DVD release. Pretty much all visual factors get a substantial improvement over earlier releases, though detail isn't quite as strong as I would like it to be, with the film looking a bit soft throughout. I noticed very little dirt and print damage throughout, though. The image looked like it may have been slightly stretched vertically in a few shots, but I can't verify this. As a whole, though, this is a nice upgrade over the DVD release video-wise. ***

Disappointingly, the audio is the same track as the DVD, and not a lossless one. A real shame, as this is a movie that could have sounded incredible with lossless audio. For what it is, though, the disc sounds pretty good throughout - I just wish we could have gotten a lossless track. ***

Another disappointment is that there are no subtitles on the disc - not even English ones. I know it sounds like I'm nitpicking here, but I often watch movies on a treadmill and usually have subtitles on so I don't miss any of the dialogue. It's a small complaint, though, and most fans of the movie won't even care.

Special Features:

This disc is as barren as Outworld after Shao Khan ravaged it. In other words, no bonus material here.

Final Words:

Mortal Kombat, one of the few good movies ever made based on a video game, makes a fine debut on Blu-Ray thanks to Alliance of Canada. The lack of menus and features is a disappointment, but the transfer itself is a healthy upgrade over any DVD release. Not a flawless victory, but still a satisfying package considering it can easily be gotten online for under $20.


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