Mortal Kombat

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil), Mortal Kombat helped initiate the action genre’s growth of fantastical martial arts techniques complimented by special effects and loud, energetic music.

Shang Tsung, played by Cary-Hiroyui Tagawa (Planet of the Apes, Pearl Harbor) and Kano, played by Trevor Goddard (Deep Rising, Men of War) initiate the story by luring various martial arts into a mysterious tournament.

Once the martial artists arrive, it takes some a while to fully understand their purpose and risk at the tournament.  Luckily three of the participants named Liu Kang, played by Robin Shou (Beverly Hills Ninja), Sonja, played by Bridgette Wilson (Wedding Planner, Last Action Hero, Billy Madison), and Johnny Cage, played by Linden Ashby (TV’s Melrose Place) receive much needed guidance from Lord Rayden, played by Christopher Lambert (Highlander, The Hunted).

These three protagonists all have different ulterior motives that differ from the real purpose of them winning the tournament which Rayden wisely guides them to.

The mysterious princess Kitana, played by Talisa Soto (Licenced to Kill, Ecks vs. Sever) also factors into the story’s events.

Shang Tsung and Kano become even more sinister antagonists as they fight over Sonja. They both see her as an object to be won and have a lot of sexual aggression shown mildly in a fight scene, an abduction and bondage of Sonja, but unfortunately the damage is still done.

Sonja is not immune to being an object of affection towards her counterparts either as Liu Kang quips to Johnny Cage, “it’s not her mind you’re admiring.” The forced romance between Johnny and Sonja may be realistic under the circumstances, but it’s still not believable.

Story also has logistical problems and doesn’t make certain points clear to the audience. For example, if someone was following Kitana if she went that way wouldn’t the webs still be up? Also, if Shang Tsung strives to keep Kitana away from the human characters, especially Liu Kang, then why does he assign Kitana to fight Liu Kang? “The rules are quite clear,” says Shang Tsung…You might say, “uh uh, I don’t think so.”

Recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for non-stop martial arts action and some violence.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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