We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
The score is iconic. The video game, controversial. There was never a movie Middle School Ashley wanted to see more (and was more upset at being denied) than Mortal Kombat. I grew up at the tail end of the arcade craze. You could still find the occasional arcade cabinet at a restaurant or at the entrance to a grocery store or Wal-Mart, but otherwise, you were just out of luck. The cafe my grandmother worked in had a Street Fighter II: Championship Edition cabinet that my sister and I would play all the time. However, when Mortal Kombat hit, Street Fighter II took a backseat. It was the talk of all my friends because of the violent controversy surrounding the game. “You can see the blood!” one of my friends exclaimed on the playground. Such a thing was unheard of at the time. Check out the original trailer for Mortal Kombat.
My mother, being the parent that banned things out of non-researched paranoia, of course would never allow such a thing into the house. Obviously, the movie was banned too. I didn’t catch the film until it aired on cable when I was in high school. At that point, I had already played the game at a cousin’s house (it’s not that bad, mom!) and made a point to watch things my mother had banned. (This is a habit that I have carried into adulthood). It was cheesy. It was ridiculous. It had fun martial arts fight sequences. It was everything Middle School Ashley adored in an action movie. Part of the fun for me was watching the characters I loved in the video game come to life. Films like this are part of the reason I love cosplay as an adult–pulling the things I love from my imagination and putting them into the real world.
That being said, Mortal Kombat is a fast-paced action flick, perfect for a bowl of popcorn and a good laugh. It has everything I love about mid 90s action movies–fight sequences, “explosive” special effects, and light-hearted fun. While there is some story to the film, it largely jumps from action sequence to action sequence. This is the perfect movie to sit down and watch with your friends (virtually!) and just laugh. The effects were quite good for the time, using a hybrid of stop motion animation and CGI. Practical effects are a lost art these days, so it’s refreshing to see a film where those effects are the main course and CGI is a condiment.
It’s a little disorienting as an adult to see Raiden appear and recognize that he’s 1). Not the Japanese thunder god he’s based on, and 2). Connor McLeod, The Highlander, Christopher Lambert. That’s the only thing that really pulls me out of the movie. Otherwise, Mortal Kombat makes for a fun quarantine movie night. It’s not a film you have to take seriously, and if you’re a fan of the game, it’s always fun to watch your favorite characters come to life. I also unironically love the soundtrack. It’s the perfect background for some quarantine spring cleaning or an impromptu throwback dance party. For solid B level action movie fun, add Mortal Kombat to your list.
Mortal Kombat is streaming now on Netflix.