If you feel at like the first official teaser for Simon McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat is taking way, WAY longer than it should to arrive, you’re not alone. It’s been eight months since the film wrapped shooting in Australia, and you can’t help but imagine if we might have gotten one sooner had this terrible, horrible, no good, very VERY bad pandemic settled in. I’m thinking we would’ve.
Frankly though, this takes nothing away from the conversation starter that was Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 endeavor from New Line Cinema, etching in the likes of Robin Shou (Liu Kang), Cary Tagawa (Shang Tsung), Christopher Lambert (Raiden), Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade), Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage), Chris Cassamassa (Scorpion), Talisa Soto (Kitana), François Petit (Sub-Zero), Trevor Goddard (Kano) and Keith Cooke (Reptile) into cinema history.
That a feature adaptation was in the works was a total surprise for me, firstly seeing Ashby in a promotional still as Johnny Cage in a gaming magazine. It was too good to be true, and this was while we still had the clunky, ham-fisted guilty pleasure that was Steven E. de Souza’s Street Fighter movie to fawn over considering it had Jean-Claude Van Damme’s jingoistic bicep all over it.
Back then, it was fine-ish for Hollywood to play fast and loose with video game properties because the only backlash would come from the critics since we didn’t have online forums or social media, and the studios wouldn’t care much. That’s not to say all of them wouldn’t try when tapping into this little sub-genre of ours, and compared to de Souza’s nod to Capcom, Kasanoff’s tribute to fans of the once Midway-owned IP at the time is a much better package, and still stands the test of time.
I remember being a yellow belt in Karate at the time, and also an avid fan of WMAC Masters in the months that followed, and being part of the fandom that lauded these athletes in their respective acting forays as it only really enhanced their marketability for Kombat fans like myself – the connecting tissue obviously being Hakim Alston and Chris Cassamassa who both starred in the 1995 film, in addition to Ho Sung-pak who performed motion capture for the first and second games.
During my Shotokan heyday, The Immortals’ Techno Syndrome was the go-to addictive song to train to, and I loved the soundtrack so much I had to own it. So, I had a friend rip me a copy on a blank cassette tape with all the songs. By the time the film came out on VHS, I slept with that thing like a damn teddy bear.
Filmwise, Anderson’s Mortal Kombat stands as one of the best contributions to martial arts cinema and live-action filmlore ever made for gaming and moviegoing audiences. Hands down, the best fight scenes in that film are between Ashby (Cage) and Cassamassa (Scorpion), and Shou (Kang) and Cooke (Reptile), and even if the film takes a few narrative shortcuts and falters a bit along way whilst not exactly sticking to the original IP for want of a PG-13 rating, it still works. For what it is and what it’s worth, it still works, even if there are some curmudgeons who would lump this film right in with the likes of Street Fighter, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li, King Of Fighters, Double Dragon and even Tekken.
So what now?
Well, it’s great to see Warner Bros. Pictures is committed to the otherwise January 15, 2021 release, of McQuoid’s film – and this, while weighing all the many risk factors knowing the studio is facing a lose/lose situation as the pandemic remains the biggest factor of all.
For what it’s worth, I’m glad we’re waiting as much as I hate it. Normally a teaser would be on our radar right about now (in my view, at least as of June or July), and it sucks that the “new normal” now extends to the current atmosphere of the film industry with the constant on/off-again scheduling of titles. It’s more than frustrating, really, but at least with an air of gratitude on my end that I’m able to get past my writer’s block and scribble something on this 25th anniversary. It’s been a while since I opined like this as a fan much on anything apart from reviews and a few sentences in articles, so this was nice.
For all the efforts of Anderson and producer Lawrence Kasanoff and New Line, all the people involved in the franchise right up to Kevin Tancharoen’s venture in Machinima with Mortal Kombat Legacy and now with the likes of James Wan having boosted his industry profile enough help make a new Mortal Kombat film a reality, and a cast that’s more than promising, I’m glad there’s something good waiting for us in the new year.
Lead photo: New Line Cinema