I still remember the moments I saw the first Mortal Kombat movie. I say moments because there’s not just one; it’s a series of events that lead to it. Now, I’m not sure if my memory is about the first MK movie or the second, Annihilation. Or maybe I’m just twisting and making up events and the one I specifically remember right now is when I purchased the cassette (VHS) with that movie (the first or the second :P).
It was a hot summer day and me and a buddy went out with my dad to… hang out. We went to see a football (soccer in North America) practice game and went to a park near the Circus to hang out some more. Ice cream and everything.
Back in Bucharest, in the 90s, you purchased your music and movies from the street.
Later I found that this wasn’t something uncommon, it happens even now in Toronto, where most of the convenience stores have a catalogue of DVDs Blu-ray with a bootlegged movie for their regular customers (yes, I am writing this in 2021).
The only difference is that you didn’t have any other alternative back then (and there). There was probably one or two stores (in its capital, you can forget about that in the rest of the country) that carry mostly commercial stuff. To this point, the underground network involved also some “originals”, mostly brought from outside – Europe, most of the time. Subtitles were only available on TV so you had the original copy (sometimes you would watch it as is, in the original language or, the Italian or german versions – that’s how so many of my generation learned a foreign language) and doubled by one Romanian voice.
Back to MK, there was a street shop where they had this movie, fresh out of the double recorder VCR. I asked my dad to buy it – which he did. It wasn’t much, but it was enough, something most people couldn’t actually afford (one might think – how did we survive?). I had a sun-stroke that day (feverish, and headache) but I went straight home with my friend to re-watch MK.
The first time I’ve seen the movie (now I remember) was at the cinema, a small theatre near the presidential palace. It was so obscure that most of the time it wasn’t even featured in the newspaper (that’s where you would look for what’s playing back then). Only this cinema carried this film (and most of New Line Cinemas productions) so it must have been some sort of copyright issues – or maybe these movies were cheaper and that theatre being a smaller one, didn’t have the budget for blockbusters. Who knows?
It’s funny talking about piracy and copyright issues when Romania issued its copyright act in 1997, 2 years after the first Mortal Kombat movie.
Nevertheless, the theatre was nice – you could order beer and smoke inside (those were the days, weren’t they?). I wasn’t drinking or smoking back then (I was under 10) but my dad did and this was his bonus for coming with me to see some movies (you can imagine how excited my dad could have been about seeing a Mortal Kombat movie).
I had a relationship with Mortal Kombat since… I can remember. It’s not the first video game I played, but the first cool/violent/great graphics video game. First, at arcades, I use to spent a decent amount of money playing it. I still believe those games were rigged, as they didn’t have the same gameplay on the computer. Nevertheless, it was still mind-blowing. The characters and their story (although I didn’t know them back then, I could only imagine what they were) still engage me.
Later on, I used to play it with another friend at his dad’s office, where he had a computer and this game on several (floppy) disks (MK1 had two I believe). It was a weirdly hacked version because it had a password that we used to “guess” several times before we actually went into the game.
Nope, there was no password provided, we only typed in random keys until we got in.
Also, the controls were off; like really off. One punch was on the lefts side of the keyboard, and up and down were not the arrows, but some random keys as well. Nevertheless, we didn’t care. We used to spend hours playing it like that.
When MK2 – or 3, or maybe it was Trilogy – came out, my dad made a solid investment of 100USD to upgrade his work computer to have 4MB Ram so I can install this game. That was BIG money back then and there.
And the friend I was with when I purchased the VHS had a gaming magazine that provided cheat codes for the game. He hand-copied and gave them to me. Those were the days, right?
Now you can understand the magic around MK and what it represents to me. It’s a significant part of my childhood and I’m still a fan. I like the first two movies (I even saw them recently and still loved them). They’re good because they are CAMP.
I consumed everything there is to consume about Mortal Kombat. When I was in my late teens and had access to the internet, I watched the Nickolodeon cartoon series, something I knew it existed but had no way of accessing.
I was also amazed by the 2011 YouTube mini-series published independently. That could have been the massive hit MK universe deserved. I don’t know what happened, why it was never pursued into a featured film, but I’m glad we, the MK fans, have that.
And yes, I even enjoyed the obscure TV series.
So you can imagine how excited I got sometime in Feb 2021 when I saw the trailer of Mortal Kombat. Although I didn’t play the new games that much (only once I had two fights in MK vs DC Universe where I won, although I never played on an Xbox – and never have ever since).
I can’t say I’m disappointed with the 2021 movie. The trailer made it look like a grandiose, serious film. But also the trailer encompassed everything there is to know and see about the movie. It’s just an extent. There’s not much left out from the trailer. No other characters or significant scenes.
It’s a movie made for the (great) stunt actors to have a spotlight role. And that’s ok. But there’s not much room for character development (except maybe from the protagonist). As an MK fan, I already know the story, but I never mind re-watching it. I would have expected more from Liu Khang, the main character in all the previous series, which in this movie, seemed like the support.
On a side note, I don’t really know what happened to Robin Shou, a talented martial artist/stunt (and) actor who could have offered more if he was given the chance. He’s probably at the age where he could easily played Shang Tsung now.
Also, some characters are faded. Christopher Lambert is Rayden and no matter how hard anyone else tries (I’m not saying I disliked the 2021 Rayden), they can’t have the same performance. Also, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa made a remarkable (memorable) role and had a fruitful career afterwards.
I also don’t understand why they didn’t take advantage of the soundtrack. MK is on my list for when I become rich enough to support a production like that. I would also hire The Glitch Mob to produce some of the original songs, and re-create some new ones.
But that’s just me.
This movie was a reminder of my childhood more than anything. And I enjoyed it.