I was reading an article that director James Wan (original Saw, Conjuring 1&2 and Furious 7) had been linked to a reboot of Mortal Kombat, the film series based on the popular bloody fighting game franchise.
Then I read an article on Blastr about actor Christopher Lambert teasing a new film. As you may recall Lambert, best known for playing Duncan McLeod of the Clan McLeod in the Highlander franchise, played thunder god Raiden in the 1995 Mortal Kombat flick but did not return for the abysmal 1997 sequel.
In the article Lambert said he was in early talks to reprise his role and spoke of time travelling elements in the new story (for that article you can read here). If he is returning it sounds like it may be a either a continuation from the previous two films or a soft reboot.
Video game movies have a history of being awful and the last Mortal Kombat film Annihilation, which came out way back in 1997, was so spectacularly awful that we are yet to see a new one. Co-creator Ed Boon described it as the “worst moment” in the history of the almost 25 year-old franchise.
Out of sheer morbid curiosity I decided to rank eight of the live action tournament fighter films. So with a big SPOILER ALERT (mind you there is not a whole lot to spoil with this lot) and from the crap de la crap to the deliciously cheestastic, here are the top 8:
#8 Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge (2014)
To be at the bottom of this list you have to be pretty bad. This movie was the absolute worst and would leave fans of the game blue in the face with vexation.
The story follows an amnesiac Kazuya in a village run by a cultish leader and forced to be an assassin as some weird test by his father Heihachi Mishima.
Does it make sense? No. Is there a tournament? No. How’s the fight scenes? Lame. What about characters from the game? There’s Bryan Fury but a weak version. And Heihachi does not even do any fighting.
This is a prequel to the first film and a highly unnecessary one at that. It feels like this was supposed to be a generic martial arts film and they just used the Tekken name as watch bait. Avoid this one at all costs.
#7 The King of Fighters (2010)
This film, based on the moderately popular SNK series, is better than Tekken 2, but in the way regular diarrhea is better than explosive diarrhea. It barely gets the edge for actually featuring some characters from the game in the movie.
But the film was obviously on a budget because instead of mixing up the fights the protagonists battle lesbian fighters Mature and Vice over and over and over again. Ray Park aka Darth Maul is dumb as villain Rugal and the plot about a mystical sword is stupid. For a martial arts action film you will be bored to tears. At least Maggie Q is pretty.
I first watched this film when a friend of my wife suggested it to her and said it was “so good”. It was the exact opposite of that.
#6 Tekken (2009)
This movie had the potential to be a decent popcorn flick but just wasted it. The premise is cool – following a Great War the world has been taken over by corporations with the titular Tekken ruling over North America. Tekken is controlled by Heihachi Mishima played by Cary Higoyuki-Tagawa, who also played Shang Tsung in the first Mortal Kombat film, and he looks ridiculous with the game character’s hair and eyebrows. Mishima and his evil son Kazuya host a fighting tournament called “Iron Fist” which our hero Jin joins to avenge his murdered mother.
Now Jon Foo as Jin is okay though he nor any of the other cast are in danger of being nominated for any acting awards. Ian Anthony Dale does a half decent job of being a menacing Kazuya. And you do see popular characters like Marhsal Law, Yoshimitsu, Eddy Gordo and the Williams sisters.
Where the movie really falls down is the action. It’s just so blah and unimpressive and it is more MMA than beat em up. Also too much time is spent on shoot-em up scenes and rebel versus corporation stuff that we barely get much time in the ring. The climactic final battle between Jin and Kazuya is most anticlimactic.
But the worst is a scene where the actress playing Christie Monteiro walks around with her butt crack showing. No one told her that crack is whack? You know what else is whack? This movie.
#5 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
After the cheestastic fun of the original this movie was a huge disappointment. We lost Lambert, who wisely saw the script and declined, and they also killed off Johnny Cage within minutes, and his funny character was the life of the first movie. James Remar as the new Raiden is capable but zero fun compared to Lambert and Sandra Hess’ Sonya Blade lacks the pluckiness of Bridgette Wilson.
The movie was pretty much terrible fight scene after terrible fight scene strung together by a ridiculous story; that Scorpion versus Sub Zero fight was okay though they spoiled it with Scorpion’s horrendous “suckers” line. Bleh. Unlike the streamlined first film they tried to cram in too many characters and it really is just a sloppy mess.
The effects are so bad they make your eyes burn, especially the final “animalities” and that weird thing Jax fought in the desert. Brian Thompson’s Shao Khan shouts a lot but is as intimidating as mouldy bread and the dialogue was apparently written by five year-old boys. Sindel’s “you will die” is among the worst lines in movie history.
#4 Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
So who’s interested in an origin story for Chun-Li please show by a raise of hands. Anyone? Anyone?
Not the best of ideas for a film, especially one based on a game with a host of characters fighting each other in a tournament, this movie is actually not that bad. ‘Smallville’s’ Kristin Kreuk is a decent lead but she does not capture “the strongest woman in the world” feel of the first lady of fighting game and her combat skills are lacking. Her battle with Vega was cool only because they did that character justice, but everything else is less than memorable.
And I generally enjoy Neal McDonough’s acting and he has shown in ‘Arrow’ than he can play a great villain (see here) but I don’t know who he is in this movie. He is definitely not M. Bison but some generic big bad. Also do not get me started on that nonsense plot line about his daughter having his soul. This movie seemed to be the intended first of a series of character origin story movies a la X-Men: Origins: Wolverine but both films failed in that respect. And that is a good thing.
#3 DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
Now this is by no stretch of the imagination a good film. This is a countdown on movies based on tournament fighter games so I presume your expectations were already set pretty low.
And while DOA does not recapture the hyper sexualising of female fighters in the video game series, which is actually a good thing, the movie knows that it is cheesy and silly and rolls with it. The characters are bright and colourful and the fight scenes are okay if not impressive. Fans will get to see a host of game characters including Ryu, Kasumi, Zack and Tina Armstrong, so the fan service is quite high.
#2 Street Fighter (1994)
Fans of the Street Fighter, and really Street Fighter 2, video game franchise would have been all excited to see the characters come to the big screen. But while the costumes were game accurate and the personalities pretty close the action and most of the special moves were left out. Overall the fighting was a whole lot of meh.
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile could not do an American accent to save his life but at least he got to do a lot of kicking. And we also have singer/actress Kylie Minogue as hot Cammy and Ming-Na Wen as Chun-Li; you can currently see Wen on ‘Marvel: Agents of Shield’ where she has only gotten more beautiful with age like a female Benjamin Button. But I digress.
Besides the cheese factor and camp of it all what makes this movie worth watching is Raul Julia’s (Addams Family flicks) over the top performance as the villainous tyrant M. Bison. He was clearly having fun with the role and gives it his all. Sadly it was his last performance before he died.
You would probably have more fun playing Street Fighter V but this movie is cool for the cheese ball factor alone. Funny tidbit – they made an arcade game based on the movie. So that’s a video game based on a movie based on a video game. Right.
#1 Mortal Kombat (1995)
The only video game movie to actually get it right. It has great action, humour, mediocre special effects and is just a lot of fun. The characters have personality, the plot is silly but straight forward and the theme song will get you pumped up every time you hear it and make you want to uppercut a brightly dressed ninja. The film benefits from having a small roster of seven characters to deal with.
This movie really felt like the video game come to life. Robin Shou is cool as Lui Kang and Linden Ashby is hilarious as Johnny Cage, but the stand outs are Christopher Lambert as thunder god Raiden and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the menacing sorcerer Shang Tsung.
Mortal Kombat is the ultimate guilty pleasure but is fun for fans of cheesy martial arts films and the uber successful and long running video game franchise.
So what did you think of the list? What’s your favorite movie based on a tournament fighter? Feel free to comment below.
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This post originally appeared in three parts on redmangoreviews.