I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Mortal Kombat

tn_mortalkombatI know MORTAL KOMBAT is not exactly a high kwality movie. It has one or more leads who are completely unconvincing as fighters. Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage can maybe get by on arrogance, but the teacher from BILLY MADISON as Sonya Blade just comes off as a grouchy aroebics student in a black painter’s cap that’s supposed to make her a supercop. This movie is a pioneer in bad computer generation imaginations, possibly the first movie to prove that CGI not good enough for a feature film is in fact good enough for a feature film. (Say thank you, SPAWN).

But I gotta admit, I kind of like this stupid fucking movie. It has, as we Americans say that the French say, a certain… I don’t know how to spell it in French. It invented a completely new style of cheesy stupid fun. And it keeps a straight face the whole time. I mean, look at Scorpion there. Does he look like he’s gonna wink at you? Fuck no. The man is serious.

mp_mortalkombatIf you’re not familiar with MORTAL KOMBAT, it’s about kombat, which is a martial arts competition between fighters from different “realms.” If our guys win 10 in a row or something they save earth from being conquered by an evil dimension called Outworld. If they lose this one… whoops. The whole world will turn into jagged rocks and badly composited dark skies, maybe some spooky demon statues around and ninja robot dudes and shit moving into your neighborhood. Trust me, you don’t want that. Every time you have to go pick up some milk at the grocery store you gotta worry about hearing an electric guitar crunch and then some dude does a cartwheel out from behind somewhere and that means you gotta fight him to death. Outworld fucking sucks, man. So let’s win this one, earth. Do it for your realm.

So yes, kombat is pretty much a type of combat. What does that tell you, that two completely separate cultures come up with almost identical words for very similar concepts? Maybe there’s something more guiding us than we realize, huh? Makes ya think. That’s what this movie is all about, makin ya think.

The earth team includes Liu Kang (Robin Shou), who has trained for years to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Mortal Kombat host Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa); Sonya Blade, a cop following the murderer who killed her partner; Johnny Cage, an action star trying to prove himself after the press called him a phony; and some dude named Art. I won’t give away who dies first. Their coach is Rayden (Christopher Lambert), the lightning-shooting thunder god. He looked alot more Chinese in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.

Their opponents are a rogue’s gallery of colorful creeps. There’s Sonya’s target Kano, played by the late English boxer turned actor Trevor Goddard. He’s tough because he has a piece of metal on his face. Also he eats a giant leg of meat that probly came from some half man half goat or something. There’s Prince Goro, a four-armed animatronic beast with very impressive facial expressions but who has a hard time walking around. Johnny Cage defeats him by running up a mountain, but he probly could’ve just tipped him over like a cow. There are two color-coordinated glowy-eyed ninjas, Sub-Zero (who controls the element of cold) and Scorpion (who controls the, uh, tentacle venus flytrap thing he has on his hand.)

Unlike Han in ENTER THE DRAGON Shang Tsung doesn’t bother pretending to be trustworthy or trying to seduce the good guys to his side or anything. He does give the contestants a feast like Han did, but I think he’s only doing it to fuck with them because before they finish he has his minions run in and violently flip over the tables to make room for a demonstration. Like a dinner party where you have to suddenly throw away your food and watch vacation slides.

Of course the plot is just an excuse to string a bunch of fight scenes together. Why didn’t they think of that for STREET FIGHTER? It seems so obvious. Keep in mind that this is 1995, before THE MATRIX set the precedent for non-martial artists training with Yuen Woo Ping for 6 months to look like they know what they’re doing. Still, for an American studio movie of the time there are some decent fights, I guess. My favorite is Scorpion vs. Johnny Cage, where Scorpion tentacles Johnny in some woods, then drags him to his “lair,” a weird nest of stick that they climb on, do gymnastics with, and fall through. They do alot of unnecessary flips, but luckily don’t talk much. For kombat between more skilled screen fighters I recommend Liu Kang vs. Unnamed Guy With Braids.

I like that women kombatants are treated as equals. When Sonya fights Kano nobody is worried about her being a woman fighting against a man who’s way bigger than her and would obviously crush her. In this world it’s a fair fight. And what some of these fights lack in convincing choreography they make up for in cutaways of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa getting perverse pleasure watching a girl scissor a guy’s head.

I’ve seen this movie a couple times for some reason, but it’s still unclear what the rules of Mortal Kombat are. I don’t know who fights who – you never see any brackets. It just seems like at random times on a beach or in some woods or something you’ll suddenly be expected to fight. When somebody dies Shang Tsung says “fatality.” Or if they don’t die he magically turns them into a skeleton. He’s devouring their souls to make himself more powerful (he’s seen the Freddy movies). Man, this asshole probly doesn’t give a shit about the art of kombat at all. He’s not even paying attention, that’s why he calls “flawless victory” on a flawed victory. He’s just thinkin about dessert.

I don’t know, maybe I could take it completely seriously if the casting was more solid all the way across. Wikipedia and IMDb are ripe with alleged could’ve beens. They say Jason Scott Lee (DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY) and Phillip Rhee (BEST OF THE BEST 1-4) auditioned for Liu Kang, but Robin Shou is fine so that’s nothing to get upset about. Wikipedia claims that Van Damme turned down Johnny Cage to star in STREET FIGHTER (bad move) and that “Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp were both considered for the role,” which I think is industry lingo for “the casting agent tried to get up the balls to call their agency and get hung up on, but couldn’t do it even after a couple of drinks.” More interestingly they claim that Brandon Lee was cast in the role before he died, I never heard that one before. And apparently Cameron Diaz was cast as Sonya Blade, but had to be replaced when she broke her wrist. Wikipedia also claims that Anderson wanted Ron Livingston (OFFICE SPACE) to play Goro wearing prosthetics, but I’m gonna assume that’s somebody fucking with us.

Anyway, my point is if it was Robin Shou, Brandon Lee (or Van Damme), and somebody better as Sonya Blade maybe we’d have something here. Something more than what we already have. But what we already have will have to do.

I think the main thing that makes this movie enjoyable to me is the music. Obviously that theme song is something else. That type of high speed, unapologetically aggressive electronic music just makes me smile. I kind of think it’s the ’90s equivalent of a really energetic wah-wah and congas blaxploitation soundtrack: completely dated, gets your heart beating fast, meant seriously but makes me laugh, at the same time completely awesome. And that’s just the beat, I didn’t even get to the samples of the characters’ names, maybe from the video game, or of course the dude yelling “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!”

Come to think of it, who is that dude? Why is he yelling it? I like to picture it’s one of those shirtless muscle guys Shang Tsung has in his Outworld entourage, one of them has the job of just c-htyelling out “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!” during the theme song. Shang Tsung is one of those villains who points in a direction to signal, say, Kano to come out of a dark tunnel and reveal himself. So I imagine he could point at the yelling guy and the guy would know that was the signal to yell “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!” Shang Tsung probly has all kinds of guys with jobs like that. For example I’m sure he has a dedicated gong-hitter (or gongsman I believe it’s called).

But I’m getting off track. The theme song is a perfect yin-yang of awful/awesome. Unfortunately I think this soundtrack started a still-existing misconception that fights and action scenes always gotta use the electronical music to show that they’re exciting. It worked pretty good in BLADE and then THE MATRIX, but not much else. Time to let that kliche go, in my opinion.

What I think is more important though is the score. Director Paul “not Thomas” Anderson recruited George “not George Clinton” Clinton, who got the perfect dark, foreboding sound, an ominous orchestra hiding behind primal percussion and a wall of electric guitar distortion. It was such a distinct sound that when they made the Chris Farley comedy BEVERLY HILLS NINJA they had Clinton rekreate the same sound, making for the few laughs in the movie.

Check out some of this fight compilation and pay attention to how much drama that music adds.

That music is not fucking around. It wants to be taken seriously. George Scorpion Clinton wins. Flawless victory.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 9th, 2010 at 1:01 am and is filed under Action, Fantasy/Swords, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

90 Responses to “Mortal Kombat”

  1. I agree about everything here, including what you say about the soundtrack, which was, when I was in school, the fucking coolest thing in the world.

  2. Man, i remeber those ads for the first video game. Got me really excitred.

    And hey vern, you can actually see the guy yelling “Mortal Kombat” :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyKqe33NLjI

  3. I remember the big hoopla that the 2nd Game caused here in Germany, when it came out for home systems. The 1st one was censored. No blood, even during the fatalities. But the 2nd was uncensored! It got banned here within 2 weeks or so, dozens of magazines had to change their newest issues in the last minutes and maybe the first, very big discussion about violence in video games ensued here.
    *sigh* Good times, good times. I never thought that this websight could cause such a nostalgia for the games I played when I was young…

  4. Man, I almost forgot how much Kano rocks. He never should have been a bit player in this shitty movie – he could’ve easily been head villian in a straight-to-Blockbuster film. The guy looks hard as nails.

    Thanks for the review, Vern. You’ve brought back painful memories. I honestly expected this film to be groundbreaking when I was 13.

  5. caruso_stalker217

    July 9th, 2010 at 3:33 am

    Trevor Goddard also plays the villain in the excellent Dolph Lundren picture MEN OF WAR where he basically just wants to fuck Dolph for the whole movie. He takes his shirt off in an early scene and then never bothers to put it back on for the rest of the film. He makes Bennet in COMMANDO look like a pussy-magnet.

  6. hahaha,

    here is the version from german television with even more dudes yelling mortal kombat, hahaha, great

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMCAayFkfDQ&feature=related

  7. I remember that Linden Ashby bloke turning up in one of the Resident Evil films as a random cowboy truck driver. I wonder if the casting agent finally worked up the courage to offer it to Johnny Depp’s people first. Classic line, Vern. Some poor bastards no doubt phone up agents fully expecting to get the phone slammed down on them.

  8. What, no mention of the part where Johnny Cage does the splits and punches the yellow guy in the nuts? That was my favorite part, when I was like 9.

  9. “It invented a completely new style of cheesy stupid fun.”

    Vern – Its stupid, its chesy, but it certainly wasn’t fun. Friend, I’m afraid you’re only encouraging Paul W.S. Anderson.

  10. BTW, wasn’t this the follow up to “Shopping”, Paul Back Then Just Anderson’s critically acclaimed directorial debut?

  11. CJ – Thats when the body snatchers got him.

  12. I’d like to humbly request this review be reposted with all the Cs replaced by Ks.
    What about Lambert’s really weird performance as Raiden? “The fate of BILLIONS depends on you…HEHEHEHEHHHHHH…sorry.”
    As for the JCVD thing, I mentioned this in the comments section of the Mortal Kombat reboot post that he was originally going to be the digital model for Johnny Cage in the actual games before he pulled out due to scheduling.
    I hope you review the sequel, Vern. It’s pretty much the same, but tries to cram like 3 times as many characters and fight scenes in at once, and kills of Johnny Cage without him even getting a single line!

  13. I think it’s intriguing that we live in a world where we can honestly say that a Playstation game works better at all levels (except maybe the music) than a film released to worldwide cinema. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty regular occurrence!

    (Had someone told me back when this came out that these same characters would be fighting against DC superheroes and villains someday, my mind would have imploded. {g} Quite an awesome game in many regards, btw.)

  14. Sabreman – Yeah, why is that? Why can’t someone make a good movie off a game? No I don’t mean “silly watchable” or “I saw it when I was 9” or whatever bullshit people (including some around here) tend to deploy regarding dreck like this and STREET FIGHTER.

    I mean why not a good movie? We have good movies based off books, comic books, graphic novels, TV, other movies, other movies from other countries, board games (CLUE), and even from fucking (awesomely) pompous rock operas (THE WALL/TOMMY) so why not a good movie from a game?

    Then again, GOD OF WAR well any of those games was more fun and entertaining and quite frankly, more subversively perverse than that idiotic CLASH OF THE TITANS remake.

  15. I wonder how many novels they had to turn into film before they got it right.

  16. I thought Prince of Persia was the best one yet, though that wasn’t overwhelming brilliant or anything, just a 3.5/5 movie.

  17. CJ – Well the first movie “movie” epic in the modern cinematic language context was the infamous BIRTH OF A NATION, which was based off a book.

  18. Yeah , why it’s so hard to make good movies based on videogames ? Take Mortal Kombat here , a movie I kinda like: the game was designed to be the ultimate mix of B-movies stereotypes. You’ve got Chinese sorcerers , undead ninjas , a Bruce Lee clone , cops and criminals , action stars , cyborgs and plastic monsters. That’s the cast from almost every pulp/cheesy serial ever made , and way better than the cast from Street Fighter , in my opinion. And you know what ? I actually think that , as a concept for a movie , it’s fantastic ( with or without the MK characters) and I hope that someone in the future will take the challenge and just do and ultimate mix of B-movie stereotypes and make it work , with a good story and making sense . The only similar movie I can think of is “Eliminators” ( cyborgs + robots + ninjas + mad scientist + Indiana Jones clone + cavemen ) , and I like it . There’s a good , challenging concept for young directors in MK ( and other videogames ) , we just need someone to take this shit more seriously.

  19. The video game UNCHARTED is being developed for a movie, and that could actually work, as the game was made to be very filmic anyway, with some great characters and dialogue and have a number of great set piece moments, especially in the sequel. Stuff like this lends itself to film very easily:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyrhhFoJDN4

  20. yeah stu, but is it really a good idea to make a movie out of a game, that tries to be like a movie? In the end UNCHARTED is just a INDIANA JONES clone.

    I still think SILENT HILL was the best video game movie so far(fell apart at the end but still very moody), haven’t seen PRINCE OF PERSIA yet.

  21. Jareth Cutestory

    July 9th, 2010 at 9:16 am

    The ending of SILENT HILL is what I liked the best. That and Pyramid Head Guy.

    There was a Korean movie that tried to approximate a video game. For the life of me I can’t remember its name. It was kind of MATRIXy. It wasn’t a particularly great movie, but I remember thinking it felt as wonky as a video game.

  22. Sadly enough, this was probably Paul Anderson’s best film. I’m not saying it’s any good, but judging by what I’ve heard, and the handful of films I’ve seen by this guy, I Mortal Kombat appears to be the most enjoyable.

  23. ThomasCrown442

    July 9th, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I was 15 when this came out and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Now, while not being the coolest thing ever, it only merely rocks now. I still think this the best video game adaptation ever. The reason why is that its pretty much just a carbon copy of the the game. Literally no changes have been made. Bunch of cool people fight in a tournament, bunch of people die. No wasted space. Anyone who wanted to see this got what they wanted (unless they though this was going to be a Merchant/Ivory film or something). Oh, and I still play the “Mortaaall Kommmbaaat!” song on occasion.

    Other decent videogame adaptations are Resident Evil (Milla Jovavich twat shot!) and Hitman (though it kind of wasted our boy Timothy Olyphant). Both pretty good in my book.

    The shittiest ones in my book are Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter (which actually has a Batman and Robin feel about it, shitty but entertaining), and House of the Dead. The Final Fantasy movie (Spirits Within) sucked too.

  24. Higharolla Kockamamie

    July 9th, 2010 at 9:55 am

    There’s always the Japanese/Polish production of Avalon, by Mamoru Oshii about some drab ass world where the only escape is an illegal virtual reality MMO thing, only movie to ever feature lag, as far as I know.

  25. The movie was alright. I wish Van Damme had done this instead of Street Fighter. Johnny Cage is based on him after all. I love playing as Johnny Cage in the MK games and do the classic Van Damme splitts with a nut punch. It’s the only movie i know in that game. The rest is just button mashing and losing horribly. Those games are fucking hard.

  26. I think Mario Brothers could be a really good movie. I imagine it as a period piece, set somewhere in the 1910s about two straight off the boat Italian brothers who are trying to make it in New York city. Mario saves a girl from a giant gorilla that attacks the construction site he’s working at, the girl happens to be a senator’s daughter and Mario becomes a minor celebrity. The news papers call him “Super Mario” and he decides to take advantage of the situation by starting his own business, Super Mario Brother’s plumbing. Then they get into some crazy shit.

  27. Jareth – Are you referring to RESURRECTION OF THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL? That one fulfills all your requirements: not great, video game-y, MATRIX-y, Korean-y. The visuals were pretty cool though.

    Is it really any harder to make a good video game movie than it is to make a good regular movie? Are Anderson’s non-video game movies that much better than his video game ones? I think the jury is out until a director who is widely respected for actually being good makes a video game movie. Obviously I mean someone besides Takashi Miike who has already shown how to make a great video game movie with LIKE A DRAGON. And Corey Yuen who has already shown how to make a really enjoyably goofy one with DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE.

  28. atzfratz-Surely the games attempt to be cinematic provides the movie makers a form of shorthand to base the movie off of? And why is anything that involves treasure hunting automatically labelled an Indiana Jones clone? We don’t do the same with other genres. We don’t call every loose cannon cop movie a Dirty Harry clone, or every space opera a Star Wars clone. Never mind the fact that Indiana Jones isn’t exactly the most original movie ever. It’s very clearly and openly a homage to all the treasure hunting pulp adventures that came before it, so I think accusing anything of copying it is a bit of a flawed criticism. Also, Uncharted at least has it’s own seperate elements like a modern setting, villains who aren’t Nazis, Communists of Indian Cult Members, and a few locations never covered by the Indy movies such as a war-torn city, Tibet and other non-tomb, non-jungle locales.

  29. The MORTAL KOMBAT theme song came out way before the movie did. It was a Maxi CD with remixes from the game music and soundfx.
    Paul Anderson just used it for the movie.
    MORTAL KOMBAT is the best video game movie out there. I fucking love that movie.
    “…you forgot good looking.”

  30. Jareth Cutestory

    July 9th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Jake: Bingo! That’s the one. Good job. The plot was incoherent, the tone was all over the place, and there were all sorts of cliches (like putting the vital stats of the characters up on the screen as text), but for some reason it endeared itself to me. If it weren’t
    for those goofy video game touches, it would have been just another MATRIX knock-off like VOLCANO HIGH.

    Also, I can’t believe we’ve gone this far in the conversation without mentioning Dr. Boll. I wonder if one day people will look back on his stuff the way some of us are looking back on STREET FIGHTER and MORTAL KOMBAT.

  31. Interesting that Vern brings up the Raiden/BTILC “3 storms” guy connection. When I first played the game Mortal Kombat, I immediately thought Raiden must be that storm god character from BTILC, and figured it must be some kind of licensed tie-in to the movie, but I guess it was just a coincidence, or a thinly veiled rip-off, like how Liu Kang is supposed to be Bruce Lee but not really.

    Maybe it was supposed to be a rip-off of Bruce Li? Or Bruce Leroy? You should be able to unlock Sho Nuff (or like the off-brand version, Cho Nuph) as a playable character for MK. Jack Burton too!

  32. Raiden is an actual figure in japanese mythology. So it’s multiple versions of the same character.

  33. This is a really fun movie. I haven’t watched it in a few years.

    I keep saying: next time they do a MK movie, they’ve got to get Statham as Kano.

    I will also take Nic Cage as Johnny Cage please.

  34. Darth Irritable

    July 9th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    This film was awesome in its cheesiness. As one of the “level above Uwe Boll but not as good as John Hyams” tier of direktors, he has some decent piks: Mortal Kombat, the under-rated but very effektive Event Horizon, and Death Race. Resident Evil (1 only, 2 just sukks) and shopping are OK tool.

    But he’s not konvincing as an aktual good direktor. I view him as the Sonya Blade of filmatists.

    Vern, any chance you can do Mortal Kombat: Annihilation as a counterpoint, to highlight the Bollishness that was to follow?

  35. Saw this one twice. The first time I was eleven or so years old (yeah, this partly accounts for my warped adult mind) and quite liked it. The second time I saw it was many, many years later, and I remember thinking “Why the heck did I like this?”

    Eh, it’s better than “Street Fighter”, and almost as much fun. The first scene is pretty disturbing though.

  36. This movies is one of the few good game adaptation. Why? Because it captured the spirit of the game. It took itself so seriously it was fun. Just like the game. One of the few movies that walks the fine line between cheesy fun and plain old bad (at least for me). And the soundtrack did rock. I still listen to it sometimes.

    Some games are just plain old better than movies, but never get a chance to shine. MGS3…is right up there with Blade Runner for me. Uncharted is what Indiana Jones and Crystal Skull should have been.

  37. The weird thing about Paul WS Anderson is that he shows occasional flashes of real competence in this movie, Soldier, and Event Horizon, but he never seems to be able to grab the brass ring. This is made worse by the fact that when he fails he fails miserably. I can’t think of anything good at all to say about AVP (whoever wins, we lose). Maybe he has a really good movie in him, or maybe it was all built on the backs of Kurt Russell and Sam Neil.

    As for video game movies, I think they will follow the path of comic book movies. Lots of terrible stuff with the occasional winner here and there, but you won’t get a real classic until people who appreciate what’s good about the material come along with a budget and make it work. It’s bound to happen, and it’s my hope that it’s done via a God of War movie.

  38. i recently watched the bluray. by fuck i still love this movie. chock it up to a perfect blend of nostalgia and equal portions of awesome/awful.

  39. Marlow – can you really make a good movie about a videogame while capturing “what’s good about the material”?

    Frexample, they’re making a Bioshock movie. I dread how that’s going to turn out. How the heck do you capture everything that that game says about the delusion of control in a non-interactive medium? My betting is they’ll dump the plot and main character of the book and go with a bunch of teenagers trapped in the middle of a war between Big Daddies and splicers, Alien vs Predator-style.

  40. Stu: Well that makes sense then. I like how various world mythology have mostly all been made into video games… God of War, Dynasty Warriors, MK (at least one guy, unless Baraka or someone is supposed to also be a deity), WoW (with the norse/viking stuff). I think there should be one big all-inclusive global mythology fighting game, where you can play, like, Quetzalcoatl versus Shiva. Someone has probably already done that though.

  41. I don’t mean to drag things off topic, but I just got back from Predator and I’m happy to report that it’s cool

  42. *Predators

  43. Paul: Sad thing is, you’re right about what will probably happen to Bioshock. Still, there’s a really good “Dark City” type movie in there with crazy monsters and lumbering retro-mechs. The themes about the illusion of choice when it comes to leadership can easily be carried to film. There’s also a lot to be said for the Dystopian/Utopian conflicts and the difficulty in making correct moral choices in the face of survival that a good director could use to give weight to really awesome Sc-fi action. The game was fun yet thoughtful, why shouldn’t the movie be?

  44. Griff – Does RR actually deliver in the writing or is it another RR script?

    Marlow – Because you can imagine a “movie” from that material. A studio only sees, at best, a dumbass actioneer with heavy CGI.

    Everybody, even in Hollywood, may play video games. But from the movie track record, they sure as hell don’t respect them all that much.

  45. Also just got back from PREDATORS. I thought it was fun but it was definitely a retread. Very predictable, and it stuck too close to the beats of the original PREDATOR. Which is a weird criticism for me to make because I always thought PREDATOR 2 strayed too far from the original (but I still like that one too). It’s like they overcompensated by playing everything safe and familiar. But then SPOILER I really expected the ending to crib from PREDATOR 2 and have a bunch of Predators come down and pat Adrien Brody on the back for doing a good job, Danny Glover style. Respecting a badass hunter and whatnot. That was my favorite idea in PREDATOR 2, if they’re going to acknowledge anything from that movie it seems like a worthy nod. But instead it’s a total non-ending, they just walk off like “let’s go get off this planet”. Uhh.. there is no way to get off, at least no way established by the plot. The ship blew up. Get off with each other. And then have fun filling Larry Fishburne’s role. END SPOILER.

    What else? The predator dogs were stupid. Why the hell would the predators need them? Oh, right, for one action scene, then they’re summarily dropped. The other species of Pumpkinheads that were dropped down in the cages had zero to do with anything. Why even bother? The planet/moon was a bit too Earth-like. Which wouldn’t bug me, but when Topher Grace starts quoting the Latin names for plants and stuff it’s kind of WTF from a hard sci-fi perspective. Unless the Predators made the planet/moon very Earth-like to make humans more comfortable. But comfort doesn’t really seem like their top priority.

    Regardless, it was a fun time at the movies and felt like a decent throwback to eighties action. Especially in the dregs of this summer. I think they were trying to a) make it feel like the original and b) expand the scope in the same way ALIENS blew up the groundwork laid by ALIEN. They did a decent job with a) but the story was a bit too rote to do a respectable job of b). I saw it with three other people and we all pretty much agreed with each other about everything I’ve typed up here.

    PS. Vern after 3 months of Amazon dicking me around and not delivering Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer, I finally stopped into Chapters today and found two copies (I had ordered one for myself and one for my brother). Which was an ordeal in itself because it wasn’t easy to find “Vern” in the Authors database of the store’s computer, and I apparently can’t spell Yippee without checking how many Ps it has. So after I located the books I bought them and then came home and cancelled my Amazon order with a stern “get your shit together, Amazon”. They sent me a $5 coupon. I’ve only skimmed it so far, but kudos for including highlights from the CHAOS talkback.

  46. One more point about PREDATORS to address RRA’s writing question. Walton Goggins has this short monologue, you’ll know it when you hear it but the keyword is “rape”, that literally let the air out of the theater. There’s a line about “coke” that starts it off and most of the theater laughed, but that ended in a hurry. Not sure who wrote it but it was the only true facepalm moment for me in the movie.

  47. I didn’t want to talk so much about Predators, because I most likely have to repeat everything when Vern has reviewed it, but what Predators really has going for it (apart from being a very competent and entertaining Predator sequel), is the character behaviour! Instead of trying to kill each other throughout the movie, acting like egomaniacs and die from their own stupidity, they get their shit together very quick and realize that it’s better if they work together. Seriously, that was a great touch. I’m sick of characters behaving like in Saw 2 and million other movies like this.

  48. Gwai Lo – Predators definitely had a lot of homages to the original, but I thought it was different enough that I wouldn’t call it a re-tread, although you’re right that it’s not as different as Predator 2 (which I think is a really good sequel also)

    what I really liked about the movie was like you said, it was a cool throwback, everything from the use of the original score, to filming in the actual jungle, to the predators being guys in suits really felt like it was made by guys like me who like to see return to a more old school style of action movie

    also I liked the cinematography too, the scenes in the *spoiler* ship or building thing that Laurence Fishburne lived in looked it could’ve been a movie from the 90’s (which is a good thing in my opinion)

    at the end of the day, it has a scene where *SPOILER* a guy fights a Predator with a samurai sword, how is that not awesome?

  49. *who would like to see a return to a more old school style of action movie

  50. SPOILER that scene is a good example of what I mean though, it’s the Billy scene with a different ethnicity. He even takes his shirt off. At least we see the fight this time though. And yes, it was awesome. It’s just when you add up all these homages, by the time you get to Adrien Brody covering himself in mud it gets a bit been there done that. At least to my taste. Like I said though still a fun throwback. And not a complete and retread, but not the total expansion that ALIENS was. It did seem to me like they were VERY careful to deliver the best parts of the first movie in a new package, and that might have prevented them from exploring some new ideas. Which isn’t inherently bad I guess, fans will essentially be satisfied I think. It actually felt like a legit sequel, which is more than I can say for the execrable AVP movies.

  51. And yeah sorry for derailing this talkback, now I will probably stay out of the real PREDATORS talkback for fear of retreading my original classic posts here

    Goodnight gents

  52. well look at this way Gwai Lo, if they make another sequel maybe it’ll be a big expansion, but I think that since it’s been 20 years (longer than even the wait between Last Crusade and Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls) since the last sequel they didn’t want to reinvent the wheel right away

  53. Ugh are you guys actually recommending Predators to us non-converts? I’d pretty much made up my mind that there was no way I’d go to see that one on account of it was doomed to failure from the start. And now people are saying it might actually be quite good… Ick. This has happened before. With “Transformers”, “Bad Boys 2”, all three “Star Wars” prequels, “Superman Returns”, “Pearl Harbor” (although come to think of it, that last one wasn’t half as awful as a lot of people say it is, although it’s still pretty bad).

    I gotta be honest here, this sounds like the type of movie I’d hate, because it’s middle-of-the-road. You guys know I can enjoy a gloriously bad movie for what it is, and really appreciate a good one, and give credit to a movie that has ambitious ideas but doesn’t work for me (hence my detailed comments on “The Mist”, which falls into that last category – I give it a lot of credit for ambition, even if the parts that really should have worked didn’t work for me) but I really really despise a mediocre movie that tries to do nothing interesting, new or different. (This is why I prefer “Mission Impossible 2” to “Mission Impossible 3”, despite the fact that #2 was in many ways a complete disaster.)

    Plus this sounds more like a remake than a sequel in many ways, and again, I despise inferior remakes that claim to be sequels. So which is it? Guys, in all honesty – is it really worth spending eight quid or so to see this one in the cinema?

  54. It’s definitely NOT in the so-bad-it’s-good category. It’s also not a remake. Definitely more a sequel, that builds up on things we know from the original. (SPOILER: Like the thing with the mud on the skin. In one part of the movie they learn how it can make you invisible, but when this piece of information is used, it’s not as celebrated as it was in part 1 [it’s more like “If you didn’t pay attention, you wonder why it is so”] and the wearer of the mud not just finds a way to make himself even more invisible, but the Predator also comes up with a way to still track him down.)
    It does follow the rules of the original and adds some new stuff that doesn’t negate what we’ve learned so far. Also the character dynamic is different, because the writes didn’t try to copy the characters that came before.
    The point is: I got no idea if you would like it or not. You seem to be seriously unpredicatble, since you claim to like a bad movie like M:I 2 for reasons that could also apply to a bad movie like Bad Boys 2, which you claim to hate.
    The only thing that IS for sure is, that if you are looking for a trashy party bomb, something to laugh at, the aforementioned “So bad it’s good”, you won’t find it, because even if you would hate it, I doubt you find a way to nitpick it to pieces without sounding like a certain hater of a certain TV-Producer-turned-Blockbuster-director. It’s too well made for that. Is it possible that you don’t like it? Yes. Is it possible that come back and apologize for being wrong? Yes. So seriously, I got no idea.

  55. Gwai Lo – I asked because RR to me isn’t that dependably consistent as a writer. He’s best when making a serious movie with, if you want to call them that, humorous wacky touches. But when he’s all out cartoon, wearing Mickey Mouse ears hat, its just too spastic and silly for my taste.

  56. well Predators id definitely not cartoony

  57. fuck, “is” I mean

  58. Let me put it another way: Is this EL MARIACHI or is this DESPERADO?

  59. I hate to say it, but I haven’t seen either of those movies :(

  60. I should point out that Rodriguuez didn’t wrote the script. His 1994 Predator 3 script was completely re-written by two other writers, who received the only credit. (Rodriguez doesn’t even get a “Story by” credit, so I guess they changed a lot.)

  61. CJ – Well then PREDATORS has a decent chance of being good then.

  62. While I can’t comment on how a real Rodriguez-Predator would feel (because we didn’t have one yet), let’s say that this one feels definitely more like a Predator sequel, than a Robert Rodriguez movie.* It seems like he is one of these producers, who give his writers and directors as much freedom as possible.

    *Although he is more versatile than people give him credit, if you consider that Spy Kids, Sin City, The Faculty and the Mariachi Trilogy were all from the same filmmaker!

  63. Gwai Lo- I watched it in a packed theater, and the “rape” bit got a lot of laughs. I think because the joke isn’t “hahaha-rape is funny”, but the fact this guy has no awareness that mentioning it is inappropriate and how awkward it is for Topher Grace to sorta have to agree with him to not offend him.

  64. Wow! Just watched this movie two weeks ago! I saw this four or five times when it was released. I was really hoping that Robin Shou would have been a bigger name after this flick. Great review Vern!

  65. Paul – I gotta agree with CJ in that it’s definitely not a so bad it’s good type of thing. It takes itself seriously and for the most part you’re laughing with it when it wants you to, and not laughing at it. There are no moments like the AVP MATRIX-pan around the facehugger flying through mid-air. But if this type of movie is not your type of thing I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Depends on how you view the original PREDATOR. If you really liked that movie and want to see a chip off the old block then you might like PREDATORS. But if you don’t like the original it’s very unlikely that this one will surpass it.

    RRA – it feels more like PREDATOR than any Robert Rodriguez movie I’ve ever seen. Aside from the presence of Danny Trejo, this Nimrod Antal guy would appear to have done his own thing. It’s mostly done practically, it’s mostly shot on real physical locations instead of Rodriguez’s garage, it doesn’t have a shitty Tex-Mex Rodriguez synthesizer soundtrack (they use most of Silvestri’s original cues), the action setpieces are merely decent but they’re not the over-the-top showy stuff we’ve come to expect from Rodriguez a la ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. If doesn’t really compare to anything Rodriguez has done so far but the closest would be THE FACULTY I guess, just a solid genre effort instead of the work of an “auteur”.

    Stu – yeah, I think that was the intention of the joke, but I think it was still tasteless enough to offend the audience I saw it with. But that might have something to do with the fact that the specific cinema is in a neighborhood where you might get raped right outside the theater.

  66. Heh. I remember watching Mortal Kombat a few times when I was young and it was super cheesy fun. The soundtrack is forever etched in the memory, the intro plus the yelling “MORTAL KOMBAT” bit. I actually also watched (kind of, more like had it playing in the background while doing stuff) the tv series version of the movie which was incredibly bad and starred a pre-T3/BloodRayne/L Word Kristanna Loken. The acting in that made the movie version look like Academy material. They used all new characters and had some unknowns play Rayden and Shang Tsung, which sucked most of the fun out of it since CHT and Christopher Lambert added quite a bit to the cheesy goodness that was the original. The fight scenes were the usual jumping around gymnastics with totally unconvicing stunt doubles.

    However, there was one good thing about the series that brought it to a highly satisfactory close in its one single season. And that was the final episode where everyone dies. Yes, everyone who showed up in the series, as a regular or recurring character, were all killed off one by one. With how bad the show was, you can see how satisfying it was to see it. It was like the writers knew what a pile of crap they had and they were just churning it out for the pocket change when the word came down it was (surprise!) cancelled and they decided to just take sadistic pleasure in killing off everyone as a way to get back at having to write total crap.

    So will you be reviewing the sequel to the movie MK:Annihilation as well, Vern? In the trivia for that one apparently Michael Jai White was supposed to be Jax and instead picked Spawn to star in. Arguably, that was lose-lose no matter what he picked since that one did not have as much of the cheesy joy as the first one.

  67. About the action, I wonder how we’d feel about the original PREDATOR as an action movie (not an action/horror one) if they didn’t have that scene of Dutch’s team attacking the camp? What if they’d just found the camp wrecked and full of Predator victims and Anna as the sole survivor, and we just got the Predator attacks through the rest of the movie. That’s probably the one thing missing from PREDATORS for me, seeing the characters in their normal element. I like that it opens with them being dumped on the planet and how there’s not a lot revealed about them (like the characters in the first one don’t go through a character arc, plus I think the Yakuza’s one bit of backstory revealed about him is better than a more in-depth thing would have been), but it would have been nice if they’d got one scene where they were shown as totally dominating badasses rather than being desperate survivors all throughout the story.

  68. CJ Holden – I can see that my tastes may be a problem to some. I would say various things in “Mission Impossible 2″‘s defence that would suggest that it’s not quite as bad as its reputation suggests, although that’s still pretty damn bad. But the cinematography is good, the soundtrack and score are great (a good score can go a long way in redeeming a movie in my eyes, just as a bad one can spoil it for me), the dialogue is ridiculous but full enough of totally off-the-wall idiocies to laugh at, etc.

    In all fairness, “Bad Boys 2” is not anything like “Mission Impossible 2”. And I think “Bad Boys 2” goes beyond just “bad”. I think it goes beyond the sheer “Why the fuck do these movies even exist?” quality that exists in “Transformers”, the “Star Wars” prequels, “American Pie 2”, etc, all of which I despise. “Bad Boys 2” was the only film I’ve ever seen that was so painful to watch, I had to leave the cinema to get away from it. Unfortunately, after thirty minutes or so of blessed relief, I had to go back in because my friend was in there. It’s loud and noisy and every character constantly swears (which isn’t something I would usually have a problem with, but in BB2 it’s practically a form of torture) and none of the action sequences make any kind of sense and the only smile the jokes raised were from my zoning out the film where possible and remembering when they’d been done before in ways that were actually funny.

    In short – you know how I’ve slated many movies on this forum. “Bad Boys 2” is the absolute worst of the lot, by a very wide margin indeed. It’s easily the worst movie I’ve ever seen in terms of personal experience, and probably has a very real claim to being, by any objective standards, the worst mainstream movie ever made. Will Smith was bad. Martin Lawrence was painfully bad (his flabby attempts to carry off being an action star are still burned into my brain). I have no idea what the usually excellent Joe Pantoliano is doing in this (this guy was in “The Matrix” and “Memento” for fuck’s sake). Peter Stormare is a serial bad-movie villain (“The Tuxedo” anybody?), and even HE looks embarrassed to be there. I’ve never seen “Battlefield: Earth” but I can’t imagine it would be as literally painful to watch as “Bad Boys 2” was. I don’t think anything else by Michael Bay comes even close to being this bad, and that’s saying a lot. I don’t think “Transformers” was this bad. I don’t think “Armageddon”, as dumb as it is, was within a hundred miles of being this bad. I can’t find a single redeeming feature of any of the Star Wars prequels – the acting, digital effects, score, dialogue, story, everything about them was just terrible – and I’d much rather watch all three of them together in one marathon session with my eyes stapled open than watch “Bad Boys 2” again. Fuck it, let’s go the whole hog: I’d even rather watch “My Bloody Valentine” AND its remake again, rather than have to suffer “Bad Boys 2”. Other things I’d rather do instead of watching “Bad Boys 2” again would include: listening to every post-“Morning Glory” album by the band “Oasis” on continuous repetition for twelve hours; permanently re-living the time I accidentally killed my goldfish, over and over again; committing slow suicide by shoving several “Ferocactus pilosus” up my arse.

    Incidentally, sorry if I haven’t made my feelings quite clear; sometimes I sit on the fence a little too much. (Although maybe not when I have several “Ferocactus pilosus” up my arse. Law of averages says it’s gotta happen some day. I could live eighty years, but it only takes a second or two to get a cactus shoved up the jacksie. If you think about it, it’s really ridiculously improbable that it WON’T happen. Anyways…)

    Gwai Lo – I quite liked “Predator”, although I don’t think it’s a classic by any means. It’s not the kind of movie that I’d go out of my way to see a sequel of. This is why I have a problem. Although thinking about it, I’ve decided I think I’ll wait for DVD on this one. (Sorry guys.) I just have better things to spend my hard-earned cash on than a film I’d be going into expecting it to be bad. (The thing about expectations is that they often colour your view of the film itself.)

  69. Also, sorry for the wall-of-text rant up there. I might be slightly drunk right now, if that excuses it.

  70. SPOILERS AND STUFF

    I walked out of Predators extremely satisfied with the film. From the opening scene of Brody waking up in free-fall to the decapitation of the big baddy at the end I was thoroughly entertained. A few of my favorite moments a) Walter Goggins getting his entire fucking spleen ripped out of his back. That shot was sick. b.)The scene were they all roll down the hill and fall into the lake below the cliff. The way they shot that was beautiful. The camera rolls over the edge with them and follows about halfway down before stopping.c.)Oleg Taktarov, the big Russian motherfucker in this. I like his presence and want to see him more.d) already been mentioned but I can’t say enough about how nice it is to have practical effects and dudes in suits.

    Anyway BRING ON INCEPTION NOW!

  71. Just got back from Predators and wow…….absolute fucking dogshit. I’m stunned. Just fucking terrible from beginning to end. I don’t even know what to say. I guess it was better than both AVPs but of course that kind of went without saying. I need some time to digest this all. AVOID.

  72. Boy, you two make it easy for me!

  73. Speaking of INCEPTION, you all happen to hear about that (over-reported) quote about Nolan wanting to make a Bond movie?

    With MGM so fucked in money that studio had to not just cancel that new 007 adventure w/ Craig and Sam Mendes, but that RED DAWN remake and THE HOBBIT in indefinate limbo, even with Peter Jackson directing….

    Who knows, maybe Nolan Bond could happen? I doubt it I suppose unless Eon is actually willing to give him creative control and more slice of the money.

    Hell those guys turned down Steven Spielberg more than once in the late 1970s. The last rejection made him go off and do his own 007-influenced adventure (where he got control and more money) with Harrison Ford and his hat.

    Either way, fantasy daydreaming, but wouldn’t a Nolan 007 movie be interesting?

    Now I wait for everyone else here to shit on that idea.

  74. RRA – I’ve either liked or loved pretty much every Nolan film I’ve seen, with the exception of “Insomnia” (which is ok, but IMO “one-hour photo” is a far better “Robin Williams is evil” film.) The prospect of him turning to Bond fills me with unrelenting dread.

  75. RRA- I believe the Bond producers have long had a rule about not hiring directors more famous then the Bond character, which is why they continually turned down the Beard. Unless they change that rule(which is possible since someone else might be in charge after the financial situation is sorted out) Nolan isn’t getting the job. I agree with you though it would be awesome.

  76. Nolan was in some respects trying to make a Bond film with his Batman films I think. Morgan Freeman might as well have been Q anyway.

    I like Craig but I’d love to see Michael Fassbender play Bond.

    I also like every Nolan film, with INSOMNIA being the weakest. But it’s mainly the weakest because the Icelandic version is better. And similar enough to render the remake slightly pointless. I find Stellan Skarsgard a lot more interesting than Pacino these days as well.

    dieselboy – I also thought the falling off the cliff scene was shot beautifully. And I also really liked the opening freefall, I thought that was a cool way to open the film and dump you right into the action. Although Ebert’s comment on it is pretty spot on hilarious.

  77. Armitage Shanks

    July 10th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Apologies if this has already been posted above, but have any of you guys seen this new Mortal Kombat trailer.Apparently the director made it to see if it drums up much interest for another Mortal Kombat movie.No mention of Outworld or anything like that in it,more of a realistic Dark Knight approach to it.Oh and Micheal Jai White is in it and some blonde chick whos name i cant think of at the mo.Have a butchers at it and see what you think.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFu4OE3sE3k

  78. Armitage Shanks

    July 10th, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Oh right,well there you go then.I dunno i dont think it would be quite as enjoyable without the smeck.

  79. Jareth Cutestory

    July 10th, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Are we casting Bond? That’s easy. Idris Elba.

  80. I loved MORTAL KOMBAT as a kid. The way they beat Sub-Zero was genius

  81. Mickey, best movie idea ever.

  82. MK taught me that art is never the cause of violent behavior in humans. because if that theme song couldnt lead to violent riots, then nothing artistic ever could.

  83. Wonderful internet site. Numerous useful info below. I am giving it a number of associates ans additionally giving within tasty. Not to mention, thanks for your hard work!

  84. You have to admire a movie that takes an original videogame concept that was stupid to begin with and succeeds being even stupidier. Well done, MK! YOU WIN!

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  86. Last night I watched a movie that I think would interest you guys, it’s a 1995 movie starring Christopher Lambert called THE HUNTED, which is about an American businessman (Lambert of course) on an overseas business trip to Japan who runs afoul of a secret group of modern day Ninjas who will then stop at nothing to kill him, thankfully a friendly samurai husband and wife offer to protect him.

    I gotta say it’s not a great movie perhaps, but I was thoroughly entertained by it, it’s interesting to see both mid-90’s Japan and an American movie from the 90’s about Japan that’s non-xenophobic (remember, this was only a few years after the Michael Crichton movie Rising Sun).

    There’s an action sequence inside of a bullet train that is worth the price of admission alone, it’s so good in fact that I don’t understand at all why this movie is so obscure, I just stumbled upon it on imdb once, thought it sounded interesting and decided to buy the dvd off Amazon, but I’ve never heard or seen anyone talk about it before.

    I think it would be right up your alley, Vern.

  87. Griff there’s a review of The Hunted in the database.

  88. Far out, I remember seeing this in the cinemas when it came out back in the day. The line went outside and everything, we had to sit right down the front but it was a pretty good time. They actually did a live action Mortal Kombat TV series as some point as well, I think my brother has the DVD’s of it somewhere.

    Vern, if you want to check out another 90’s cheese video game movie I suggest DOUBLE DRAGON.

  89. The Hollywood Reporter gives us an “untold” look at the making of the movie.

    'Mortal Kombat' Movie Oral History: The Untold Story

    The film — which broke the video game curse 20 years ago this week — survived broken ribs, bruised kidneys and ridicule from Hollywood: "Everyone was telling me this wouldn't work and my career would be over," recalls producer Larry Kasanoff.

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