How An Awful Movie Helped Revive Mortal Kombat

The movie was a stupid mess – but Mortal Kombat 11 might not exist without it.

Originally published March 19, 2019 at

Welcome to Doublejump’s new regular series, Press X To Adapt! Every two weeks, we’ll dive into a game-turned-movie or movie-turned-game to take a look at how it turned out, the differences between the two, and anything else worth chatting about!

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There’s something oddly reassuring about Mortal Kombat 11. Beyond the irony, the fact that Mortal Kombat, a fighting game that stars gore as the main character, can explode onto the scene in 1992 and still be alive and popular although it’s the same blood-soaked game in 2019 says so much about the gaming medium as a whole, about its simultaneous growth and lack thereof in the almost 30 years since the original game released.

Sure, the series has had its numerous rough points, and it has sanded down the edges and grown in many ways – and I’m not ignoring all that – but Mortal Kombat 11 targets the exact same market it did back in the day. It’s the ultra-violent 2D fighter with cutting-edge visuals and the mix of edge and B-movie cheese that fans crave. Heck, even original series creator Ed Boon still leads the team at NetherRealm Studios. In essence, Mortal Kombat hasn’t changed.

On that note, let’s dive into the shrieking dumpster fire that is 1995’s Mortal Kombat.


The motion picture adaptation was released right in the centre of Mortal Kombat‘s hype craze, just as the franchise was crystallising with the release of Mortal Kombat 3 (which ironically distanced itself from the iconic mystical elements and was considered a disappointment at the time).

Produced by New Line Cinema and directed by Paul WS Anderson, the director of all those Resident Evilmovies that I’ll probably have to watch now and the upcoming Monster Hunter movieMortal Kombat is one of a handful of game adaptations that isn’t a total train wreck. It’s definitely bad – sometimes very bad – but there’s some good in there. A tiny bit.

It was pretty successful at the box office, too, earning about $122 million on a budget of $18 million. It fared worse with critics, though not as badly as it probably should have.

A stupid mess

If you haven’t seen it before, Mortal Kombat is a stupid mess and I love it. It’s a “so bad it’s good” type of movie that somehow had the multi-million-dollar support of a major film studio. It’s packed with mind-numbingly bizarre decisions in every category: casting, dialogue, performances, choreography, camera work… it’s just weird from top to bottom. In the end, though, it’s all the better for it. Sure, they could’ve gone and made a goodfilm, but what fun is that? This is Mortal Kombat, where they spell ‘combat’ incorrectly on purpose and bodies can contain several rib cages at once.

I’d already seen it but watching it again a few years later, it’s shocking how bad it is. It’s knowing and cheeky enough to get away with some of it, like Shang Tsung announcing “Fatality!” when he absorbs an unconscious man’s soul or Scorpion and Sub Zero suddenly showing up as zombie soldiers, but damn it’s terrible by today’s standards.

Whose decision was it to cast Highlander’s Christopher Lambert as Raiden and let him speak like he’d lined his throat with baking paper? How about to make Reptile a gross CGI lizard, or use a weird animatronic-puppet-costume for the four-armed monster Goro? I ask because I want to shake their hand and thank them for what they inflicted on the world.

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