One of the major recurring criticisms aimed at the recent Mortal Kombat reboot was that it took itself very seriously, to the point that it seemed as though a decision was made at boardroom level to suck most of the fun out of the concept. That being said, it was the wisest move when it couldn’t come close to matching the delirious cheesiness of Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 original.
The martial arts fantasy actioner was Hollywood’s fourth attempt at translating a popular video game to the big screen after Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon and Street Fighter, but it was the first that wasn’t universally panned. Mortal Kombat knew exactly what it was, and leaned into the absurdity of the premise to deliver a movie that had no intentions of being high art, but instead sought to deliver earnest entertainment and nothing else.
After bringing in $122 million at the box office, it also reigned as the highest-grossing video game blockbuster for six whole years before Lara Croft: Tomb Raider came along in the summer of 2001. From an artistic perspective, Mortal Kombat is terrible. The sets look cheap, the script is awful and the acting is mostly laughable across the board, with the sole exception of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s Shang Tsung, who was the only member of the cast that seemed to get the memo about what kind of film everyone was making.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Mortal Kombat is a disaster. Far from it, in fact. To this day it remains an unabashed cult classic, and it’s just as fun to kick back and watch now as it ever was, so it’s good news that as of today it can be streamed at the push of a button on Netflix.