Before everyone gets excited to watch the 2021 reboot of Mortal Kombat, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone there is already a nearly perfect Mortal Kombat movie out there ready be digested by your hungry eyeholes.
It’s not 1997’s horrendous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (although Jax is dope as hell in that movie). 1995’s Mortal Kombat, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, took everything that made the video game amazing (except for the over-the-top gut-bursting violence) and gave the world a sublime 101 minute martial arts masterpiece. Before you ask, yes, I do consider 1996’s Space Jam to be the greatest sports comedy of all time and, No, I am not feeling old at all that both these movies are being rebooted this year.
The 90’s was a magical time in the history of cinema where movies didn’t necessarily need a “story” or a “coherent plot” to be amazing, so it was only fitting that Mortal Kombat fell right smack in the middle of this era. This movie outshines every other video game movie because of the beautifully choreographed fight scenes (or as my wife puts it “these stunt people are great at flipping and tumbling around”) and the perfect EDM accompanying soundtrack, so good that it inspired a sequel soundtrack called *checks notes* Mortal Kombat: More Kombat (still a less sweaty title than Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge). For a movie that is 75% fight scenes, 20% transitions to those fights and 5% Christopher Lambert’s insane accent, I’ll be breaking down the absolute best fights of the movie. Ready, Set, Fight!
6. Liu Kang vs. Sub-Zero
Putting this fight at number 6 may be controversial to some due to the fact that Sub-Zero is a lot of people’s favorite character in the franchise but the fact is its the least exciting of the best fight scenes. The actual physical fight only lasts a minute and half and the killing blow, while smart, makes Sub-Zero look like a ninja stupid ass. That being said, Liu and Zero get some good licks in on each other and they tumble around like nobody’s business. Thankfully, we had the scene earlier in the movie where Sub-Zero freezes that weird sweaty guy during the banquet or else we would have been severely deprived of some good Sub-Zero content. By the looks of it, the new Mortal Kombat is going to feature some serious badass Sub-Zero powers and abilities so I can retroactively forgive this movie for skimping on the Sub-Zero action.
Memorable Lines: “Use the element that brings life” – Kitana
“Water!” – Liu Kang
5. Johnny Cage vs. Goro
For the casual viewer, this may seem like a short, anti-climactic fight, but in the context of the movie, it feels so right for this fight to go this way. In the scenes before this, we see Goro absolutely bulldoze through 20 nameless kontestants and then eviscerate the heroes new friend Art Lean in a such a brutal way. Johnny Cage makes a deal to fight Goro and you can only expect to see Johnny Cage’s ass be blown apart by this hulking spider-like man. It may be the 7 year old in me after all these years, but I can’t help but smile from ear to ear when Johnny Cage performs his famous “split into punch to nutsack” move on Goro. Seeing Goro suffer in such a primal, masculine way, is so cathartic to see after he doles out so much suffering in the scenes prior. The actual fight portion of this scene is extremely short (possibly due to the fact that the Goro animatronic kept short-circuiting) but its one of the scenes that make this movie endlessly rewatchable.
Memorable Lines: “Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole” – Johnny Cage
“Ooooo arghh uuuuuu” (After having his gonads turned to dust) – Goro
4. Sonya Blade vs. Kano
Unfortunately, this is Sonya Blade’s only real deal fight scene in this whole movie but it kicks more ass than most. Trevor Goddard plays Kano in such a perfectly smarmy way and Bridgette Wilson channels all the disgust that Sonya Blade feels with every kick to his smug face. I will take points off realizing now that Shang Tsung only put this fight together to fulfill some sort of highly specific fetish situation, going off of Tsung’s face during the face, he definitely got what he wanted in more than one way.
Memorable Lines: “Give me a break” – Kano
“Ok” *Breaks Kano’s neck with her calves* – Sonya Blade
3. Liu Kang vs. Shang Tsung
Liu Kang at his most courageous and Shang Tsung at his most dirty, this fight scene brings out the best in both actors, delivering a worthy climax for this movie. The only drawback is the 2 minute detour the fight takes so that Kang can fight with silly charactertures of warriors that Shang Tsung has defeated in the past. Also, in a lesser movie, the conversation between Kang and his ghost brother could have killed the momentum of this climax but in this it delivers just the right amount of heart and a great way of quickly finishing up Kang’s arc. Finally, I don’t use this phrase lightly but Kang’s use of the signature fireball move is just “chef’s kiss”.
Memorable Lines: “All those souls and you still don’t have one of your own, I pity you sorcerer” – Liu Kang
“Save your pity for the weak!” – Shang Tsung
2. Johnny Cage vs. Scorpion
For some, this may be the greatest scene in the movie or in any video game movie. When you think of Scorpion, 9 times out of 10, you think of this iconic scene in the forest and the second part of the fight in his Hellfire-themed loft apartment. This is one of the scenes where I pictured what it would look like in my brain, having it described to me by my older brothers, and then having exactly as I pictured end up on the big screen. Specifically, I’m referring to Scorpion’s crazy bird spear that comes out of his hand (in my head it was a bear head, but bird spears make so much more sense). I will say that my wife ruined the scene by pointing out Scorpion does a full-on cartwheel from behind a tree as a way to surprise Johnny Cage, albeit the most badass cartwheel I’ve ever seen. The fight really heats up when Scorpion transfers Cage and himself mid-fight to the Hell dimension, where Johnny Cage validates his years in high school gymnastics by twirling around on a horizontal bar and gaining the high ground (Obi-Wan would be so proud). Scorpion then brings Johnny Cage (“Come Down Here”!) to the ground level so that he can show off his collection of prop skulls and bones from the set of Army of Darkness. From there, ol’ Scorpio reveals his beautiful Skull face. I assume he wanted to just pull off his mask and hood but he went a little too far. Scorpion starts spitting fire at our boy Johnny Cage but Cage comes back with some spiky shield he found and slices up Scorpion so hard that he explodes. Finally, the scene ends with a scorched autographed picture of Johnny Cage himself, leading us to believe that Scorpion was Cage’s biggest fan. Hell of a fight but, for me, there’s one last fight scene that really takes the cake and satisfies that Kombat itch.
Memorable Lines: “Get Over Here!” – Scorpion (obviously)
1. Liu Kang vs. Reptile
This fight has everything: the discarded ruins of Outworld, long haired homeless people running around, a statue that captures Reptile when he get inside its sternum and fuses to create the Reptile ninja fighter we know and love. For my money, this is the quintessential Mortal Kombat fight I was waiting for during the whole movie. The Scorpion vs Johnny Cage fight had so many of the great gimmicks and trappings from the game, but this fight is everything I need in a movie martial arts fight. The way the fight kicks off with the amazing accompanying score including the unseen narrator announcing that Reptile has joined the fight makes it feel like this scene is breaking the rules of the movie and establishes a different feel for this fight. The fight chorography is possibly the best in the whole movie, with both characters landing such devastating and realistic blows to each other. Paul Anderson’s direction is particularly great in this scene, getting in down and dirty during this fight, making you feel every punch, kick and tumble. When I think about tiny details in movies I love, the moments that stick with me for years, I almost always think of Reptile getting his face rocketed into the dirt then furiously breathing dirt up when getting up to continue the fight.
Memorable Lines: “Reptile” – Omniscient narrator or just the intro to the kickass techno song
As with all stupid internet lists, its not my opinion that matters, its yours. Your favorite fight may be that super lame Kitana vs. Liu Kang fight that is barely an excuse of exposition or that decent one with Liu Kang and the guy who growls like a tiger for some reason. Post in the comments what your favorite fight is and why.
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