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Rating History

Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat (1995)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Mortal Kombat was one of the most popular and controversial video games to come out of the 90s, it caught gamers' attention thanks to its realistic look which used digitized graphics, and large amounts of violence and gore, which caused an outcry from politicians and concerned parents, and led to the ESRB rating system being created.

In 1995, New Line Cinema released the live-action film based on the successful fighting game franchise, prior to its release, fans were already skeptical due to the failures of Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros., especially since the film was rated PG-13, which meant all of the gore from the games had to be toned down. Fortunately, upon its release in theaters, Mortal Kombat managed to impress video game fans, and even several casual moviegoers, despite mixed reviews from critics (even though Gene Siskel gave it a thumbs up), the film was also a surprise hit at the box-office, making it the first video game movie to be financially successful here in the United States, to this day, the movie is considered one of the better video game to film conversions. Now let me say this, I love this movie, it is probably my favorite adaptation of a video game, I am a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat games (mostly the first 3 games, and the more recent Mortal Kombat 9), so it can be easy for you to see why I hold the film in such high regard, now whether you disagree with me or not, you have to admit, it's better than Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros.

The film centers around three fighters; Liu Kang (played by Robin Shou), Sonya Blade (played by Bridgette Wilson), and Johnny Cage (played by Linden Ashby), whom have been handpicked by the god of thunder Rayden (played by Christopher Lambert) to defend the Earth in an ancient tournament known as Mortal Kombat, the purpose behind the tournament is that there is another realm known as Outworld, ruled by a powerful emperor who wants to take over our world. In order to take over the Earth, the emperor's best fighters, led by the demon sorcerer Shang Tsung (played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), have to win 10 tournaments in a row, and so far, they have won 9. Despite being chosen to defend our world, each of the three heroes enter the tournament for personal and different reasons, Liu Kang is a headstrong and reluctant Martial Artist who wants revenge against Shang Tsung for murdering his brother, Sonya is a tough-as-nails Special Forces agent who is after a criminal named Kano, and Johnny Cage is a cocky movie actor who wants to prove to critics that he's not a fake like they have pointed him out to be. Rayden begins to guide the heroes and teaches them what they must go through in order to win Mortal Kombat, and prevent our realm from being conquered.

The filmmakers succeeded in crafting a plot that works as both an adaptation of the video game, and a standalone Martial Arts Fantasy film, the concept itself is like a supernatural version of Enter the Dragon (another one of my favorite films), yet, the Fantasy aspect works very well, and makes the movie stand on its own.

All of the characters from the first game, and even some from Mortal Kombat II, appear in the film, and each of their characterizations are accurate in terms of how they look and act. Unlike Street Fighter where the focus was on Guile instead of Ryu and Ken (the central characters of the Street Fighter franchise), this film centers around the Mortal Kombat games' original protagonist: Liu Kang. Robin Shou gives a great performance as Liu Kang, and resembles the character greatly in terms of how he looks, it's a shame that he didn't receive many more starring roles after this (other than the abysmal sequel) because he's both a talented actor and Martial Artist, I do consider him to be better than say Steven Seagal or even Jean-Claude Van Damme. The rest of the cast is also great in their respective roles (Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert as Rayden, etc.)

While the gore from the games may be dialed down, the film does deliver the nonstop fighting that fighting game fans expect, the fight scenes are very well choreographed, Pat Johnson (who also choreographed the Karate Kid and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films) staged most of the fight scenes, however, when he became unavailable, Robin Shou (Liu Kang) filled in as fight choreographer, and staged two of my favorite fight scenes in the film; Johnny Cage vs. Scorpion, and Liu Kang vs. Reptile, this gives the fights sort of a Hong Kong flavor to them with more stylized moves as Robin Shou had worked on many films in Hong Kong prior to this. The special moves from the game are also incorporated into the fight scenes (such as Liu Kang's bicycle kick, Scorpion's spear, Sub-Zero's freeze, Sonya's leg grab, and Johnny Cage's groin punch), and are performed accurately, unlike Street Fighter.

The film was directed by then-newcomer Paul W.S. Anderson, whom over the years, has gotten a bad rep for ruining the Resident Evil films, and Alien vs. Predator, but in this film, he manages to do an excellent job, and proves that he can be a solid director with the material that he understands. Apparently, he works best when he's only directing, because he normally fails as a writer (Alien vs. Predator is a prime example of this). The visual design is very impressive, and successfully emulates the look and tone of the Mortal Kombat video games.

The film incorporates many special FX, this was when CGI was in its early years, after the successes of Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park, which pushed the envelope of special FX with their use of CGI, studios wanted more films with computer FX. At the time, the FX were praised, but over the years, some moviegoers have lauded them for appearing "dated", now while they may not be advanced like today's FX, they do work well for the time, although I think the best special FX in the film are the ones used for Goro, the filmmakers wisely chose to make him an animatronic puppet rather than a CGI creation.

Of course, I can't mention the Mortal Kombat movie without talking about the soundtrack, in addition to the incredibly catchy Mortal Kombat theme song, you have a really good number of Industrial and Electronic groups such as Gravity Kills, KMFDM, Orbital, Fear Factory, etc., the soundtrack is fun to listen to, and gets you amped up for kombat. The score by George S. Clinton is also great, and has a dark and atmospheric sound that suits Mortal Kombat perfectly.

Overall, Mortal Kombat is still fun to watch, and definitely one of the better movies based on video games, it's everything the Street Fighter movie should have been, and I highly recommend it to fans of the video games, even Action fans who aren't too familiar with the game may enjoy the film, for me, it's hard not to like it, why other live-action video game adaptations haven't attempted to do the same as this film is beyond me, but I'm still satisfied, nonetheless.

PROS: Plot moves at a brisk pace, a great adaptation of the video games, excellent casting and performances, spot-on characterizations, well choreographed fight scenes, decent special FX for the time, impressive production values and cinematography, awesome soundtrack and score.
CONS: Nothing, really.

Street Fighter
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

You'd think after the failure of Super Mario Bros., Hollywood would be more careful in adapting a video game into live-action film, unfortunately, other than a few exceptions, this is something they tend to ruin most of the time, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the horrors of Street Fighter.

As mentioned in my review for the animated movie, Street Fighter II revolutionized the fighting game genre back in the early 90s, and because of its massive popularity, filmmakers decided to create film adaptations of the franchise. In the same year as Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Universal released the live-action movie based on the beloved fighting game here in the United States. As with the case of Super Mario Bros., the film had massive amount of advertising and hype surrounding its release, however, upon its release in theaters, it was swamped with harsh reviews and even disappointed fans of the video game, and so, the film was a financial flop here in the States, despite doing better worldwide, but unlike Super Mario Bros., which received a cult following over the years, video game fans and even moviegoers still haven't been so kind on this movie, even though there are some who enjoy it for how laughably bad it is. Street Fighter II is one of my favorite video games of all-time, and I do feel that this film could have been done a whole lot better, so why was this a disappointment? Let's find out.

The plot is extremely standard, and plays out like a weak James Bond film. General M. Bison (played by Raul Julia) has kidnapped several relief workers, and is holding them for a ransom of $20 billion. If he doesn't receive the ransom money, Bison will kill the hostages, so it's up to Colonel Guile (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) and several fighters from around the world to rescue the hostages and stop Bison once and for all.

One of the primary issues with the film is essentially staying far away from the original source material. The games focused primarily on Ryu and Ken, however, the film has them rewritten as a pair of fast-talking con men, and pushed to the side for Guile, a large part of this is because he's played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, and right off the bat, this is a terrible casting decision. Guile is supposed to be an all-American fighter, and here we have Van Damme playing the part with a thick Belgian accent, most of the dialogue he delivers is incredibly stupid, especially the part halfway through the film where he gives his speech, even though it is rather amusing because of how laughable it is.

Literally every one of the other characters featured in the film have been changed around; Dhalsim is a scientist, Chun-Li is a news reporter, Balrog is Chun-Li's cameraman and a good guy as opposed to being one of Bison's followers, etc., but probably the most embarrassing portrayal is Blanka, whom in the film, is Charlie; Guile's deceased friend from the Street Fighter Alpha games, the makeup FX on Blanka also look extremely poor. The film tries cramming in all of the 16 characters from Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers (with the exception of Fei Long, aka the Bruce Lee clone of Street Fighter), and as a result, we are left with poor character development, the film really should have just focused on the original 12 characters from Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, with the four new characters from Super Street Fighter II being saved for a potential sequel.

Another huge fault is the casting, other than Andrew Bryniarski as Zangief (who looks identical to his video game counterpart), all of the actors don't resemble the characters one bit, of course, you have the aforementioned Van Damme as Guile, but the worst casting has to be the guy who plays Ken, who looks more like Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat. The best actor in the film is Raul Julia as M. Bison, even though the character is supposed to be larger in build, Raul gives a performance that is so over the top, it becomes theatrical, sadly, this would be the last film he made as Raul died literally a few weeks prior to the film's release.

Going into a film based on a fighting game, one would wonder about the fighting, well, here's the problem: for a movie called Street Fighter, there's barely any street fighting going on, most of the time, the pace is shockingly sluggish. The fight scenes themselves (when there's any present) are badly choreographed and edited, it's painfully obvious that most of the actors don't know Martial Arts (with the exception of Van Damme), Benny "The Jet" Urquidez staged the fights, which is hard to believe since he is a great Martial Artist (as seen in his work with Jackie Chan in the films Wheels on Meals, and Dragons Forever), but since the film contained a large cast, it must have been a nightmare trying to train more than 10 actors into an acceptable level of skill. There's also hardly any special moves from the video game, and when some of them are performed, they are poorly executed (ex.: Ryu doing a Hadouken that is just a mere flash of white on the screen, Ken doing an embarrassing Shoryuken which looks like a kid with Tourettes Syndrome trying to dance, Guile doing his Flash Kick, and Bison doing his Psycho Crusher, which looks nothing like how it did in the game).

Steven E. de Souza (who wrote classics like Die Hard, and 48 Hrs.) wrote and directed the film, this was his first major feature as a director, for his first time, his directing is handled very poorly. Visually, the film isn't all that impressive, the cinematography has a very standard made-for-TV look to it, and the production values are cheaply designed (let's keep in mind that this was intended to be a Blockbuster Action flick), de Souza also tries incorporating a campy vibe and humor to the film, and in some areas, it does work, however, it comes off as being both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious, which does at least add some entertainment value to the film.

In 1995, the movie spawned a video game tie-in simply titled Street Fighter: The Movie. The arcade version played vastly different from a conventional Street Fighter game, and featured digitized graphics with live actors very similar to Mortal Kombat. Later that year, Capcom released a console version for Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, which played more akin to Super Street Fighter II Turbo. The game was largely panned by Street Fighter fans and video game critics. It also spawned an abysmal animated series that aired on the USA Network.

As abysmal as Street Fighter is, it can at least be enjoyed to an extent due to how laughable it is, it certainly isn't the worst representation of the Street Fighter video games (that honor goes to the reboot Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), even though it still is a letdown, and could have been an awesome Martial Arts Tournament flick, however, I think we may be in luck as there will be a webseries coming soon entitled Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist, which looks very promising, and maybe then, we'll get a good live-action representation of the video games.

PROS: Raul Julia as M. Bison, decent score
CONS: Standard plot, sluggish pacing, large amount of deviations from the video games, subpar acting from the rest of the cast, miscast performers, lack of character development, badly choreographed fight scenes, cheap visual design that looks like a made-for-TV film.
MIXED: dialogue and camp factor come off as hilarious, both intentionally and unintentionally.

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Street Fighter II kickstarted the fighting game boom in the early 90s, and of course, because of its monumental success, filmmakers started to see potential in the franchise. In 1994, the popular fighting game was adapted into two movies, one live-action, and the other animated. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is quite possibly the best representation of the video game thus far, and it surpasses the live-action movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme in every aspect.

The plot focuses on the Martial Artists named Ryu and Ken, both of whom trained under the same master, and have parted ways to find their own big challenges around the world. Unbeknownst to them, they are being tracked down by the psychopathic dictator known as M. Bison, who leads a terrorist organization known as Shadowlaw, Bison's main goal is to kidnap the best fighters in the world, and brainwash them into killing machines so that he'll be able to have world domination. Meanwhile, Interpol agent Chun-Li teams up with U.S. Air Force captain Guile to warn fighters from around the world about Bison's plan, and take down Shadowlaw once and for all.

Even though the film is based on Street Fighter II, it would later go on to influence the Street Fighter Alpha games, and several elements from this movie were incorporated, such as how Ryu got the red headband, Ken's longer hair as seen in the flashbacks with Ryu and Ken training, Bison's more muscular build, and even some story elements including the climax of the film.

The makers of the film had a pretty tight schedule, from what I've heard, yet, it looked like they took their time and effort to make this movie work extremely well. The animation looks very sleek, and unlike the live-action movie, it offers the nonstop fighting that any fighting game fan would crave for. The fight scenes themselves are extremely well done, and have a more realistic feel to them in contrast to the superpower-based fight scenes as seen in animes like Dragon Ball Z (even though that's great too), most of this is thanks to fights being staged by K-1 founder Kazuyoshi Ishii and professional fighter Andy Hug with the use of rotoscoping blended with the animation. My favorite fight scenes in the film include Ryu vs. Fei Long, Chun-Li vs. Vega, and the final battle with Ryu and Ken vs. M. Bison.

Unlike the campier live-action version, the film is much more darker in tone, and contains more violence, swearing and even nudity with a shower scene involving Chun-Li. When it was released in the U.S. On VHS around the mid-90s, there were two versions; one was a censored PG-13 version, and the other was an unrated version, which contained all of the aforementioned nudity and profanity.

All of the characters from Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers are present in the film, and even though some of them don't get enough screen time, the characterizations are generally good and accurate to their video game counterparts (Ryu being stoic and determined, Ken being brash and cocky, Chun-Li being dedicated to her work, yet having a sense of playfulness, etc.). The voice acting is also pretty solid, and suit the characters well.

The soundtracks in both the English and Japanese dubs are vastly different from each other, though I prefer the English version's soundtrack, not just because that was what I grew up with, but also, it has a more adult edge, unlike the Japanese soundtrack, which has a rather cheesy typical anime feel to it. The English soundtrack also contains songs from a lot of Grunge and Industrial bands like Korn, Silverchair, and KMFDM. The score in the English version, composed by Cory Lerios and John D'andrea of Baywatch fame, hasn't had an official soundtrack release here in the States (despite the fact that you can listen to it on YouTube), which is mind-boggling because the score itself is amazing.

All in all, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is a must-see for all Street Fighter and fighting game fans, especially after watching the laughably bad Jean-Claude Van Damme Street Fighter movie, anime fans who aren't too familiar with the games may have more of a mixed reaction, but with the amount of effort put into it, it's rather hard to dislike this film, at least to me, consider this my 2nd favorite adaptation of a video game.

PROS: Nicely paced plot, an extremely faithful representation of the video game, accurate characterizations, appropriate voice casting, amazing fight sequences, slick animation, badass soundtrack in the English version
CONS: hardly anything, really
MIXED: some characters don't get too much screen time, but the major characters (Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Guile) get their time to shine, which I'm fine with.

Super Mario Bros.
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Around the late 80s and early 90s, Hollywood started to see the potential in video games, so they started off with arguably the most popular game out there, which was Super Mario Bros., and so it was that the adaptation of the beloved Nintendo game was the first major video game movie produced by Hollywood.

The film had a pretty big budget of $48 million at the time, and was being heavily advertised, even in the video game magazine Nintendo Power, unfortunately, once the film was released, it received negative reviews from critics, and managed to disappoint fans of the video games, and thus, Super Mario Bros. Bombed at the box-office, thus, sadly, setting the standard for the majority of video game movies to come (despite a few good or decent ones here and there). However, despite the extremely cold reception the film received upon release, the film has had somewhat of a cult following from people who either love it, or consider it to be a guilty pleasure. Is this film the disgrace fans of the games and critics pointed it out to be, or is it truly an underrated film worthy of the cult favorite status it holds? My answer is...it's sort of stuck in between those two honors, I'll explain...

The plot of the film centers around Mario Mario (played by Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (played by John Leguizamo), two plumbers from Brooklyn who end up in an alternated dimension, where humans evolve from dinosaurs as opposed to mammals. They have to rescue a princess named Daisy (played by Samantha Mathis) from an evil lizard king named Koopa (played by Dennis Hopper), who plans to use Daisy to merge this dimension with ours by using a fragment of a meteorite that hit the Earth 65 million years ago.

The biggest challenge filmmakers faced was trying to create a coherent plot and visual style that successfully emulates the video game into live-action, and as you can tell, they didn't really succeed in doing so. It does contain the basic premise of two plumbers attempting to rescue a princess from a lizard king,but the setting of the film was changed from the colorful, happy Mushroom Kingdom (as seen in the video games) to a dark, dystopian world which many viewers consider similar to Blade Runner, this was one of the primary reasons why Mario fans dismissed the film. In all fairness, the video game itself seems like a tough contender to adapt into live-action film, while they are linear in substance, the visual style, tone and elements of the games are rather strange for live-action, and seem better suited for an animated film, which is what they should have gone with in the first place. The visual design, while not really something that feels looks nor feels like Super Mario Bros., is actually rather impressive, you can tell they spent the $48 million on the screen, however, this is more of a mixed result when it comes to the special FX. The animatronics and makeup (including the Goombas and Yoshi) look pretty good, but some of the blue-screen and computer FX aren't the most impressive, despite being cleverly used in certain areas.

Apparently, the original script was more in line of what you'd expect from a film based on Super Mario Bros., but once husband-wife directing team Rocky Morton and Annabel Jenkel (whom created the Max Headroom series) were hired to direct, the film was changed to a more darker film. The production faced many problems since day 1, including this directing team treating crew members like shit, they then were booted off the set, and replaced by an uncredited Roland Joffe. Another major issue with the film is that it tries to please both kids and adults, yet, it fails to captivate both target demographics.

The script is absolutely weak, despite the concept of humans evolving from dinosaurs actually being interesting. The one thing I do like about this film, besides the impressive production values, is the camaraderie between Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi. While it's rather odd to see them as brothers (especially since John Leguizamo is too young to be convincing as Bob Hoskins' brother, though this is rectified since Mario is supposed to be the older one, and the father figure of the two), there scenes together are admittedly fun to watch. The saddest part about this is that since the set was chaotic, both Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo had to get severely drunk in order to make it through the filming process, Bob Hoskins would later go on record by saying that starring in Super Mario Bros. Was the worst thing he had ever done, and that the making of the film was "a fucking nightmare". During the 20th anniversary of the film, John Leguizamo recorded a video on YouTube expressing that he enjoyed making the movie, despite claiming in his autobiography that he didn't like it.

Apart from Hoskins and Leguizamo, most of the cast is more-so a mixed bag. Dennis Hopper (RIP) gives an extremely hammy performance as Koopa, and doesn't resemble the original character (known as Bowser in the American versions of the games) the least bit. Not many of the cast stand out due to the weak script and characterizations. The dialogue is a mixture of both cringe-worthy and hilarious, which does at least give somewhat of an entertainment value to the film.

Super Mario Bros. May not be a good film or adaptation by any means, but I can at least give the film credit for trying to make a video game movie work, though this wasn't accomplished until the release of Mortal Kombat (which I still consider to be one of the better video game to film conversions). As far as movies based on video games go, there are certainly worse (Street Fighter and Alone in the Dark, especially).

PROS: Great set designs, and cinematography, decent special FX, nice moments with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, the idea of humans evolving from dinosaurs, the soundtrack and score.
CONS: The poor script, Dennis Hopper hamming it up as Koopa (though it's not his fault, and he's still a good actor, RIP), weak supporting characters, not really an accurate representation of the Mario games, and it should have been animated.
MIXED: Dialogue being so cringe-worthy and laughable at the same time, some of the acting really is a mixed bag.