Tag Archives: video game movie

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

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Today’s movie is one of the most famously successful video game film adaptations of all time: 1995’s Mortal Kombat.

The screenplay for Mortal Kombat was written by one Kevin Droney, who only had a few scattered credits writing for television shows like Highlander and Hunter at the time. Since Mortal Kombat, he only wrote one other feature: Wing Commander, also based on a successful video game.

Mortal Kombat was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who has also been behind such movies as Pompeii, Resident Evil, and Event Horizon.

The cinematographer for Mortal Kombat was John R. Leonetti, who also shot movies like The Conjuring, Insidious, I Know Who Killed Me, Joe Dirt, The Scorpion King, The Mask, and Child’s Play 3.

kombat1The editor for the film was Martin Hunter, who has cut such films as Event Horizon, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Full Metal Jacket.

The music for Mortal Kombat was composed by George S. Clinton, who has also worked on such films as The Love Guru, Beverly Hills Ninja, American Ninja 2, and American Ninja 3.

The makeup effects for Mortal Kombat were provided by a team that included Moni Mansano (Hook, Ninja III: The Domination, Revenge of the Ninja), Thomas Floutz (Face/Off, Critters, From Beyond), Eileen Kastner-Delago (Thor, Cliffhanger), and Raqueli Dahan (True Detective, Kingpin, The Usual Suspects).

The special effects team for the film was composed of Joanne Bloomfield (Tremors II, Galaxy Quest), Duncan Capp (Troy, The Brothers Grimm), Michael Dawson (A View to a Kill, Judge Dredd), Michel Gagne (Space Jam, Vampire in Brooklyn, Demolition Man), Patrick Gerrety (Red Planet, Con Air, Theodore Rex), Alec Gillis (Leviathan, Wolf), David Hoehn (Space Truckers, Wolf, Anaconda), Tom Woodruff, Jr. (Wolf, Leviathan), Patricia Villalobos (Leprechaun 3, Slither), Ron Trost (The Omega Code), Kirk Skodis (Small Soldiers, Prehysteria), and Alison Savitch (Simon Sez).

kombat4The Mortal Kombat visual effects team included common elements with such films as Life of Pi, Batman & Robin, Minority Report, Congo, Daredevil, Red Planet, Theodore Rex, Predator 2, Super Mario Bros, Captain America, Bordello of Blood, and TRON.

The team of producers for Mortal Kombat included Lawrence Kasanoff (Foodfight!, Class of 1999, Blood Diner, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud) and Robert Engelman (Mystery Men, Kazaam, Blade, Shocker, From Justin To Kelly).

The cast of Mortal Kombat includes Christopher Lambert (Highlander 2, Fortress, The Gaul), Robin Shou (Death Race, Beverly Hills Ninja), Linden Ashby (Teen Wolf, Melrose Place), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Vampires, License To Kill), Bridgette Wilson (Billy Madison), and Talisa Soto (License To Kill).

kombat5The plot of Mortal Kombat centers on an extreme, supernatural martial arts tournament, where the finest fighters from multiple dimensions fight to the death for the ultimate claim of glory.

The production of Mortal Kombat was plagued with casting difficulties from the onset. First,  Brandon Lee (Laser Mission) was selected to be Johnny Cage, but tragically died during the filming of The Crow. Then, Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down the role to star in a rival video game movie adaptation: Street Fighter. Rumors have also circulated that Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp were both approached for the role, but turned it down. Adding to the troubles, Cameron Diaz was apparently at one point set to play the part of Sonya Blade, but had to back out due to an injury before filming began.

The soundtrack to Mortal Kombat was particularly huge, going platinum in less than two weeks after its release. The music was a mix of techno and dance, integrating clips from the the original game audio, which proved to resonate with fans.

Steven Spielberg, a fan of the video game, was apparently supposed to appear in a cameo role during the introductory Johnny Cage scene, but scheduling conflicts ultimately prevented him from doing so.

Mortal Kombat was of course a massively controversial video game due to its violent and graphic fatalities, leading to significant public outcry against it. The film, on the other hand, is not particularly gory, and even received a PG-13 rating by the MPAA.

kombat2Not only did Mortal Kombat receive a sequel in Moral Kombat Annihilation, but a number of attempts have popped up over the years to reboot the franchise on film. Currently, James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) is reportedly attached to an upcoming adaptation by Warner Brothers, which is set tentatively set to release sometime in 2016. There is also an ongoing web series based on the game called Mortal Kombat Legacy, which was created after the positive reception to the short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth.

The reception to Mortal Kombat was generally pretty poor: it currently holds a 5.8 rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 33% (critics) and 58% (audiences). In spite of the negative reviews, the movie managed to rake in a whole lot of money: it grossed $122 million worldwide in theaters on a budget of $18 million.

Personally, I feel like Mortal Kombat is one of the more loyal video game movie adaptations out there, with the exception of the lack of gore (which is notable). However, the character designs and fighting arenas all look like they could be pulled straight out of the games, and the fighting sequences aren’t too shabby. While the lack of gore is a huge issue for this movie, I can’t imagine a more faithful adaptation under a PG-13 rating.

kombat3All of that said, just because a movie is accurate to the game doesn’t make it a good film. The game Mortal Kombat is more or less plotless, and doesn’t really connect one fight scene to the next. That means that the screenplay for the movie was on its own in regards to connective tissue to string the fights together, and it didn’t do a particularly good job of it. When a fight scene isn’t in progress, this movie is just…dull. The characters and plot, while fine and good for the purposes of a fighting game, are really boring when applied to a movie that requires progress and character development.

It is worth noting that the very idea of a PG-13 Mortal Kombat movie is a bit bizarre and soulless to start with. Clearly, the only reason to make the movie PG-13 was so that it could be marketed to a younger audience, and thus increase its potential at the box office. However, the game is intentionally violent and catered to an adult audience, so making the movie sanitized for the purpose of reaching out to early teens (and younger) is just kind of icky. I personally think an R-rated movie with more realistic and brutal violence is more appropriate than the cartoonish and bloodless affair in this film. Realistically, which one of those is setting a worse understanding of the consequence of violence at the end of the day? Also, and more importantly, an R-rated Mortal Kombat would be way more entertaining.

Overall, Mortal Kombat isn’t an absolutely awful movie, at least when put side-to-side with other video game adaptations (like its sequel, or the many Uwe Boll features). I do think most of its value at this point comes from nostalgia more than anything else, though I am always a big fan of Christopher Lambert hamming it up in a campy movie. I feel about the same way about this movie as I do about Super Mario Bros: I’ll watch it and enjoy it out of a sense of nostalgia, but there isn’t really any doubt that this qualifies as a bad movie. I think its reputation is worse than it deserves from fans due to the lack of gore, but it also isn’t deserving of any props.

If you are going on a 90s kick and are looking for a way to extend your nostalgia trip, pop in Mortal Kombat. It can serve that purpose well enough.

How To Make A Monster

How To Make A Monster

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Today’s feature is a television movie from 2001: How To Make A Monster.

How To Make A Monster was written and directed by George Huang, who is best known for Trojan War and the Kevin Spacey dark comedy Swimming With Sharks.

The cinematographer for How To Make A Monster was Steven Finestone, who also shot Swimming With Sharks for George Huang, and worked as a camera operator on films like The Philadelphia Experiment, Saturday the 14th, Battle Beyond The Stars, and Humanoids From The Deep.

The editors on How To Make A Monster were Daniel T. Cahn (The Young and The Restless, Darkman II) and Kristina Trirogoff, who was an assistant editor on Phone Booth, Collateral, Heat, McHale’s Navy, and Gone Fishin’.

The musical score for How To Make A Monster was composed by David Reynolds, who has worked in the music departments for such movies as Rounders, The Big Kahuna, Species, Entrapment, and Wanted.

The special effects on How To Make A Monster were provided by the Stan Winston Studios, and the creature design is credited to Stan Winston himself (Jurassic Park, Small Soldiers, Congo, Lake Placid, Predator 2, Leviathan, Terminator 2).

makeamonster1The cast of How To Make A Monster includes Clea DuVall (Argo, The Faculty, She’s All That, But I’m A Cheerleader), Steven Culp (Bosch, JAG), voice actor Jason Marsden, Tyler Mane (X-Men, Troy), Karim Prince (Power Rangers Zeo), and Danny Masterson (That ’70s Show).

The plot of How To Make A Monster centers on a video game development team who is hired to revamp a horror game that has been panned by test audiences. They are given four weeks to create a new monster and overhaul the game, with a $1 million bonus on the line for whoever makes the game the scariest. However, the monster AI they develop proves to be a little more effective than they had planned.

How To Make A Monster features a cameo by b-movie actress Julie Strain as herself, doing motion capture for the fictitious video game featured in the movie. She is best known for such movies as Heavy Metal 2000, Sorceress, and Out For Justice.

One of the monsters depicted in the game featured in the movie is clearly modeled after pikachu, the popular species of electric mouse from Pokemon. However, the adorable icon is re-imagined as a monster worth of Doom.

makeamonster4The reception to How To Make A Monster was pretty negative: it currently holds a 4.4 rating on IMDb, and a 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The monster itself in How To Make A Monster actually looks pretty cool, and becomes more of a gory patchwork of slain characters as the movie progresses.

As you would imagine, all of the sequences that take place “in game” have aged pretty poorly, given how quickly graphic technologies for video games have developed over the years. However, I think it is kind of charming, and feels like a sort of period piece as a result. For video game fans, there are certainly enough nods to the audience and ample nostalgia for them get a kick out of re-watching this movie now.

makeamonster3However, there are certainly some huge drawbacks to this movie. The characters are all very simple stereotypes that are far from flattering to the population of gamers, and people in the tech industry in general. Even worse, the resulting tone as a whole is at best bluntly misanthropic. The conclusion of the story dives that home even further, as it is very downbeat and depressing (and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is). Interestingly enough, it reminded me a lot of the mediocre ending of Swimming With Sharks, an earlier work by the same writer/director, which has the same sort of tone and resolution.

On the whole, I am pretty conflicted about How To Make A Monster. The creature is definitely the reason to watch, but the writing and characters that surround it can’t really be avoided, and they are all some combination of creepy, disgusting, or vile. The preachy message about greed and corporatism isn’t necessarily wrong by any means, but the way it is executed is far overblown. You’ll also probably figure out that the title of the film has a double meaning as the soon as all of the characters are established, or at least by the end of the first act.

If you really like Stan Winston effects or early horror PC games, I think this is worth checking out. For everyone else, I think it is a toss-up. The writing isn’t any worse than most slasher movies at the end of the day, and this is probably a tad better than Evolver when it comes to killer video game movies. However, Evolver is way more fun in my opinion, which is what this movie is missing most overall.