The latest trailer for Mortal Kombat has arrived, and while looks can sometimes be deceiving in regards to trailers, there's no denying this movie brings the proper amount of gore and brutality one would expect. We see familiar characters, vicious fights, and a dragon symbol, but there's one thing I haven't seen in trailers that I think is a real key to capturing the spirit of the beloved video game franchise.
Yes, violence and fighting are the cornerstones of Mortal Kombat, but there's also been a long tradition of the franchise being a bit campy. While it may not seem like the most important thing in the franchise, I believe adhering to camp is what has made the game a lasting property, and will be a large factor in what makes this upcoming remake a memorable success or a forgettable romp.
Camp Has And Is An Important Aspect Of The Mortal Kombat Video Games
I remember the first time I witnessed a fatality playing Mortal Kombat 3 as a child. I was so terrified when Sindel used her hair to spin me into a literal explosion of blood and guts that I never really sat and thought about just how ridiculous the premise of that happening is. Of course, this is just one of the many examples of gore to the point of ridiculousness in Mortal Kombat, without even getting into the sillier stuff such as "Babality" where a fighter turns their opponent into a baby and "Friendship" endings where no one has to die.
Later installments of the game have continued the camp in other ways, such as quippy dialogue you typically wouldn't hear two people exchange before fighting to the death. There's also been a deep embrace of characters like Robocop and Rambo from pop culture, which can always up the cheese factor in the best way possible.
I guess what I'm saying is the Mortal Kombat games at their core have always evoked the energy of a campy action film. The goal is to give the audience something to be shocked and horrified by, but also some laughs along the way to keep things light. It's a bizarre mix to be sure, but one that has kept this franchise running since 1992.
People Remember The Original Mortal Kombat Movie For The Camp
When the Mortal Kombat movie first released in 1995, it was generally poorly-received among critics. Of the complaints noted, critics couldn't happen but notice the lack of blood in the PG-13 movie, and the laughably bad dialogue peppered throughout. Despite that the movie is still celebrated as a cult classic, and will always come up on a list of notable video game adaptions when it comes to movies.
Is the original Mortal Kombat movie a cult classic because it's not gory? I don't think so. It's the corniness of it all, the humor that calls back to the games, and that bitchin' techno song that will get anyone moving to this day. While it may have been viewed as a colossal misstep upon release, I think time has aged Mortal Kombat like a fine wine and made it a better movie than audiences originally gave it credit for.
And while the first movie was critically disappointing, it should be noted Mortal Kombat made a good chunk of change at the box office. It pulled in over $122 million worldwide by the end of its run, which is not too shabby for a movie with a budget of $18 million. The new Mortal Kombat movie is set to deliver on the violence the original movie lacked, but will it deliver the cheese fans have since embraced?
Is The New Mortal Kombat Taking Itself Too Seriously, And Is That A Problem?
I already mentioned how I noticed a distinct lack of wit or camp in the Mortal Kombat trailer, and some of the things I've read on the film have me questioning if it's even being incorporated. Actor Lewis Tan, for example, remarked that the fatalities were so gory that they made him sick, which sounds pretty intense. Of course, that isn't really an explicit sign this show is straying away from camp to help lighten the mood, just that it has some really gross scenes.
There's nothing wrong with violence, and truthfully, I'm thrilled to hear Mortal Kombat may be really gory and gross. The problem is when you add that much heavy material without the camp that the franchise has relied on throughout its entire history, you run the risk of making a movie that takes itself way too seriously. That would be fine in some cases, but perhaps not in a movie where fighters get "birthmarks" that are invitations to compete in an otherworldly tournament.
Maintaining a sense of camp is, in some ways, a submission to cheese critiques. But I would argue it's better a film acknowledge its own ridiculousness rather than ignore it and leave the audience to draw it out. If this Mortal Kombat movie is all doom and gloom with ultra-violence, will that give it enough personality to get audiences excited for this movie, or whatever may come down the line?
I fear if movie looks to be as serious as I've seen so far, we're ultimately in for a solid but forgettable adaptation. Although I'm basing all this off the small bits of footage we've seen of the movie so far, and a few quotes from the actors. Perhaps the violence will be enough to get folks excited about Mortal Kombat again, and the camp and humor are less important to the franchise to others than I believe.