7 ways you didn't realise the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie is the most stunningly accurate video game adaptation ever made

It uses palette-swap characters and repeated sprites to save on work

Like many early ‘90s games, Mortal Kombat made flagrant use of palette-swap sprites to save on work and cost. The technique has been a staple game design trope since the ‘80s, of course. Need to quickly create a second protagonist for a two-player mode? Just change your hero’s blue bits for red bits and away you go. Need seven different types of goon for your scolling beat ‘em up, but don’t have the time or the inclination to make seven different sprites? Change the first one’s hat colour six times, put a different name on each ‘new’ character’s energy bar, and pat yourself on the back son, because you’ve just made a game.

And as for background crowds, that’s easy. Just make everyone related. Really, really closely related.

Above: Mortal Kombat background monks. A brotherhood in more ways than one

The MK movie understood this tradition. It respected this tradition. And so it continued it in live-action form. Obviously the plot centres heavily around fan-favourites Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile (arguably the absolute zenith of the palette-swap tradition themselves), but check out these omnipresent oily red-hood guys too.

They make up the numbers in every single large scale fight in the film, fill out the background of every big set, and if their identikit costumes and interchangeable masked faces don’t make them the living, breathing embodiment of the repeated sprite shortcut, then frankly, I’m actually going bother coming up with a suitable ending for this sentence.

It’s possible to almost win a fight just by using the cheap sweep trick

Seriously people, this is attention to detail. You might remember that one of the most brilliant/despicable things about the first couple of Mortal Kombat games was the way in which it was almost entirely possible to win a match simply by sweeping your opponent to the ground and using repeated low kicks into order to keep them down. There is no more quintessential element of the early Mortal Kombat games that this cheap-ass broken bit of design. Ask anyone. Even Ed Boon will tell you. Probably.

And given that the Mortal Kombat film is - as should now be agonisingly clear - the utter pinnacle of granular adaptational accuracy, it makes sure that this element is right at the centre of proceedings. Check out the big fight between Johnny Cage and Scorpion. Check out the bit at 2:38 when Scorpion turns around a prolonged beat-down by dropping Johnny with a sweep. Check out the bit immediately afterwards when he uses a load of low kicks to stop him getting back up. 

Yes, it’s a subtle tribute. Some might even claim coincidence. But “Nay!”, says I. It’s clearly an allusion to Mortal Kombat’s greatest and most iconically crap tactic. If it wasn’t a gushing and highly deliberate cinematic tribute to the early games’ most fundamental strand of DNA, then why would it appear in this most important of the film’s fights, being as it is the turning point which allows Johnny Cage to move on to take down Goro, leaving the path clear for Liu Kang to have a crack at Shang Tsung?

Some might even argue that Cage’s triumph over the iconically cheap sweep-kick combo is the defining philosophical moment of the film, being the subtextual point at which determination and human nobility metaphorically rise to defeat the forces of darkness, deceit and cynical dishonour. That’s probably going too far though. Let’s not get crazy about over-analysing this now.

But such talk of boss encounters does lead me onto my next couple of none-more-juicy points…


Mortal Kombat


  • codystovall - August 27, 2012 5:51 a.m.

    Never watched it, will never watch it.
  • Yokosuka046 - August 27, 2012 8:42 a.m.

    You are really missing out. It was actually a commercial success, and was well received audience wise when it came out. It's awesome, silly fun and it's amazingly accurate (aside form the articles jokes). As an adult gamer it's one of my favorite films. Besides you aren't going to find a better video game movie outside this or Silent Hill.
  • wampastompa - August 27, 2012 11:18 a.m.

    Why? It's one of the most enjoyable video game movies of all time. And I know that's like saying it's the smartest kid with down syndrome, but it's actually really good. Get some buddies together, bring a six pack and watch it on a Saturday night, you won't be disappointed.
  • ChiChiRocket - August 28, 2012 7:49 p.m.

    Thank you for your interesting, insightful and not-at-all-completely-useless input.
  • SDHoneymonster - August 27, 2012 6:14 a.m.

    Oh god the waistlines, the 90s trouser waistlines...
  • Moondoggie1157 - August 27, 2012 6:29 a.m.

    Great Flick, definitely embodied Mortal Kombat. I lived by this movie when I was little, and boy was I excited when the sequel came out... And, well... We all know how that went. Anywho, I think this calls for me to re-watch Mortal Kombat, and that makes me excited MUAHAHA!
  • bass88 - August 27, 2012 6:37 a.m.

    I actually love this film. Alongside Big Trouble In Little China, it's the only American film to capture the Hong Kong aesthetic. Vibrant colours, spooky (not scary) production design, a feee-flow camera and energetic editing. And Christophe Lambert rocks. Just like he did in White Material.
  • sandplasma - August 27, 2012 7:04 a.m.

    I somewhat agree with you, I feel the electric guys in Big Trouble in Little China were better Raidens however. lol
  • Galgomite - August 27, 2012 8:19 a.m.

    The first MK movie IS awesome, in a way I could only truly appreciate after seeing the second, but I don't actually agree with much of anything else in this article.
  • Godzillarex - August 27, 2012 9:19 a.m.

    Great article! Probably the best video game movie of all time.
  • smcgarvey - August 27, 2012 11:08 a.m.

    You haven't lived until you've seen Mortal Kombat as a midnight movie. Haven't lived, I tell you.
  • gilgamesh310 - August 27, 2012 11:11 a.m.

    David's articles seem to becoming more pretentious by the days. I'm sure any of us could contrive some sort of logic as to why even the House of the Dead film is a masterpiece. I do like Mortal Kombat though and think it's at least the joint best movie adaption(with Silent Hill).
  • BladedFalcon - August 27, 2012 11:17 a.m.

    You do realize he was being sarcastic and the entire article was sardonic and a joke in nature, right?
  • GR_JustinTowell - August 28, 2012 5:20 a.m.

    Erm... I think on this occasion he was being serious!
  • Moondoggie1157 - August 27, 2012 6:43 p.m.

    Man, what a downer... You're like a bottle of Valium, women's basketball and Ben Stein all rolled into one. You've actually lowered me into a depression, like an R.E.M. and old photo depression, you know the kind. Thanks for that. **Everyyybodyyy Hurrrrts*** Why do people have to be buzzkills? Especially when they actually agree with the article? Ehhhh... I don't get it.
  • Sjoeki - August 27, 2012 1:30 p.m.

    17 years? Has it been that long since that movie came out? Starting to feel old over here!
  • Rowdie - August 27, 2012 2:13 p.m.

    All the beautiful research out the door with one nut shot to goro.
  • Erebus - August 27, 2012 10:43 p.m.

    THIS!!!!!! I remember all my friends and I that watched this at the cinemas stating as much. " can't groin punch Goro!!!!11!!"

Showing 1-20 of 30 comments

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