In 1995, I remember very vividly going to see Mortal Kombat on the big screen during my summer off from college (when very often I had nothing else to do). I was instantly wowed by all of the characters that I had played with in the first two video games and seeing them brought to screen. The music was absolutely fantastic (and still one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard). However, what I have carried with me most from that experience is my utter love of one character. Johnny Cage. Fast forward nearly thirty years, and we finally have a film where he is the main character and no longer some sort of side gag by all those involved. Let’s go to the Cage Match! Join me, won’t you?
We start off with a jazz tune in the subway played by Santa Claus. A thief decides to steal from Santa Claus. How dare that guy! The criminal then runs to the closest subway car with nobody willing to stand in his way since he has a gun. Nervous, he gets to the top of subway car to get away from everyone else. But someone is following this cutpurse, and that looks to be a mime?! The mime attacks the thief, who soon demands that the performer say something, anything. But all the mime says is “Mime the Gap.” Shortly after that, we hear “CUT!” It would appear that was the wrong line in the script.
Script? Yes, we are on the set of Mime Ninja. The lead actor is Johnny Cage (voiced by Joel McHale), and the director (voiced by Matthew Mercer) is none too happy about the improvised line (I thought it was fantastic, but what do I know). They argue about it some more, but Johnny soon makes the director see things his way by a creative way of intimidation. Let’s roll those credits, shall we?
Back at the trailer, we see assistant Chuck (voiced by Dusan Brown) pick out the Orange skittles (or is it M&M’s?). He also forges Johnny’s autograph on some glossy 8×10’s as Cage walks in. Shortly after, the producer Brian Van Jones (voiced by Phil LaMarr) comes in to talk with Johnny. It appears there is a problem, and it’s not Johnny’s acting. Jennifer (voiced by Jennifer Grey), the lead actress, has gone missing. Johnny decides that he should go over to the girl’s house to investigate. By the way, Johnny, you are supposed to pick out the red candies, not the orange ones. (Red 40 is so awful for you.)
Chuck and Johnny are soon driving to Jennifer’s estate. Chuck asks Johnny about how he got so cool. Our hero then goes into his origin story of where he was bullied by kids in grade school. He then was trained by Master Boyd (voiced by Armen Taylor), which leads to a training montage. Very nicely done. If you are ever in trouble or need a question answered, just ask yourself: “What Would Johnny Cage do?” Luckily, this reviewer asks himself that question rather often, but never gets the right results.
When the two get to the gate of the house, they ring the intercom, only to find out that nobody appears to be home. Johnny tells Chuck to leave but be ready to come get him at a moment’s notice. The movie star scales the fence and finds no one inside of the home either. All of a sudden, Cage hears female grunting emanating from a nearby bedroom. Of course, he goes to investigate. However, it’s not grunting of a certain nature as Cage wanted it to be, but of a fighting kind. Ashrah (voiced by Kelly Hu) and Kia (voiced by Grey Griffin) are locked in, well … mortal kombat (yes, you have to spell it with a “K”). They are fighting over a parchment of unknown origin. Eventually Kia makes off with the parchment, and then the house blows up. Looks like Johnny is in way over his head. Will the action star stay alive long enough to save the day?
The first thing that probably should be explained about this film is that it is perfectly set in the 1980’s (though a 1970’s disco Johnny might have been interesting) backdrop of Hollywood glitz and cheesiness. If the film reminds you instantly of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, then you are in exactly the right mindset. This is a fantastic and hilarious story that gives you some great insight as to the development of the Johnny Cage character. He is Johnny Bravo, he is Wonder Man circa late 80’s, he is the legendary martial arts actor and dashing leading man (in his own mind) that we have come to expect. Wonderfully voiced by Joel McHale (who really owns that character voice now, similar to Mark Hamill and the Joker), he really brings this Mortal Kombat icon alive in almost every scene.
This might also be the last time we hear Gilbert Gottfried’s voice in something new. Yes, the instantly recognizable voice of Gilbert’s is here as David Doubldy, Johnny Cage’s agent. There are actually a lot of voice actor greats here, and Jennifer freaking Grey. Yes, the same Jennifer Grey from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Dirty Dancing, 80’s teen icon even. There was some real effort shown here to get all of the right pieces and make this film about as close to right as possible. Is it total fan service, basically? Yes, but if you have been dying for Johnny Cage in a film like this for almost 30 years (damn, I feel old), and the other Legend films didn’t give you enough of him (we won’t even talk about the second live action film), then this is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen in HEVC / H.265 in native 4K with HDR10. Bitrates are wildly different here from talking to action scenes. Let’s start with the good news: action scenes tend to hover in the 70 mbps range and can get all the way up to 90. However, since there is plenty of wisecracking exposition, a lot of the film sits in the 20 to 40 mbps range. If we are looking for an average, let’s settle somewhere around 50 mbps. I really don’t think space was a concern, considering they had a BD-66 to play with (and the film is only 80 minutes long).
The color palette is phenomenal for anyone is who is well versed in the eighties’ aesthetic. The pastels, neons, and bright landscapes all carefully capture the expected vibe of this time period. It is a joy to watch something like this made by people who understand that exact vision. Perhaps the mpbs could have been bumped up a bit, honestly, and some will complain that this has a washed out feel (but that’s kind of the point). Lots of detail; beautifully animated spots with much to enjoy. Truthfully, with the HDR and the pops, this is one of the best animated 4K’s I have seen in an while.
The audio for this one is DTS HD-MA 5.1 in English and also a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are provided in English SDH, Spanish, and French. For the most part, this is a pretty big and bombastic soundtrack. Proving that not everything has to be ATMOS in order to be top-of-the-line, this has plenty of oomph. Dialog is nice and crisp, and there are lots of explosions, bone-crunching fights, and squealing tires to make any audiophile happy. Furthermore, the music feels like it’s lifted straight out of the 80’s, even though I have never heard of any of these songs before, with the glam rock turned up to eleven. If I had to find a negative, I think there could have been points to make it sound a little more Hollywood and less of those sounds to make it feel more demon-like. I’m probably reaching, but it’s a very good track for all of your speakers, including the sub.
- Commentary with Producers Rick Morales, Jim Krieg, and Writer Jeremy Adams : I really do love good-time, fun commentaries especially when they completely fit the type of video on the screen. If this commentary was boring and drawn out with depictions of how they picked a particular color of topaz, I might have shot myself, twice. Thankfully, this is not that, and it makes for a very entertaining and informative commentary. One of the best I’ve heard in recent memory.
- What Would Johnny Cage Do? 9:55: Basically a making-of featurette where we get to listen to Joel McHale, Jim Krieg, and Rick Morales as well as Jennifer Grey talk about the movie. No Gilbert Gottfried footage, sadly, but probably an estate rights thing. Man, I miss him.
- Ninja Mime Trailer 1:03: Retro trailer promoting the movie within the movie. It’s a shame they didn’t animate some extra footage for this one to make it look like a more complete trailer. Just threw together parts of the movie whether or not they belonged.
- NOTE: As with most recent 4K drops from Warner Bros, this does not come with a Blu-ray. However, it has a nice slipcover as well as an Movies Anywhere digital code (pay attention to the expiration date, though; most Warner DC’s are expiring on the due date now). Huge kudos to the WB rep department for actually including the slip and DC with the review copy. THANK YOU! (You wouldn’t believe how rare that is.)
Another note for Johnny Cage fans: Karl Urban (who would be a much better Kano, but I digress) has signed to take on the role for the second live-action reboot film. I wanted Mike Mizanin aka the Miz of WWE fame, as I feel the role was built 110% for him, but I guess it didn’t work out. Mortal Kombat Legends: Cage Match is a fun movie and a wonderful diversion from the usually over-serious world of Mortal Kombat. It has a loaded dose of comedy, action, and wisecracking one-liners that is sure to have every fan grinning their ears off. I would love to see a sequel if I didn’t already know that most Mortal Kombat Legend films tend to be one-offs that explore different characters every film. But since it is different from almost every other MK animated film out there, it might not be for every fan, and some won’t like this one at all. (I tend to ignore those types of people.)
The disc is a further representation of why people shouldn’t sleep on releasing animated movies in 4K. Its bright colors and neon-esque esthetic provide plenty of detail and highlights while providing a meaty audio track that is sure to delight the eyes as well as the ears. The commentary is a worthwhile listen, especially if you enjoy a raucous good time. Again, I wish there was a little smidgen of Gilbert Gottfried performance footage in the extras, but at least in the commentary they talk warmly about the comic legend. Very deeply recommended as long you are able to keep your Mortal Kombat mentality tongue in cheek. Enjoy.