Thoughts on the Mortal Kombat movie, compared to the novel…

It’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me that I’m a pretty big fan of Mortal Kombat. So, it really should be no surprise to anyone that I have the first movie on DVD, and also on my iPhone/iPod. I’ve stated before that one of my little traditions is that if I go on any trip for Mortal Kombat Online, I watch the first movie on the flight. Well, there’s one confession that I kind of need to make, that I really haven’t told anyone before today.

When I saw the movie in theaters, I was actually a bit disappointed.

I should explain. About a month or two before the movie came out, I had bought the novelization of the movie from Waldenbooks. I had already read it before the actual movie came out, so when I saw the movie I was expecting something pretty close to the book. As it turns out, I’m guessing that the novelization was based on an earlier version of the script than was one filmed, as there were some pretty significant differences. In fact, I would personally say that the story of the book was better than the story of the movie. The book differences added more character development and exposure; on the other hand, being closer to the book would have meant the movie would have lost a major fight scene and three major game references (two of which were played for laughs).

Some of the changes that come to mind are…

  • Jax is seen after Sonya boarded Shang Tsung’s boat in a minor sideplot, investigating the tournament and eventually reaching the Temple of Light and meeting Liu’s grandfather.
  • There is a scene after the dinner, where Art Lean is looking for his quarters, is confronted by three or so belligerent fighters, and easily dispatches them.
  • Sonya’s first fight is with Jade. After Johnny comments that he’s heard she’s pretty tough, Sonya begins the match by bowing to Jade. Jade responds with a deep bow, and when she’s at her lowest point, Sonya kicks her in the face with her combat boot, killing her instantly.
  • Sonya refuses to kill Kano during their bout, as it would have meant doing what Shang Tsung wanted and she’s having none of it.
  • The Scorpion/Cage fight ends right at the point where Scorpion created the portal in the movie; Johnny shadow kicks him and knocks him unconscious. At that point it’s revealed that Art saw the whole thing, and comments he thought the shadow kick was a special effect done for movies. Johnny offers to teach it to him after the tournament.
  • Goro is portrayed as a much less blatantly evil and more honorable warrior. After he defeats Art, instead of contemptuously telling Art it was time to die, he says, “You fought well.” After Art’s death, the other Earthrealm fighters give him a funeral/memorial service.
  • After Johnny makes his deal with Shang Tsung, Raiden confronts him with Sonya and Liu. Johnny chews him out, and it is at this point (in front of all three) that Raiden says, “At last, one of you has understood.”
  • In both the book and the movie, Raiden tells Johnny that because of his fear, he’ll rush into any fight to prove he’s not a fake, fight recklessly and foolishly, and lose. His fight with Goro in the movie seems to still be reckless and off-the-cuff, seemingly showing Johnny hasn’t learned anything. In the book, the fight is much longer, and much more brutal. More, Johnny has a definite strategy he uses, including the use of a chain as a weapon and dodging in and out of obstacles to avoid Goro.
  • In the movie, it’s never shown why Goro couldn’t pull himself up from the ledge he was holding onto with one hand, and Johnny makes a smartass remark to him before he falls. In the book, Goro couldn’t lift himself up because Johnny had broken his other wrists using the chain. Johnny offers to help him up, but Goro refuses, saying Shokan die in battle. Johnny acknowledges it and gives a word of respect before Goro falls.
  • In the book, the nature of the light show on the boat, the island itself, and Raiden’s lack of authority there are explained: Liu realizes that they crossed over into Outworld during the light show, and that the island itself was an illusion. It’s when Liu says it that Raiden says, “I have nothing further to teach you.”
  • When they return to the Temple of Light at the very end, they meet up with Jax, Liu’s grandfather, and Raiden. They also see Kano, and Sonya and Jax arrest him. Kitana asks Liu to return to Outworld with her, and Liu asks if Raiden knew it would end like that. Raiden responds with his “I didn’t have a clue; you humans are so unpredictable” and vanishes, ending the book. There’s no confrontation with Shao Kahn.

I’m sure there are a lot of people who would disagree with me, but I actually liked the character development with Art Lean, and the fact that Goro wasn’t just a one-note monster. I still have the novelization of the movie on my bookshelf; I’d probably get rid of the movie sooner than lose the book, especially as the book is FAR harder to come by these days. Truthfully, while we’re getting a heck of a lot of remakes of films out there these days (especially ones that don’t need to be remade), I wouldn’t mind seeing the first movie remade, to be far more like the novel. While the movie as filmed had more of a “kick ass” mentality and crowd pleasing action… I simply thought the novel’s story was better.

If you come across the novelization somewhere, and are a Mortal Kombat fan, I highly suggest you pick it up. It’s a different take on the events of the movie, to be sure… and in my opinion, a superior one.