May 28, 2007

Mortal Kombat! Duh-duh-dede-duh-duh-dede-MORTAL KOMBAT!

Some performers in martial arts films are already trained in martial arts. In a lot of cases they don't have any skill at all, and their fights are choreographed dances. In a few cases (The Matrix) the actors go through intensive training, but that's expensive and they don't usually bother.

You can usually tell when the actors are or are not trained. Those who really do know their stuff do the moves better. Their motions are more crisp; their forms are cleaner. The actors who are just dancing tend to look rather sloppy. It's usually pretty obvious. (Not invariably, though. Zhang Ziyi had no martial arts training before doing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and I thought her fights were excellent. It perhaps helped that she was a very accomplished dancer.)

When David Carradine did the original Kung Fu series, when I was in college, he was just doing dances. But he got interested in martial arts and spent several years studying and got reasonably good, and his later martial arts sequences are noticeably different.

I have a weakness for the movie Mortal Kombat. As video game adaptations go, this particular one had less to work with than average. The game has only the barest of a story; there's a tournament, and the player's avatar competes in it and tries to win. That's pretty much it.

To make a movie out of it they needed a bit more than that. So they rather arbitrarily decided that Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage would be the heroes. Rayden got promoted to deity, as "guardian of the Earth". Shang Tsung became the enemy "boss". It's cheesy, but what makes it work for me is Linden Ashby's performance as Johnny Cage. (And Lambert chewing the scenery, which is always fun.) The Cage character is the source of a lot of comic relief, though the character is also a great fighter and never loses a fight in the film.

It's cheesy. It's a guilty pleasure. I would never claim that it is in any way excellent, but the budget was pretty large, and the special effects are about what they should be for a B-movie like this, and generally the fights are pretty good. But there's quite a wide variety of levels of experience in the martial arts among the performers.

Christopher Lambert doesn't have any experience with martial arts, but the Rayden character never fights. (Or not with his fists; he fights with special effects.) Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade) is cute and bouncy but has no martial arts experience at all, and her fights were the worst in the film. (She also gave the worst performance.) Talisa Soto (Kitana) also has no fighting experience, but she only had one fight and got trounced, so it wasn't a problem. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung) was also not well trained, but he did a moderately good job of faking it. (He might have studied some; I'm not clear on that.)

On the other hand, a lot of the actors have a great deal of experience in martial arts. Robin Shou (Liu Kang) has extensively studied a Chinese form called Wu Shu. Chris Casamassa (Scorpion) has a 7th degree black belt in Karate. Fran├žois Petit (Sub-Zero) has multi-level black belts in four Japanese fighting forms, including a 7th degree black belt in Karate. Keith Cooke (Reptile) is a master of Karate and Wu Shu.

What I can't figure out is Linden Ashby. His bio on IMDB doesn't mention any martial arts training, but his fights are too good for me to believe he hasn't studied. I recall at least one spinning kick, and that's a really tough move to do well. His was fast and crisp. (Of course, I don't know how many takes they had to do.)

If, in fact, Ashby really didn't have any martial arts training then it makes one of the running gags in the film particularly funny. Johnny Cage is portrayed as a movie actor who does martial arts films and is portrayed by a hostile press as being a phony, though he isn't. "You can't fake those moves." But was Linden Ashby, the actor in this martial arts film who portrayed Johnny Cage, actually faking it?

UPDATE: By the way, I really do like the first Mortal Kombat film, but words cannot express just how utterly shitty the sequel was. The only thing about it that was any good was the lady who replaced Wilson as Sonya Blade. Not only was she better looking and a better actress, but her fights were a hell of a lot better. But everything else about the movie sucked more than you can possibly believe.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 03:58 PM | Comments (24) | Add Comment
Post contains 784 words, total size 5 kb.

1 Actually, the outline of the plot of the first MK movie does in fact come from the games. . . just not the first game.  Rather, starting with the second game, they retconned in a more extensive framing story.  Thus, the general idea ( "Heroic martial artists have to win tournament to keep Shang Tsung from unleashing his master into the mortal world." ) is straight from the games, as are ( some ) elements of the individual character concepts.

Btw, when I hit the 'Add Comment' button, it showed me as Name:  Pete Zietzev(sic), with a mail and web entry.  I have no clue who that is, but its not anyone who uses this computer.  So, you might have a glitch.

Posted by: metaphysician at May 28, 2007 04:28 PM (ZXyXx)

2 You're the second person to say something about that, but I'm not the person who should be hearing about it. Pixy? There may be a serious security issue here.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 28, 2007 04:51 PM (+rSRq)


Posted by: Wonderduck at May 28, 2007 05:02 PM (eCrFX)


Oh, and I had the same thing occur to me a few days ago.  It's happened here and over at Brickmuppet's place.  It only occurs if there are no comments, and not always then... but it does happen.

I've also had instances of the comment box riding up and covering the last nth of a post, or some comments.  That one has happened more than a couple of times, and both with and without comments.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 28, 2007 05:06 PM (eCrFX)

5 Damn.  I've seen that one before, but couldn't track it down.

Okay, that goes to the top of the bug list.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 28, 2007 05:37 PM (PiXy!)


A guess: when the form tries to retrieve the cookie, and cannot do so, it uses the last information it got from a cookie from anyone rather than clearing the form out.

Or... when it tries and fails to retrieve a cookie it doesn't do anything to the form, and thus the previous information left over from the last guy remains in it.

In both cases my guess is that you're not correctly handing the failure to retrieve the cookie.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 28, 2007 05:50 PM (+rSRq)


Mortal Combat was better than it had any business being. I cringed when I found out this was the movie I was watching that night, but It was enjoyable.


Regards your other point, many of the more popular Chinese action stars are actually highly proficient dancers. Jackie Chan comes to mind of course (though he is more in the vein of Buster Keaton than others).

Posted by: Ken Talton at May 28, 2007 05:56 PM (eCrFX)

In both cases my guess is that you're not correctly handing the failure to retrieve the cookie.
Yep, pretty much.

The kicker is that it only happens if the page is cached, and the cache times out after two minutes, and registered users bypass the cache.  That made it a real joy to track down.

I'll have a fix for this today.  Thanks for offering your leet b3ta-testing skillz; I was more than a little worried about going live with that one unresolved.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 28, 2007 06:03 PM (PiXy!)

9 It only happens in comments too (right now) - all the other forms require a registered user, and form pages aren't cached anyway.  The system doesn't recognise comment pages as form pages, because they're not, really, and because I do want to cache them.

Anyway, off to recode things a little.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 28, 2007 06:05 PM (PiXy!)


That sounded like a pretty ugly combination of apparently unrelated events; I'm amazed you found it so fast.

I really despise "window of opportunity" bugs.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 28, 2007 06:23 PM (+rSRq)

11 "This is the part where you fall down."

Only saw it once; the acting was pretty bad, and oddly enough, it seemed like the real names did the worst acting.

I enjoy watching people pull off amazing moves, but most kung fu movie plots and characters turn me off; CTHD was an eye-opener for me just because of the production quality.

That said, I've watched a few Jackie Chan marathons, and he *is* the Buster Keaton of Kung Fu.  In one movie, he and a couple of pals keep breaking into arguements that are basically 3 Stooges converted into Kung Fu.  Good stuff, for mindless PWP/Fu Candy.

Now, if you want stupidly over-the-top fu, rent Advent Children.  Yeah, it's not real, but the fu is just silly and jawdropping at times.

Posted by: Big D at May 28, 2007 10:35 PM (JJ4vV)

That sounded like a pretty ugly combination of apparently unrelated events; I'm amazed you found it so fast.

I really despise "window of opportunity" bugs.

It helped that last time I looked at it I eliminated many possibilities, but mostly it was just on of those flashes of insight that don't come along nearly often enough.

Anyway, a patch is in place and the full fix is ready for the next update.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 29, 2007 01:41 AM (PiXy!)

13 Stupid editor!

And now it's working.

Stupid editor.  Grr!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 29, 2007 01:45 AM (PiXy!)

14 Maybe Mortal Combat just seemed good because every other game to movie adaptation has been an 10 out 10 for terribleness (Mario Brothers movie, I'm looking at you)

Posted by: Jason at May 29, 2007 07:00 AM (wSBsc)

15 I think that there have been 1-2 decent video game movies, but I can't recall them offhand.

The biggest disappointment to me personally was Wing Commander.  The writing (and, heck, cinematography)  that went into Wing Commander 4 was far superior to that of the movie.

Posted by: Big D at May 29, 2007 07:13 AM (JJ4vV)

16 I just saw an ad last week for a new Jackie Chan movie.  It's...uh...Rush Hour 3, I think.

It's too bad he's getting old, and his sequences are not as energetic as they used to be.

Posted by: Rick C at May 29, 2007 07:51 AM (deCbf)

17 I thought the "Super Mario Bros" movie was pretty good, but that was mainly because Bob Hoskins was in it. That man cannot fail to be funny if he wants to be.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 29, 2007 08:34 AM (+rSRq)

18 Roger Rabbit it ain't, though.

Posted by: Big D at May 29, 2007 11:20 AM (JJ4vV)

19 Say what? "Roger Rabbit" was based on a book, not on a video game. The book had a real story and a real plot. (Which they changed for the movie, but we'll skip over that part and wave our hands really fast.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 29, 2007 11:48 AM (+rSRq)

20 I know, sorry, I was referring to your Bob Hoskins comment.

Posted by: Big D at May 29, 2007 06:43 PM (JJ4vV)

21 Yeah, Roger Rabbit got killed in the book.
Just a slight plot change.

Posted by: Toren at May 29, 2007 07:54 PM (IkPlj)


I was at a science fiction convention one time which had a panel in which participated the author of the original "Roger Rabbit" book. And he seemed to be very, very happy with what Disney did with it.

Of course, it made him rich, but I don't think that's the only point. They did change his story but he didn't seem to mind in the slightest.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 29, 2007 08:33 PM (+rSRq)

23 Jackie Chan's autobiography has a section dealing with his working in the Hong Kong movie industry during and shortly after he was schooled inn the Chinese Opera.
I thought it was pretty fascinating.

Posted by: RPD at May 30, 2007 07:30 PM (OqhWR)

24 Talking about badly faked martial arts moves: the swordplay of Masi Oka playing Nakamura Hiro on Heroes. This was most painfully obvious in the training sequences between Hiro and his father, played by George Takei. It looked like Hiro trained in the school of "Float like a butterfly, sting like soggy oatmeal".

And next season the story line drops Hiro into medieval Japan. Oka-san had better get some special training.

Posted by: thornharp at May 31, 2007 07:23 AM (d7Yg/)

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