Stars: Christopher Lambert, Cary Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Linden Ashby, Talisa Soto, Chris Casamassa. Directed by Paul Anderson. Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity.

I thought that basing a full-length motion picture on a half-hour sitcom ("Beverly Hillbillies", "The Brady Bunch", etc.) was iffy, but that practice has nothing on basing movies on video games. Forming a plot around characters whose only previous interaction has been kicking each other in the head is about as flimsy as a story source as you can find. I can only imagine what's next in line; perhaps basing a film on the recipes found on mayonnaise jars. The mind reels.

Lord Rayden (Christopher Lambert), the God of Lightning and Thunder, warns the human race that it is about to be taken over. Shang Tsung (Cary Tagawa), who rules the realm of Outworld for his emperor, only needs to win one more Mortal Kombat in order to be able to unleash his dominions on the Earth. Film star Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), special agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), and all-around good guy Liu Kang (Robin Shou) stand the best chance of defending the planet against meanies such as Sub- Zero, Scorpion, and the monster known as Prince Goro.

"Mortal Kombat" is a much better film than last year's "Street Fighter". This is largely due to the fact that the newer film centers its story around the loosely-defined story of the game. "Street Fighter", on the other hand, tried to build an elaborate plot which left its characters little time to do much street fighting. "MK" has plenty of good martial arts action scenes and some truly impressive special effects to show off.

Of course, the film falters terribly when it introduces a concept as foreign to these kombatants as dialogue. Indeed, a developing romance between Johnny and Sonya is handled in a particularly embarrassing manner. And such inspired mumbo-jumbo as facing one's enemy, one's self, and one's fear is almost completely glossed over when push comes to shove. Still, I can't imagine too many video game fans being disappointed with the movie version of "Mortal Kombat. Unlike Jean-Claude Van Damme as the star of "Street Fighter", at least we can understand what Christopher Lambert is saying.

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