Patrick McCarron - April 19, 2011
I still remember the day I first saw the "Kombat Begins August 1995" poster at my local movie theatre back in 1994. I was blown away as I hadn't heard that a movie adaption of my favorite video game was on the way. Back then the Internet wasn't quite the information source where it reveals upcoming projects a year ahead of time. I have lots of memories from the day when the movie first came out and the promotions around it like the hidden Kombat Kodes inside the movie credits. I even remember downloading and watching the trailer over and over, and that download took forever. I ended up seeing the movie twice in a row on opening day, so all were great memories of this movie that I loved. I still watch at least once a year since then. While it's not the best movie ever made, it's still got a place in my heart.
It may be an understatement that it's sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, was not quite as good as the original. I personally found the movie it silly, and had not seen it since that day until I sat down to write this review. The movie clearly hasn't improved with age. But before I get too far off topic, I'm not here to review the movies themselves. Instead I want to tell you fans if buying these editions is worth your hard earned cash.
Personally I've been itching to get an update to this movie on an HD format since HD-DVD and Blu-ray came to market. Being an early adopter this movie was on my list of "must get upgraded to HD." When and if this would happen was always up in the air. Then in early 2010, Canada got their own Blu-ray release by Canadian distribution house Alliance Films. Alliance's version was okay, but due to its lower budget, production was not quite right. The movie was actually only presented in 1080i with standard 5.1 surround sound.
Presenting an film in 1080i is a problem for an action heavy movie such as this, as the interlacing is quite noticeable. The colors were also very washed out and didn't look like the original film at all. Another option soon surfaced when Netflix started streaming the movie to it's US Customers. It was nice for free but it was not 1080p and didn't have 5.1 surround sound either. Those features are must haves for those wanting a true HD experience.
Then finally early this year word came out that Warner Bros. was finally looking to release the Blu-ray versions of the movies. The nice folks over at Warner Bros. Home Video sent us a copy of the movies to review last week. Here's a quick rundown of what we found and how it differed from the previous releases.
The packaging of this edition was handled quite nicely, as you can see above. The discs and cover art are really well done yet simple. It's not just the plain black background with logo like the original DVD and last year's Canadian releases (seen below). A bit of extra color goes a long way in this "case" as this slight tweak will help it iso standout on store shelves.
As with previous DVD releases the new Blu-ray releases are slim on bonus features. To make up for the lack of features Warner Bros. added the animated film Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins to the Mortal Kombat Blu-ray, but sadly nothing similar was added to MK Annihilation to give more of a reason to purchase that.
Otherwise both releases also contain the original Mortal Kombat Movie Trailers in Standard Definition along with a high definition Mortal Kombat (2011) trailer.
The the discs also come with a few downloadable extras. As some fans may know, the discs come with Klassic Jade costume for the PS3 version of Mortal Kombat (2011). The code comes on a card, pictured below, that you redeem on PSN to download the costume.
In addition to the classic Costume, there is a Digital Copy of the movie available for mobile devices. The digital copies aren't in HD but they weigh in at about 1.5GB each and look far better than the previous DVD releases. Unlike other digital copies the system Warner Bros. recently started using it doesn't require an extra disc in the package. Instead you'll need to actually have an Internet connection to download the digital copy using the code on the included card, pictured above.
The best part of this release is that they are being released in full 1080p video with lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. This makes it a "true" HD version compared to the Alliance's 1080i and compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound. The movie has never looked or sounded so good.
The first thing I noticed is that the picture quality on this release is quite an improvement. The old DVD which was released in the early days of the technology and never got an improved release as the format improved. The DVD release wasn't even anamorphic so those watching this DVD on newer widescreen HDTVs aren't getting the proper experience even with a good up scaler. Could this version's transfer be better? It's hard to say without seeing the actual original film print again on the big screen.
To show how this version looks and sounds, below is a few clips from each film taken from the Blu-ray itself. Turn on the Player's HD Mode and make the videos full screen for the full HD experience!
The only downfall we see about moving to High Definition is that the movie's low budget computer generated effects from 1995 look quite dated now. This was especially visible in parts of Annihilation, which seemed to have an even lower budget than the first film. But places where the movie used practical special effects like the Goro animatronic puppet and many fight scene elements looked great.
So some have asked us, why bother with these if I have the Canadian release already are readily available to fans in the United States already? Well we found many reasons.
First there is even a visual difference over last years Canadian Blu-ray releases. It seems that those Alliance releases never got proper color correction so the picture seemed more washed out than the original film and previous DVD releases. The original film had an overall red and blue hue to it, which has been properly restored in Warner's re-master of the film.
Below are a few stills of scenes where the differences are clearly visible. You'll see that the Warner Remaster is more colorful and not as washed out instead giving you a richer look to the picture itself. The proper coloring of the movie also helps blend in the computer generated effects more. The Alliance release the computer effects really stood out in some scenes.
The other major difference that we touched on before is that Warner's release is a proper 1080p release. That means that the action is smoother than the Canadian release which was only 1080i. This becomes specially important on the more modern HDTVs during heavy action scenes. I can easy spot the interlacing lines on the Alliance release. That is hard to show here in our review, but you'll have to trust me on that difference.
All in all, this is a must own for Mortal Kombat fans looking to watch the original movies in HD. The picture and sound is the best the movies have been since it's original release in the theaters. We would have loved to see some more on-disc Special Features like the Commentary on some of the foreign releases. But the addition of the Digital Copy and bonus Jade costume for owners of Mortal Kombat (2011) and you got something many will want to own.
Also at the time of writing both movies can be purchased for only $12.99 via Amazon.com: Mortal Kombat Blu-ray on Amazon Mortal Kombat: Annihilation Blu-ray on Amazon. At that price we consider these movies a steal!