Mortal Kombat is a 1995 action movie, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. It is based on the popular Mortal Kombat series of fighting games by Midway. It was filmed in Los Angeles and on location in Thailand.
The movie, quite surprisingly for a film adaption of a video game, received average reviews from critics, most notably a "thumbs up" from Gene Siskel of Siskel & Ebert. It grossed roughly $70 million in the U.S., and an estimated $122 million worldwide.
The film was considered to be the first major success for video-game movie adaptions, coming out a year after the critically disappointing Street Fighter and two years after the disastrous flop, Super Mario Bros. Director Paul W. S. Anderson would go on to work on a film franchise based on Capcom's Resident Evil games.
A sequel to Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, was released in 1997, but is largely considered to be inferior to its predecessor.
Some elements of the film appear to be influenced, in part, by the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon. For example, both films feature 3 martial artists arriving at a secluded island to fight in a tournament, held only periodically, and overseen by a megalomaniac with aspirations of global expansion and domination and a direct relationship to the main protagonist.
- Kombat begins.
- Nothing in this world has prepared you for this.
Once every generation, there is an ancient tournament known as Mortal Kombat, which was designed for the main purpose to save the Realm of Earth from the dark forces of Outworld. If the forces of Outworld win the tournament ten consecutive times, the Emperor, Shao Kahn (though not explicitly referred to by name), will be able to invade and conquer the Realm of Earth and enslave Mankind. Thus far, Outworld has won nine straight victories, making the upcoming tournament the tenth, and possibly final one, for the Realm of Earth. The ex-Shaolin monk Liu Kang and his comrades, Hollywood action star Johnny Cage and Special Forces agent Lieutenant Sonya Blade, must risk their lives and overcome their powerful adversaries in order to win the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, or condemn the planet Earth to eternal damnation.
Although each kombatant was handpicked by the demon sorcerer Shang Tsung to compete in Mortal Kombat, each has his or her own reason for competing in the tournament. Liu Kang seeks to avenge the death of his younger brother Chan Kang, who was killed by Shang Tsung in battle (in a dream Liu Kang has at the start of the film). Sonya Blade is after the notorious and cold blooded killer known as Kano, who is responsible for the death of her partner before Jax. Johnny Cage is competing to prove that he is a true martial artist, and not the fake that the press has made him out to be. Regardless of their individual agendas, they have been recruited and sent to a pier in Hong Kong, where they will be taken to Shang Tsung's island, the site of the tournament. While they are on the boat, the three encounter two of their potential opponents of the tournament, namely the Lin Kuei warrior Sub-Zero and the undead spectre Scorpion, both of whom are slaves under Shang Tsung's power. Before any pre-tournament fisticuffs can take place, however, Raiden, the God of Lightning and the protector of the Realm of Earth, intervenes with two lightning bolts, takes his chosen three aside and explains to them just what they are up against.
Upon their arrival at the island, the fighters of the Realm of Earth are welcomed by Shang Tsung with a feast and the first rounds of the tournament begin the coming day. Behind the scenes, however, Shang Tsung expresses his concern to the Mortal Kombat champion, Prince Goro, that Liu Kang is competing in the tournament and that the Emperor's step-daughter, Princess Kitana, may betray them by allying with Earth. Shang also warns Kano not to harm "the girl," but to only humiliate her, for he has plans for her (calling her "beautiful").
At first, the Earthrealm fighters do well against Shang Tsung's warriors. Sonya defeats and kills Kano, Johnny Cage defeats and kills Scorpion and Liu Kang kills Sub-Zero. However, Goro then enters the tournament. He single-handedly defeats a large number of the kombatants, including Johnny Cage's friend Art Lean, whose soul is taken by Shang Tsung.
After the devastating loss, the three fighters despair, until Raiden provides them with the inspiration to overcome their fears and compete bravely in battle. Johnny Cage decides to challenge Goro himself to avenge the loss of his friend. Before he faces off against Goro, Shang Tsung makes the stipulation that, at any time, he himself may choose to challenge any one warrior at a venue of his choosing. Johnny Cage defeats Goro, sending him falling over the edge of a cliff to his apparent death. Shang Tsung then kidnaps Sonya Blade, invoking his earlier stipulation. Raiden explains to Liu Kang and Johnny Cage that they must go into Outworld without him, and, because Sonya Blade cannot defeat Shang Tsung in combat, one of them must defeat Shang Tsung in her stead.
In Outworld, after Liu Kang successfully fends off an attack from Reptile, he and Johnny Cage are met by Princess Kitana, who reveals the truth about Outworld and her lineage, thus confirming Shang Tsung's suspicions about her. The three, disguised as monks, enter the Emperor's castle, the Black Tower, where Sonya is being held captive. As Princess Kitana and Johnny Cage free Sonya, Liu Kang challenges Shang Tsung to Mortal Kombat. The fiercely fought battle ends in victory for Liu Kang and the Realm of Earth, and the freedom of the souls of all the fighters that were slain in battle and their soul absorbed, including Liu Kang's deceased brother Chan Kang, were set free from Shang Tsung's grip after he dies.
Liu Kang and Kitana happily stride arm in arm back to the Realm of Earth alongside Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, whose previous animosity towards each other has diminished and the two walk together arm in arm. Raiden catches up to them and congratulates them for their efforts in Mortal Kombat. The celebration is cut short, however, by the arrival of the Emperor Shao Kahn, who announces he has come for the souls of Earthrealm's inhabitants. Raiden and the three fighters with Outworld Princess Kitana assume fighting stances as the screen cuts to the credits.
The following Mortal Kombat characters appear in the movie:
- Liu Kang — Robin Shou
- Johnny Cage — Linden Ashby
- Sonya Blade — Bridgette Wilson
- Raiden — Christopher Lambert
- Princess Kitana — Talisa Soto
- Kano — Trevor Goddard
- Shang Tsung — Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
- Sub-Zero — François Petit
- Reptile — Keith Cooke
- Scorpion — Chris Casamassa (voiced by Ed Boon)
- Jackson Briggs — Gregory McKinney
- Prince Goro — Kevin Michael Richardson with vocal effects by Frank Welker
- The Emperor — Frank Welker
A novelization of the movie by Martin Delrio was released through Tor Books. In 1995, several months before the movie's release, Threshold released a tie-in animated film on VHS and Laserdisc, Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. It featured traditional animation, motion capture and CGI to explain the origins behind some of the movie's main characters. The video also featured a fifteen-minute behind-the scenes documentary of the theatrical release. The sets used for the film were digitized for use in The Journey Begins.
Mortal Kombat has been released in different versions (often a package design change or removal of special features) in the following formats:
- VHS - Fullscreen and Widescreen editions
- Laserdisc - Two versions, the AC-3 and DTS sound editions, were released on Laser disc. Each laser disc featured an audio commentary by Larry Kasanoff and Alison Savitch, and since then has not been released on any subsequent release.
- DVD - Full Screen/Widescreen 1997 DVD, 2007 Double Feature by New Line Home Entertainment, 2009 Double Feature by Warner Bros. (which claims it is the widescreen version but is really the fullscreen version from the 2007 edition). A separate 2005 DVD was also anamorphic.
- Blu-Ray - Released on April 19, 2011, the Blu-Ray adds The Journey Begins and the game trailer for Mortal Kombat (2011) as its only major special features. Often people confuse the Canadian Blu-Ray release as the official release, and that is only true in Canada but not in the US. A Blu-Ray of the movie is also sold with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
- Digital Copy - A digital copy will accompany the Blu-Ray.
- TV - Mortal Kombat has appeared on mainly Turner networks (TBS, TNT, TCM) and even Spike and USA, but often with alternate dialogue to replace the profane version from the original release. Often the network premieres featured a special: TBS ran a cross-promotion with WCW wrestlers explaining behind the scenes of Mortal Kombat while TNT released the made-for-TV special, Behind the Dragon, behind the scenes 45-minute long documentary.
- 35mm - Obviously, a theatrical version of this film was released to cinemas.
- Streaming - Though often varying, Mortal Kombat is available through online streaming marketplaces, such as iTunes and Amazon at the time of this writing. It is also now available on Netflix.
- MovieCD - This movie was available on a 2-disc CD-ROM set for the Windows 3x PC.
Mortal Kombat, at $70 million, is the second most successful live-action video game movie in terms of domestic box office grosses (behind 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider).
Mortal Kombat received mostly mixed reviews from critics upon its theatrical release, Gene Siskel gave the film a "thumbs up" rating when the film was reviewed on Siskel & Ebert.
The film currently holds a 5.8 on IMDb, a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 58% on Flixster, and 58 out of 100 on Metacritic.
The general response from casual moviegoers is mostly mixed to positive, the film was well-received by fans of the video game, and was highly praised for sticking to the original premise of the first game while adding in elements from Mortal Kombat II, audiences also praised the fight scenes, production design, and cast, mostly Robin Shou as Liu Kang, Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung, and Trevor Goddard as Kano (the latter two whose performances influenced their respective characters in the later games), however, the special effects have gotten mostly mixed to negative feedback due to some moviegoers claiming that they appear to be dated. The film is often regarded as one of the best video game adaptations.
- The Outworld exterior scenes were filmed at the abandoned Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, California. The site is now the California Speedway.
- All of Goro's scenes were filmed in Los Angeles.
- All principal production, casting, and photography were all done a few years prior to the completion of the film. Many more familiar faces almost ended up with the roles of some of the characters.
- Jason Scott Lee, Russell Wong, Phillip Rhee, Keith Cooke and Dustin Nguyen auditioned for the role of Liu Kang. Before Robin Shou got cast as Liu Kang, he was uninterested, assuming he would be playing a villain who gets killed in the end. His agent begged him to audition, and he did; seven auditions later, he was cast as Liu Kang.
- Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down the role of Johnny Cage to star in Street Fighter. This is fitting, as the original game started life as a different game, starring Van Damme in the role. When the license to use the actor proved too expensive, the character Van Damme would have portrayed became Johnny Cage.
- Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp were both considered for the role of Johnny Cage. Martial artist Gary Daniels was also considered for the role. It is rumored that Brandon Lee was cast to play Johnny Cage, but this has never been proven. Eventually Linden Ashby was cast in the role.
- Cameron Diaz was originally set to play Sonya Blade, but she broke her wrist before filming. Sharon Stone and Dina Meyer were originally considered for the role of Sonya as well.
- Steve James originally had the role of Jax until his unexpected passing in 1993.
- Robin Shou as Liu Kang, a former Xiaolin/Shaolin monk that enters the tournament to avenge his brother's death. Among those who auditioned for the role of Liu Kang were Jason Scott Lee, Russell Wong, Dustin Nguyen and Phillip Rhee.
- Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage (doubled by Brad Martin and J.J. Perry), a Hollywood superstar that enters the tournament to prove to the world that his skills are for real. Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down the role of Johnny Cage to star on Street Fighter. Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Gary Daniels were also considered for the role. Brandon Lee was originally cast, but died before production began. Linden Ashby trained in Karate and Tae Kwon Do especially for this film. Despite the intensity of the fight scenes coupled with the actors performing most of their own stunts, on-set injuries were surprisingly minimal; the only notable occurrence was a mildly bruised kidney suffered by Ashby while shooting Johnny Cage's fight scene with Scorpion.
- Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade, an agent of the law in hot pursuit of the criminal that killed her partner. Cameron Diaz was originally set to play Sonya, but she broke her wrist during a martial arts training prior to shooting and was replaced by Wilson, who was jokingly nicknamed "RoboBabe" during production by director Paul Anderson. Wilson performed all her own stunts, including fight scenes.
- Christopher Lambert as Raiden, the God of Thunder and Protector of Earthrealm that guides the warriors on their journey. An enthusiastic gamer himself, Lambert also voiced Raiden in the French dubbed version of the film.
- Talisa Soto as Kitana (doubled by Dana Hee), the stepdaughter of the Emperor who decides to help the Earth warriors.
- Trevor Goddard as Kano, a mercenary that joined forces with Shang Tsung.
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung, a powerful, sadistic and treacherous sorcerer, and the primary antagonist of the movie. Tagawa was the filmmakers' first and only choice for the role. He came to the audition in a costume, and read his lines while standing on a chair.
- François Petit as Sub-Zero (doubled by Mark Caso), one of Shang Tsung's warriors. As his name implies, he possessed the ability to freeze.
- Chris Casamassa as Scorpion (doubled by Mitchell Gaylord and Jeff Imada), one of Shang Tsung's warriors. His trademark spear from the games was changed to a snake-like harpoon that shot from a slit in his palm. The character was voiced by Ed Boon, co-creator of the original Mortal Kombat. Chris Casamassa was originally hired as a background ninja/stuntman, but during his audition demo he impressed the producers so much that they gave him the part of Scorpion.
- Keith Cooke as Reptile (as Keith H. Cooke), a creature serving Shang Tsung. Reptile's lizard form was rendered with the use of computer-generated imagery, while the character's human form is portrayed by Keith Cooke. Originally not included in the movie, Reptile was added in response to focus groups being unimpressed with the original fights in the film. Actor Robin Shou and director Paul Anderson noted that neither knew what Reptile's lizard form would look like until after filming, making the pre-fight sequence difficult to shoot.
- Kevin Michael Richardson voices Goro , the undefeated Mortal Kombat champion.
- Gregory McKinney as Jackson Briggs, Sonya's partner at the beginning of the movie.
- Frank Welker voices Shao Kahn , the Emperor of Outworld. Welker also provided uncredited vocal effects for Goro and Reptile.
- Steven Ho as Chan Kang, Liu Kang's younger brother who is killed by Shang Tsung. Ho was a former national Karate champion who performed stuntwork for Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.
- Hakim Alston appeared in the film as an Outworld warrior who fights Liu Kang in the first match of the tournament.
- Sandy Helberg is briefly seen in the beginning of the film as the director of Johnny Cage's latest movie.
- Daniel Haggard appears as Johnny Cage's Assistant Movie Director.
- Peter Jason appears as Master Boyd.
- Kenneth Edwards played Cage's friend Art Lean (a character who does not appear in the games created exclusively for the film).
- Lloyd Kino appears as Liu Kang's Grandfather.
- During Kang's final battle with Shang Tsung (About 1:23:30 into the film), we see him running away from a katana fighter, only to jump onto the steps, and back up, to appear behind the fighter. When Kang runs toward the steps, we see Tsung in the hallway observing him, and the next shot, where the film changed camera, Tsung is gone and a new body appears on the ground where he stood.
- Also, during the final battle, after Liu Kang's second wind, there is a moment during Liu Kang's extended barrage of punches that he swings both fists the same direction, striking Shang Tsung twice, but three landing blow sound effects are present.
- The one major change in the film is Sub-Zero and Scorpion's roles as slaves to Shang Tsung, with their rivalry only mentioned in passing by the sorcerer.
- Shang Tsung announced "Finish him!" after Sonya defeated Kano, and did so again later in the film after Goro defeated Art Lean. Both Shang Tsung and Liu Kang announced "Flawless Victory." Shang Tsung also says "Fatality" after stealing the Fighting Monk's soul.
- Johnny Cage performed his Nutbuster on Goro in their match. This is Johnny's trademark move, with its crippling effect made a fatality in Shaolin Monks.
- The Death of Shang Tsung is a Stage Fatality.
- The idea of Kano working for Outworld is from Mortal Kombat 3.
Mortal Kombat II
Although the movie was primarily based on the first Mortal Kombat game, there are several elements that were incorporated from the second game.
- Jax, Kitana, and Shao Kahn were introduced in Mortal Kombat II.
- Reptile's reptilian nature was first demonstrated in MKII, though he was present in the first game.
- Liu Kang's appearance is based on his MKII version as he was hair shorter in the first game.
- Shang Tsung's youthful appearance is first seen in MKII as he was an old man in the first game.
- The explosion of Scorpion's head references Raiden's Fatality in the original Mortal Kombat, while the explosion of his burning body references an opponent after getting toasted by Scorpion's Toasty Fatality in MKII.
- Johnny Cage drops an autographed picture of himself near Scorpion's remains after their battle, which references his autograph Friendship from MKII. The fire-breath finishing moves Scorpion attempts prior to this is also seen in several of the games.
- Several of the scenes in Outworld, such as the Wastelands and the portal through which Shang Tsung took Sonya, was first seen in MKII.
- Sonya's capture is a reference to MKII's storyline.
- When Reptile appears after forming from an Outworld statue a quiet voice can be heard saying "Reptile". The voice is that of Shao Kahn and is taken from Mortal Kombat II.
- Liu Kang used his Bicycle Kick in his match with Reptile. This move was not featured until MKII.
- The shadow priests, seen several times throughout the movie, debuted in the background of MKII.
- The movie is renowned for its memorable theme music ("Techno Syndrome", performed by The Immortals) and the soundtrack album went platinum on the Billboard charts in less than 2 weeks.
- Three songs from Chicago-based group Stabbing Westward (a favorite band of Tobias' at the time) were included in the movie, but were omitted from the soundtrack.
- Goro's theme is a rendition of the band Napalm Death's song "Twist the Knife (Slowly)", except it is played three modulations higher than the standard.
- A music video was filmed for the KMFDM single "Juke Joint Jezebel" and featured clips of fight scenes from the movie, but it was pulled by MTV due to complaints about its violent content.
- The soundtrack also includes five songs that weren't in the movie: "Unlearn" by Psykosonik, "The Invisible" by G//Z/R, "Burn" by Sister Machine Gun, "Blood & Fire" by Type O Negative, and "I Reject" by Bile.
- There are several easter eggs contained within the credits, including an arcade code for MK3 and Goro being credited as playing himself.
- In keeping with the above, film producer Lawrence Kasanoff would often speak of Goro as if he were real, talking about how difficult it was for the crew to appease him on set, notably in the Behind the Dragon special. He also joked that Goro could not have scenes in Thailand, as the government refused due to the devastation he brought to the country long ago.
- On the DVD's French soundtrack, the part of Raiden is voiced by Lambert.
- Robin Shou helped choreograph many of his fight scenes due to his experience in Hong Kong cinema. Instead of the credited choreographer, Pat Johnson, Shou was the lead choreographer for the Johnny Cage/Scorpion and Liu Kang/Reptile fights. In addition to this, Shou also helped conceptualize and design Scorpion's lair, which he based on Tibetan burial tombs. Shou fractured two ribs during his fight with Reptile, but continued on until the scenes were shot.
- In the credits, as well as subtitles, Jax's name is misspelled as "Jaxx."
- According to Midway, the first MK game was to be centered around Jean-Claude Van Damme. Ironically, Van Damme was offered the role of Johnny Cage in this movie but turned it down to play Guile in the less successful Street Fighter movie.
- In the novelization, Sonya spares Kano.
- A fight scene pitting Sonya against Jade was cut from the script during production, but the film's official souvenir magazine, published by Starlog, made mention of it anyway in the plot synopsis: "As Sonya takes on the kimono-clad Jade, Liu Kang has his hands full with the beautiful Princess Kitana." The film's novelization also featured the battle, with Sonya dispatching Jade with a single kick to the head.
- The movie can be seen very briefly viewed by a group of vampires in the movie adaptation of the Blade series of Marvel Comics. The scene showed appears to be Reptile transforming into his infamous human form.
- Raiden's Coolie Hat is only seen in the beginning of the movie.
- An HBO "first look" program showed an alternative death for Scorpion. Instead of exploding after the shield toss, he falls off a platform and onto a spike in an emulation of the classic pit death scene from the video game series.
- Christopher Lambert contributed significantly to the film, both in terms of production and finances. The budget was very tight and stretched so thin by the shoot that the production couldn't afford to fly Lambert to Thailand and provide room and board, thus Lambert's shooting was to be done in an LA studio after principal photography, with Raiden only to appear in the opening of the film. Lambert however offered to pay for his own entire trip if it meant the producers could add more Raiden scenes as they had intended. On top of this, the budget was so maxed by the end of the shoot that the producers couldn't afford a wrap party. Lambert paid for an extravagant wrap party for the cast and crew out of his own pocket.
Influence on the series
- The idea that the forces of Outworld must win the Mortal Kombat tournament ten consecutive times in order to invade Earthrealm was taken directly from the film.
- Raiden's role as a mentor and leader to the Earthrealm warriors was adapted into the games, as was the idea that he cannot participate in the Mortal Kombat tournament due to his status as God of Thunder.
- Trevor Goddard's performance as Kano in the film was widely praised by fans, and was highly inspirational in the character's evolution in the games; Kano has since been retconned as Australian after Goddard's portrayal, and heavily resembles his film counterpart in both appearance and personality.
- To prove to the public, who had dubbed him as a fake, that his martial arts are authentic being Johnny Cage's motive for entering the Mortal Kombat tournament was implemented into his backstory in the games.
- Scorpion's ability to teleport an adversary to the Netherrealm was included in the games, from UMK3 and onwards.
- Reptile was order to watch over Kitana. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, he was order to capture and even kill the princess.
- Kitana bears a facial resemblance to Talisa Soto in several of the later games, including MK Gold, Deadly Alliance, Armageddon, and MK 2011.
- One of Kano's moves involving his Butterfly Knives in Deadly Alliance is called "ear to ear", a reference to a line in the film in which Kano taunts Sonya by claiming to have slit her partner's throat in this fashion. In MK 2011, one of Kano's fast tag combos is also named after the line.
- Raiden's long white hair in the film was also added to the character in the games, starting with Deadly Alliance.
- The way that Shang Tsung kills Chan becomes one of his Fatalities in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
- Shang Tsung's catchphrase "Your soul is mine!" in the film was featured in MK 2011 during the character's pre-fight entrance and one of his win poses in MK 11.
- In MK 2011, Sonya's X-Ray move includes trapping her opponent's head in a leg lock and subsequently breaking their neck using both her legs, the same way that she finishes Kano in the film.
- Some of the film's popular lines and moments are alluded to in MKX, notably during match interactions between Johnny Cage and Goro, which reference their scenes together.
- The film appearance of Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Raiden are released as set of skin in Mortal Kombat 11, with Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson and Christopher Lambert reprising their voice.
- Mortal Kombat at the Internet Movie Database