A sorcerer of Outworld, Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, the Cryomancer Sub-Zero, to hunt down Cole Young, a mixed-martial arts fighter unaware of his true potential. Ruthless and cunning, Shang Tsung has led Outworld to nine victories in Mortal Kombat over Earthrealm, but at the cost of consuming human souls to sustain his own rapidly aging body. A shapeshifter, Tsung is able to move among others undetected and even access their abilities, but as Outworld decays into a wasteland, he seeks extreme measures to save his people and himself.
In Outworld, Shang Tsung speaks with Sub-Zero, telling him that the "prophecy" is upon them and that they could lose the tenth tournament. Sub-Zero replies that there is no prophecy, that he killed Hanzo centuries ago. Unimpressed, Tsung replies that winning Mortal Kombat cannot be left to chance and there will be no tournament because there will be no opposition left to fight. "Go now and kill Earthrealm's champion, Bi-Han," he says. "I am no longer Bi-Han. I am Sub-Zero," replies Sub-Zero.
Later, Mileena reports to Shang Tsung, telling him that Sub-Zero tracked and killed one of the champions (Jax Briggs) but that another of them (Cole Young) managed to escape. He orders her to have their assassins double their efforts. She asks about Lord Raiden and the Elder Gods and he replies to leave them to him, that they didn't win nine tournaments by following the rules. He tells them it's time to finish things and he orders her to send in the reptilian, Syzoth. Unknown to either them, however, Jax Briggs has survived, albeit badly injured.
Shang Tsung appears in Lord Raiden's temple as the champions of Earthrealm gather to being training for Mortal Kombat. He tells Raiden that he is too late, that he has come to claim his world and enslave humanity. Raiden counters that it is forbidden to claim victory before the tournament begins. Shang agrees that this is so, but replies that it is not forbidden to have conflict outside of Mortal Kombat and that the other gods are too lazy to stop him. He declares that he has come for their souls, expressing disdain at the supposed "champions" that have gathered. He orders his fighters to kill them, but Raiden erects an energy barrier, expelling them. Shang warns him that his tricks won't protect him forever and that it's only a matter of time.
Shang returns to Outworld where he introduces his warriors to Nitara, the great hunter. He tells them that he has seen the supposed warriors of Earthrealm and that they are no match for them. He continues that they must strike now by finding some way to break through Raiden's shield. Kabal replies that he thinks he can help, that there's a "complete fucking asshole" named Kano down there who's the reason he's in an iron lung. He tells Shang that he'll love him, that he's a "low-life, piece of shit scumbag." Shang then welcomes Prince Goro to the group, saying that it is an honor to have Shokan blood on their side and they will end the prophecy once and for all.
With the help of Kano's betrayal, Shang Tsung and his warriors invade Lord Raiden's temple. Shang states the undoing of the prophecy has begun and orders his warriors to "finish them." He and his warriors then attack in full force. Although their attack is fierce, the group manages to hold out and when Cole Young finally discovers his arcana, Raiden transports him back to the temple, declaring that the Hasashi bloodline lives on. Shang Tsung orders Sub-Zero to stop him. Meanwhile, he grabs Kung Lao, preparing to suck out his soul. Liu Kang watches in horror as he does so. Cole grabs him to prevent him trying to make a foolish move to retaliate and then Raiden transports them and the other warriors of Earthrealm to the void.
In the void, Cole Young devises a plan by which they will defeat Shang Tsung's forces by using Raiden's ability to split them all up, then take out Sub-Zero together last. Although things do not go entirely as intended, ultimately they are successful in defeating all of the Outworld warriors, with Sub-Zero taken out with help from the risen spirit of Hanzo Hasashi, now known as Scorpion. Following this, Shang Tsung appears once more. Raiden tells him that the prophecy has been fulfilled, asking if the blood on his hands has taught him nothing. Shang replies that there will always be warriors to take the place of those he put in the ground, that death is only another portal. The bodies of his fighters disappear in black smoke and he warns Raiden that next time, he will bring armies. Raiden replies coldly that he will return to Earthrealm at once. "Earth will--" he starts to say, but Raiden cuts him off, blasting him with lightning and sending him away. "He talks to much," he then comments to the champions of Earthrealm.
Behind the scenes
Shang Tsung's actor, Chin Han stated that he enjoyed the film's take on the existing Mortal Kombat IP, that it provides insights into way Tsung is the way he is. The character's design is based on ancient Chinese armor.
- Mortal Kombat - Official Production Notes. Pop Culture Fun (April 4, 2021). Retrieved on April 20, 2021.
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