Mortal Kombat (film)

Mortal Kombat (film)
Mortal Kombat

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Anderson
Produced by Lauri Apelian
Lawrence Kasanoff
Written by Kevin Droney
Based on Mortal Kombat
by Ed Boon and John Tobias
Starring Robin Shou
Linden Ashby
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Bridgette Wilson
Christopher Lambert
Talisa Soto
Trevor Goddard
Chris Casamassa
François Petit
Music by George S. Clinton
Cinematography John R. Leonetti
Editing by Martin Hunter
Studio Threshold Entertainment
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) August 18, 1995 (1995-08-18)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20,000,000
Box office $122,195,920

Mortal Kombat is a 1995 American action and adventure film directed by Paul Anderson. Based on the Mortal Kombat series of fighting games, the film was the first part of the Mortal Kombat film series. The film follows the warrior Liu Kang, actor Johnny Cage, and Special Forces agent Sonya Blade, guided by the Thunder God Raiden, on their journey to combat the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung and his forces in a tournament to save Earth. The main inspiration for the film was the first title of the video game series, but also featured elements and characters from the game Mortal Kombat II. Mortal Kombat was filmed primarily in Los Angeles, as well as on location in Thailand.

The film was released on August 18, 1995 in the United States, on October 20, 1995 in the United Kingdom and on December 26, 1995 in Australia. It proved very popular with fans of the games, despite receiving mixed reviews by critics upon its release. The film spent three weeks as the #1 film at the United States box office and earned a total of $122,195,920 worldwide.[1] Due to its success at the box office, the film later spawned a sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, released in 1997, and a television series, Mortal Kombat: Konquest, released in 1998.



Once every generation, there is an inter-dimensional martial arts tournament known as Mortal Kombat, designed by the Elder Gods to limit invasions between the realms of the universe. If the realm of Outworld wins Mortal Kombat ten consecutive times, its Emperor Shao Kahn (voiced by Frank Welker) will be able to invade and conquer the Earth realm. They have already won nine; so this will be their tenth tournament.

The Shaolin warrior Liu Kang (Robin Shou) and his comrades, Hollywood movie star Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) and U.S. Special Forces soldier Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), were handpicked by Raiden (Christopher Lambert), the god of lightning and Earthrealm's defender, to overcome their powerful adversaries in order to prevent Outworld from winning their tenth straight Mortal Kombat tournament. Each of the three has his or her own reason for competing: Liu Kang seeks revenge against tournament host Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) for killing his brother Chan (Steven Ho); Sonya also has vengeance on her mind, pursuing crime lord Kano (Trevor Goddard) who killed her partner; Johnny Cage, having been branded as a fake by the media, seeks to prove otherwise to the world.

At Shang Tsung's island, Liu Kang is attracted to Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto), Shao Kahn's adopted daughter; a wary Shang Tsung orders the creature Reptile (Keith Cooke) to keep a close eye on her. Liu defeats his first opponent, and Sonya gets her revenge on Kano. Johnny Cage encounters the demonic ninja Scorpion (Chris Casamassa), who teleports Cage to his lair in the Netherealm; there the two battle viciously, with Cage the eventual victor. Liu Kang engages in a brief duel with Kitana, who secretly offers him advice for his next battle ("Use the element which brings life"). Liu's next opponent is the ninja Sub-Zero (François Petit), who's defense seems impregnable because of his freezing abilities, until Liu Kang recalls Kitana's advice and turns the tables.

Prince Goro (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), a huge, four-armed Shokan warrior enters the tournament and mercilessly crushes every opponent he faces. One of Johnny Cage's friends, Art Lean (Kenneth Edwards) goes up against Goro as well and is defeated, along with having his soul taken by Shang Tsung. Cage comes to Tsang to request a fight with Goro. The sorceror accepts on the condition that he be allowed to challenge any opponent of his choosing, any time and anywhere he chooses. Raiden tries to intervene but the conditions are accepted. Cage faces Goro and uses guile and the element of surprise to defeat the defending champion. Now desperate, Shang Tsung then takes Sonya hostage, invoking his privilege to challenge any opponent of his choosing, and takes her to Outworld. Knowing that his powers are ineffective in Outworld and that Sonya cannot defeat Shang Tsung herself, Raiden sends Johnny Cage and Liu Kang into Outworld to rescue Sonya and challenge Shang Tsung. In Outworld, Liu Kang battles Reptile and soundly defeats him after having absorbed many blows from the creature and becoming enraged. Kitana meets up with Johnny Cage and Liu Kang afterwards; after telling the pair about Outworld's origins, as well as her own, she allies with them as they make their way to the castle where Sonya is being held.

Inside the castle tower, Shang Tsung challenges Sonya to fight him, knowing full well that her refusal to accept will result in Earthrealm forfeiting Mortal Kombat. All seems lost for Earthrealm until the three Outworld monks inside the tower reveal themselves to be Kitana, Liu Kang and Johnny Cage. Kitana berates Shang Tsung for his treachery to the Emperor as Sonya is set free. Shang Tsung challenges Johnny Cage, but Liu Kang demands to fight Shang Tsung. During the lengthy battle, Liu Kang faces not only Shang Tsung, but the souls that Shang Tsung had forcibly taken in past Mortal Kombat tournaments, and the image of his brother, Chan (actually a transformed Shang Tsung intending to lure Liu Kang to his death). Liu Kang rises above the challenges and takes on Shang Tsung with renewed determination and ultimately fires an energy bolt at Shang Tsung, knocking him from the battle platform and impaling him on a row of spikes below, killing him. Shang Tsung's death releases all the captive souls, including Chan's. Before ascending to the afterlife, Chan tells Liu that he will remain with him in spirit until they are once again reunited.

The warriors return to Earthrealm, where a victory celebration is taking place at the Xiaolin temples. The jubilation abruptly stops, however, when Shao Kahn's giant figure suddenly appears in the distance. When the Emperor declares that he has come for everyone's souls, Raiden exclaims the final line of the movie, "I don't think so!" as the warriors take up fighting stances to defend themselves.


  • Robin Shou as Liu Kang, a former Xiaolin/Shaolin monk,and the main protagonist of the film .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 after a blank malfunction during production of The Crow. 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.[2]
  • 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.[2] 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 Princess 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 and greedy sorcerer, and the main antagonist of the film. 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.[2]
  • 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. The rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion is only quickly mentioned by Shang Tsung at the beginning of the movie.
  • 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) (vocals by Frank Welker), 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.[3] Originally not included in the movie, Reptile was added in response to focus groups being unimpressed with the original fights in the film.[4] 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.[5] Reptile's vocal effects are provided by Frank Welker.
  • Kevin Michael Richardson voices Goro, the undefeated Mortal Kombat champion. His vocal effects are provided by Frank Welker
  • Gregory McKinney as Jax, Sonya's partner at the beginning of the movie.
  • Frank Welker voices Shao Kahn, the Emperor of Outworld.
  • 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.[6]
  • Hakim Alston as the Fighting Monk, Liu Kang's first opponent in the tournament. He had only one line of dialogue and emulated animalistic growls. Hakim Alston is a famous martial artist and would later appear with Chris Casamassa on WMAC Masters and work again with Robin Shou and Keith Cooke on Red Trousers.

Sandy Helberg is briefly seen in the beginning of the film as the director of Johnny Cage's latest movie. Originally, this part was to be a cameo appearance by Steven Spielberg, who is an avid fan of video games, in particular the Mortal Kombat series. However, scheduling conflicts forced him to back out. The "director" character in this scene resembles Spielberg. Peter Jason appears as Master Boyd. Kenneth Edwards played Cage's friend Art Lean (a character who does not appear in the games and was created exclusively for the film). Lloyd Kino appears as Liu Kang's grandfather. T. J. Storm made an uncredited appearance as one of the fighters facing off Liu Kang in the competition.

Mortal Kombat II references

Although the movie was primarily based on the first game in the series, there are several notable elements that were incorporated from the second game.

  • Outworld was seen in the movie, but was never mentioned in the first game. However, Outworld was mentioned in the video game's manual. Similarly, Shao Kahn is seen in the final scene of the movie, but was not even referenced in the first game.
  • Jax and Kitana were introduced in the second game as well as Reptile's ability to turn invisible.
  • The "ice grenade" with which Sub-Zero kills one of the guards during the demonstration after Shang Tsung's talk with the fighters was only seen in one of his MKII Fatalities.
  • In his match with Reptile, Liu Kang uses his "Bicycle Kick" special move, which was first introduced in MKII.
  • Shang Tsung did not regain his youthful appearance in the game series until the second game, but has it throughout the film. Also, his ability to steal the souls of fallen victims - which is seen twice in the film - was first seen in MKII as one of his Fatalities.
  • After killing Scorpion, Johnny Cage drops an autographed picture of himself near his remains. This is a reference to his Friendship move in MKII.
  • When Reptile assumes his human form, the voice of Shao Kahn - sampled directly from MKII - can be heard announcing "Reptile".
  • The Shadow Priests, seen before the final battle, were first seen in the second game as part of two of the backgrounds.


Scripted but not filmed was a scene where Shang Tsung allowed the heroes a night to bury Art Lean and mourn his loss. They buried him in the Garden of Statues, underneath the statue of Kung Lao; this is the only place where Kung Lao appears in any of the movies, although Liu Kang claims he is Kung Lao's descendant in the film before his final battle with Shang-Tsung. In actual Mortal Kombat canon Liu Kang is the close friend of the current Kung Lao, who is in fact a descendant of The Great Kung Lao. Also scripted but not filmed was a battle between Sonya and Jade, another of Shang Tsung's servants.

The Outworld exterior scenes were filmed at the abandoned Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, California; the site is now the Auto Club Speedway. All of Goro's scenes were filmed in Los Angeles.[2] Shooting locations in Thailand were accessible only by boat, so cast, crew and equipment had to be transported on long canoe-like vessels. Producer Gerrit Folsom constructed an outhouse in a secluded area near the set in order to alleviate the problem of repeated trips to and from the mainland.[2] The bows of the boats were fitted with ornamental dragon-head carvings and used in the movie as the fighters' secondary transport to Shang Tsung's island from his junk.[2]


The Journey Begins

In 1995, several months before the movie's release, Threshold Entertainment 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 15-minute behind-the scenes documentary of the theatrical release. The film is included as a special feature on the Mortal Kombat Blu-Ray, released on April 19, 2011.

The film featured Liu Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade – also the three main characters in the live action movie – traveling on a mysterious boat en route to the Mortal Kombat tournament. On the way they meet Raiden who provides them with some hints about how to survive the tournament and defeat Shang Tsung and his army of Tarkatan minions. Upon arriving at the island where the battle takes place, Raiden retells the origins of Shang Tsung, Goro, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and the Great Kung Lao in between fight scenes.


A novelization of the movie by Martin Delrio was released through Tor Books.


Mortal Kombat was nominated for the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Golden Reel Award. It won the BMI Film & TV Awards BMI Film Music Award.[7] The Mortal Kombat theme was composed by Praga Khan and Oliver Adams; best known for their work with the legendary Techno/Industrial band Lords of Acid. The Mortal Kombat soundtrack is widely regarded as the birthplace of Trance music.[8] Three songs from Stabbing Westward (a favorite band of MK co-creator John Tobias at the time) were included in the movie, but were omitted from the soundtrack: "Lost", "Lies" and "Can't Happen Here", all of which appear on the album Ungod.


Box office

Mortal Kombat opened on August 18, 1995, and cruised into the top box-office spot with $23.2 million,[citation needed] nearly eight times the opening amount of the only other new release that weekend, The Baby-Sitters Club. At the time, it was also the second-highest August opening after 1993's The Fugitive. MK enjoyed a three-week stay at number one, grossed $70 million in the U.S., and earned an estimated $122 million worldwide,[1] while the soundtrack went Platinum[9] in less than two weeks.

Critical response

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Gene Siskel gave it a "thumbs up" rating on Siskel & Ebert.[10] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "a martial arts action-adventure with wondrous special effects and witty production design [that] effectively combines supernatural terror, a mythical slay-the-dragon, save-the-princess odyssey and even a spiritual quest for self-knowledge."[11] Bruce Diones of The New Yorker wrote that the film "starts out promisingly: the actors look sinewy and primed for action, and the effects are convincing. But soon the movie falls flat under an uninspired good-versus-evil plot and pathetically simple-minded dialogue."[12]

The film holds a score of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "despite an effective otherwordly atmosphere and appropriately cheesy visuals, Mortal Kombat suffers from its poorly constructed plot, laughable dialogue, and subpar acting",[13] and on Metacritic, holds a rating of 58/100.[14]


On September 29, 2011, The Hollywood Reporter reported that New Line Cinema, sister studio to Warner Bros., has hired Kevin Tancharoen to direct a new feature-length movie based on the franchise. Oren Uziel, who wrote the original short film, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, but was not involved in Mortal Kombat: Legacy, is returning to pen the story, while no actors, nor other crew have been confirmed. Story details known state that the film will not be an extension of the game, nor of Legacy.[15]

In interviews for Entertainment Weekly, New Line President Toby Emmerich said that the success of the video games combined with Tancharoen's vision means, "You don't have to squint too hard to see how it might make a good movie", while Tancharoen says discussions have only concerned an R-rating, with darker, brutally real martial arts.[16] The Los Angeles Times writes that Tancharoen had discussions at the 2011 Comic Con with Uziel and Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon and to expect a very big origin story with the sensibility and realism of Rebirth and Legacy as opposed to the traditional Mortal Kombat mythology.[17] He said, "I've always been a fan of properties like Batman where you can expand the universe in different directions. Mortal Kombat is big enough that you can allow for multiple different kinds of storytelling."[18]

But as for its continuity with the web series, Tancharoen said "you won't have to have seen all ten episodes previously - or have played the videogame - to understand the movie."[19] Shooting is expected to begin in March of 2012[20] with a budget of well under $100 million and a release date of 2013, coordinated with the next installment of the video game series being produced by the same studios.[21]


  1. ^ a b Mortal Kombat at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b c d e f Goldman, Michael. Mortal Kombat: the Movie. Prima Lifestyles, 1995; ISBN 0-7615-0082-0
  3. ^ Goldman, Michael and Aaron, Richard E. (1995). Mortal Kombat: The Movie Behind the Scenes. Prima Games. ISBN 0761500820. 
  4. ^ Reed, Dr. Craig D. (1998-01-01). "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation - Behind the Scenes at the New Hollywood Blockbuster". Black Belt (Active Interest Media, Inc.) 36 (1): 85. ISSN 0277-3066. 
  5. ^ (VHS) Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. Behind the Scenes commentary: Turner Home Entertainment. 1996-05-21. ISBN 6303541356. 
  6. ^ Steven Ho at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ Awards for Mortal Kombat at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ MKTheme-Ending, MKTheme-E-C2. "MKTheme-E-C1". MK. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Search Results for Mortal Kombat". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2011-04-19. 
  10. ^ Review of Mortal Kombat - Siskel & Ebert
  11. ^ Mortal Kombat review, Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1995
  12. ^ Mortal Kombat review, Bruce Diones, The New Yorker, September 4, 1995
  13. ^ Mortal Kombat reviews, RottenTomatoes
  14. ^ Mortal Kombat reviews, Metacritic
  15. ^ "'Mortal Kombat' Video Game Headed Back to the Big Screen". The Hollywood Reporter. 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  16. ^ "New 'Mortal Kombat' movie 'needs to feel brutal,' says director". Entertainment Weekly. 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  17. ^ "‘Glee’ director prepares for ‘Mortal Kombat’ film". Los Angeles Times. 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  18. ^ "Mortal Kombat: Legacy Coming To The Big Screen". The Fan Carpet. 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  19. ^ "Mortal Kombat: Legacy Coming To The Big Screen". The Fan Carpet. 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  20. ^ "‘Glee’ director prepares for ‘Mortal Kombat’ film". Los Angeles Times. 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-10-01. 
  21. ^ "New 'Mortal Kombat' movie coming via partnership of Warner units". Los Angeles Times. 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-09-30. 

External links

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