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"I have looked into their souls... and yours. One of you three will decide the outcome of the tournament. The fate of billions will depend upon you! Heh heh heh heh... sorry."—Raiden
"It has begun!"—Shang Tsung
Mortal Kombat is a 1995 film based on the long running Mortal Kombat fighting game franchise; it incorporates elements from the series' first two games (with a decided emphasis on the first game).
Martial artist Liu Kang (Robin Shou), US Special Forces agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), and Hollywood superstar Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) meet each other as they travel to an uncharted island for an underground fighting tournament, only to discover what the tournament is all about: Mortal Kombat is held once a generation to determine Earth's fate. There are multiple "realms", one of which -- Outworld -- is close to opening a pathway to Earth and conquering humanity. Outworld's takeover depends on its champions successfully defeating Earth's best challengers in ten consecutive tournaments -- and with nine victories, all Outworld needs is one more to begin its invasion.
The three protagonists each have a personal reason for competing: Liu Kang seeks to avenge his brother Chan's death, Sonya seeks to bring a violent killer to justice, and Johnny seeks validation of his skills as a martial artist. Raiden (Christopher Lambert), the God of Lightning and Thunder, serves as their mentor and guide throughout the tournament -- and the trio also finds a sympathetic voice from Outworld in Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto). Outworld's forces are not ill-prepared for a challenge, however: Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), his dragon Goro (Kevin Michael Richardson), elite soldiers Sub-Zero (Francois Petit) and Scorpion (Chris Casamassa), Sonya's nemesis Kano (Trevor Goddard), and even Reptile (Keith Cooke) all seek to win the tournament and kickstart Outworld's invasion of Earth.
Although critics generally disliked the film (aside from Siskel and Ebert, who surprisingly admitted to enjoying it), it's considered a success. It does a fairly faithful job in recreating the game's atmosphere with its casting, costumes, special effects, and environments. Its story is straightforward, the dialogue is fun, the action sequences are exciting, and some reasonable Character Development occurs. The only frequent complaint by fans is the "PG-13" rating, since a proper translation of the games would likely have gotten a hard "R" rating. Despite its flaws, Mortal Kombat was popular enough to earn a sequel (Mortal Kombat Annihilation) and alter several elements of the videogame's canon.
As a side note: the director of this film, Paul W. S. Anderson, went on to direct other two Love It or Hate It films based on popular franchises (Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator) -- and, like this film, another director went on to make a universally-disliked sequel with an odd title (John R. Leonetti, Mortal Kombat Annihilation; Alexander Witt, RE: Apocalypse; Colin and Greg Strause, AVP: Requiem).
These films provide examples of...
- All Asians Wear Conical Straw Hats: Raiden wore one at the beginning of the film, even though he was played by a white actor. However, despite his physical appearance, his name and role in the film implies he is the Japanese and/or Chinese god of thunder.
- As You Know: Used believably in the form of a taunt:
Shang Tsung: ...until we reach the island, where you have no dominion.
Raiden: My dominions are well known to me, sorcerer! Thank you.
- Done much more clumsily later on as Shang Tsung explains to Goro, who should know the hierarchy of Outworld as well as the backs of his four hands:
Shang Tsung: Princess Kitana is ten thousand years old, and the rightful heir to the throne of Outworld.
- Badass Longcoat: Shang Tsung wears one for most of the movie, taking it off only for his fight with Liu Kang.
- BBC Quarry: Outworld is oddly gravelly, and the background is CG'd out "darkness". The set was built out of an abandoned steel mill, so they only needed to add things for flavor like the statues. This had the side-effect of making the set absolutely huge and at least one pilot flying over the area when it was properly lit and smoked up called the nearest tower to make sure he hadn't hit some sort of Bermuda Triangle.
- Bilingual Bonus: In the French dub of the first movie, Chris Lambert is speaking French.
- Black Dude Dies First: Twice: Liu Kang's first (black) opponent ends up having his soul sucked out by Shang Tsung after Liu refuses to finish him, and Art Lean ends up dead at Goro's hands before having his soul sucked out in a major Kick the Dog moment by Shang Tsung.
- Big "Never!": Shang Tsung in his fight with Liu Kang.
- Big No: Both Sonya and Johnny Cage let one out after Goro defeats Art Lean. Sonya's is a little odd--it's far more passionate than Johnny's, but she hadn't even shared a scene with Art before that match.
- Bloodless Carnage: The games are rated M, the game world's equivalent of R; the film is rated PG-13. This was a pretty unavoidable consequence of that fact. Only Scorpion averts it, and whether that substance coming out of him is blood is highly debatable.
- Canon Foreigner: Chan Kang and Art Lean. Liu Kang does have a brother in the games, but his name is Chow Kang.
- Catch Phrase:
Raiden: I don't think so.
Shang Tsung: Your Soul Is Mine.
- Character as Himself: Goro.
- Character Development: Blatantly outlined, but it works well enough as each character had room to grow.
- The Chosen One: Liu Kang.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Raiden (sometimes)
- Deadpan Snarker: Johnny Cage:
"I'm in a hostile environment. I'm totally unprepared. And I'm surrounded by a bunch of guys who probably want to kick my ass... it's like being back in high school!"
"The fate of billions will depend upon you. Heh heh heh heh! ...sorry."
- Raiden again, walking away after telling Johnny and Sonya which of their fears will trip them up:
Liu: Wait! What about me?
Raiden: Oh, you.
- Disney Villain Death: Goro, at the hands of Johnny Cage.
- Shang Tsung also dies this way, but the film clearly shows the impact and aftermath.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A martial artist and two quasi-allies travel to a mysterious island to compete in a fighting tournament...
- The Dragon: Reptile to Shang Tsung.
- Shang Tsung to Shao Kahn.
- Dramatic Thunder: All the time. For example, when Raiden explains to Liu Kang that Shang Tsung stolen the souls of thousands of opponents. Of course, Raiden is a thunder god with a penchant for theatrics, so he's probably doing it on purpose.
- Dull Surprise: Kitana.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness: Shang Tsung's tower in Outworld.
- Face Your Fears: Raiden talks to Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage and Liu Kang about confronting their own fears: fear to admit the need of help, fear of being a fake, and fear to face one's destiny, respectively.
- Faux Action Girl: Sonya had one tournament fight against Kano (which was proven to be fairly tough) and everyone was involved with the group fight against the Mooks earlier. But as soon as Shang Tsung gets her in a hammerlock she stops even trying to fight back. Compared to Johnny Cage (who kills Scorpion and Goro) and Liu Kang, (who has five fights throughout the movie, including the one against Shang Tsung himself) Sonya didn't get much of a chance to really prove herself so that we see how strong Shang Tsung is. Real Life Writes the Plot explains the reason why.
- Flexible Tourney Rules: Justified since the tournament is in Shang Tsung's corrupted power, so he can do almost anything he pleases. Some competitors (Liu) fight more than others, stages can vary (Cage being transported to Scorpion's underworld), etc.
- The Ghost: Up until the final scene, Shao Kahn is never seen in the movie. Even his name goes unmentioned, with characters referring only to him as "The Emperor".
- Go-Go Enslavement: Sonya.
Johnny: Nice dress.
- Groin Attack: Johnny Cage does the leg splits against Goro, in order to buy him time to lead him to the cliff and kill him.
- Held Gaze: Between Liu and Kitana, as soon as they meet. Johnny even comments on that.
- Here We Go Again: The end of the film.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Poor Sub-Zero.
- How Did We Get Back Home: Twice: when Johnny Cage somehow escapes Scorpion's dimension, and at the end when the heroes somehow escape Outworld.
- Human Aliens: Most of the non-protagonists, namely, Shang Tsung, Kitana, Liu Kang's first enemy, the generic mooks and possibly also Scorpion and Reptile. This is made clear to audiences less familiar with the games in Liu Kang's first fight with the nameless Mook - he looks perfectly normal, but startles Liu by growling like a tiger.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Every time Shang Tsung mentions Sonya, it's with glowing praise for her beauty, or mentioning he has "great plans" for her, making it clear that he lured her to the island for reasons other than her fighting prowess.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Shang Tsung meets his end in the Final Kombat.
- Ironic Echo:
- Liu Kang saying "Flawless Victory" against Shang Tsung.
- When Sonya tries to radio for backup:
Johnny: While you're at it, why don't you call my agent?
Sonya: Do I look like your secretary?
(A few minutes later:)
Sonya: Where are we?
Johnny: Do I look like your travel agent?
- During Cage's intro fight, to a "mook" who turns out to be an extra in the scene he's filming. Later repeated to Goro as he's hanging off a cliff:
"This is where you fall down."
- Kick the Dog: Shang Tsung's Finishing Stomp on poor Chan (while he was down, no less) was a pretty early indicator of his Big Bad-ness, even before he started taking souls. And then there's what he does to Art Lean after Goro kills him.
- Large Ham: Every talking bad guy, and Raiden when he's not snarking.
- Literal Cliff Hanger: Goro in the first film.
- Mauve Shirt: The group makes friends with another human fighter named Art Lean in the tournament, only to watch Goro take him apart, prompting Johnny to take Goro on in the very next fight to avenge him and keep him from killing anyone else.
- Mook Chivalry: Inverted, though probably not on purpose. When Reptile attacks Liu Kang, Johnny Cage (who was standing not thirty feet away) conveniently remains off-screen instead of helping.
- Mordor: The film's depiction of Outworld.
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Goro. Used to devastating effect against one opponent, with Goro grabbing the man's arms with his lower set of hands and then pummeling him with the upper set.
- Murderous Thighs: Sonya, in the most literal way possible. She gets Kano in a headscissor and then snaps his neck by twisting her legs.
- My Favorite Shirt:
Johnny Cage: Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole!
- The Obi-Wan: Raiden.
- Oh Crap: The way Art Lean immediately stops his pre-match warmup when Goro walks up, and again right when Goro's about to kill him.
- Sub-Zero's facial expression when he sees a huge icicle coming towards him during his fight with Liu Kang.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: Most of Shang Tsung's minions in the final battle die from a simple kick or two.
- Orchestra Hit Techno Battle: The infamous titular theme song from The Immortals. Also, Control from Traci Lords during the fight scene with Reptile.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Raiden becoming a mentor to the others instead of a fellow combatant was seen as an acceptable change by the fans.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: Johnny Cage gets a couple:
"Alright, let's dance."
"Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole!"
Kano: (while Sonya is holding his head in a leg-lock) No, Sonya, don't! C'mon, gimme a break!
Sonya: Okay. (breaks Kano's neck with her legs)
- And later (edging into Bond One-Liner territory, as Goro is already barely hanging onto the edge of a cliff):
Johnny Cage: This is where you fall down.
- Race Lift: Raiden is curiously white for an Asian deity. Likewise, as mentioned below, Kano went from Japanese to Australian background.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Cameron Diaz was originally casted as Sonya, but she had to drop out due to injury and her replacement, Bridgette Wilson, had much less martial arts training than Diaz, Linden Ashby (Johnny) and Robin Shou (Liu Kang). As such, she couldn't film as many fighting scenes as the other two.
- Refusal of the Call: Liu Kang attempted this, overwhelmed over being The Chosen One. Then his younger brother tried filling on his shoes, got killed off...
- Ret Canon: The reception of the movie caused these elements to be ported to the games themselves:
- Trevor Goddard's interpretation of Kano was so well-received that Kano was made into an Australian in the games following this movie. He has also in at least one game had a move called "Ear to Ear", named after a line in the movie.
- The rivalry between Johnny Cage and Goro
- The Ship Tease between Kitana and Liu Kang, plus the Belligerent Sexual Tension between Sonya and Johnny.
- Facts like a realm having to win 10 tournaments in a row.
- Even minor changes like Raiden's white hair were made canon (It was originally brown, but never seen)
- Roar Before Beating: An odd example. When Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade are wandering around the island toward the start, they see Goro's silhouette as he's walking down the hall. Goro lifts his arms and roars--but he doesn't seem to have actually seen the trio. Apparently Goro just stops to roar at the world in general every once in a while when he's going about his business. Does play it straight once Shang Tsung releases him into the tournament.
- Sarcastic Clapping: Raiden after Liu Kang, Johnny and Sonya beat up Shang Tsung's mooks.
Raiden: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. But how may I ask are you going to deal with them? (cut to more mooks ready to charge)
- Scenery Porn: The set designs are gorgeous, especially the Cage versus Scorpion fight.
- Sequel Hook: Merges right into a Cliff Hanger.
- Smug Snake: Shang Tsung.
- Standard Female Grab Area: Sonya is completely subdued by a hammerlock from Shang Tsung. At least he bothered with the hammerlock instead of just dragging her by the arm, though.
- The Voiceless: Sub-Zero never speaks, while Scorpion only speaks his catchphrases, like "get over here!" and "come here!"
- Title Scream: "MORTAL KOOOOOMBAT!" The juxtaposition of classical music, the scream and techno make this one of the best examples of Mood Whiplash on film.
- Tranquil Fury: Johnny when he decides to fight Goro.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Liu Kang vaulting over a banister during his big fight alongside Johnny and Sonya.
- Would Hit a Girl: Kano lands some pretty heavy-duty shots on Sonya, including a full on kick to the ribs while she's down.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Liu Kang's fight with Kitana consists entirely of exchanging armlocks before Shang Tsung calls it off. Kitana was more or less controlling that fight completely. One does not tend to pop someone in the mouth when they're actually trying to help, after all. Shang Tsung didn't allow her to be killed because she was the princess of the Outworld and therefore too valious to kill or harm, so there's that too.
- Wrestler in All of Us: With Sonya, that's a given. Liu Kang, on the other hand, pulls off a Frankensteiner on Reptile.
- Your Soul Is Mine: The movie version of Shang Tsung is the Trope Namer.