"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."
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), U.S. 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'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), and Sonya's nemesis Kano (Trevor Goddard) all seek to win the tournament and kickstart Outworld's invasion of Earth.The movie was well received by fans and was a box office hit, leading to a sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which was not well received, even by camp movie standards. Nonetheless, the original introduced its own take on the mythology, some of which was integrated into the canon of the games.
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.
Ass Kicking Pose: The heroes assume this in the last shot of the film when Shao Kahn shows up.
Badass Normal: The Earthrealm warriors for as long as the tournament has existed; as Raiden explains, the tournament is designed to give humans a chance to fight for their world against realms with greater powers, which keeps the realms in check so the strongest ones simply cannot invade the less powerful ones at will.
Sonya: A handful of people on a leaky boat are gonna save the world?
Raiden: Exactly! The essence of Mortal Kombat is not about death, but life. Mortal men and women defending their own world.
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.
Big Damn Heroes: When Sonya refuses to face Shang Tsung in the final battle, he goes to inform the powers that be that Earthrealm will forfeit due to her noncompliance. She claims out loud that her friends will come for her...and then it's revealed "they're already here", leaving Shang with no escape.
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 is the first island ally to die, ending up dead at Goro's hands before having his soul sucked out in a major kick the dog moment by Shang Tsung.
Big "NO!": Both Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage let one out after Goro defeats Art Lean. Sonya's is a little odd as it's far more passionate than Johnny's even though she hadn't even shared a scene with Art before that match.
Big "YES!": Raiden when Cage gets his Groin Attack nut-shot on Goro, giving him the early advantage. He also socks the shoulder of a mook and immediately apologizes.
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. As such, there is exactly one drop of blood in the entire film: It appears on Shang Tsung's bottom lip during the beginning of the final fight with Liu Kang, just before his verbatim "You Fool!" (Scorpion possibly averts it, but the substance coming out of him seems to be more lava than blood).
Canon Foreigner: Chan Kang and Art Lean. Liu Kang does have a brother in the games, but his name is Chow Kang.
Creator Cameo: Scorpion is actually voiced by Ed Boon, co-creator of the Mortal Kombat series.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Every fight Goro participates in prior to fighting Johnny Cage. Especially tragic when Liu, Sonya and Johnny watch this happen to Art Lean, their new friend.
Cutting the Knot: After getting his ass kicked by Scorpion, Cage manages to get a small window of offense then vaults to a higher platform to create separation. Scorpion just kicks off one of the platform's legs and sends Cage hurtling all the way to the ground back to him.
GET DOWN HERE!
Declaration of Protection: Johnny lets Sonya know that he's challenging Goro so that Goro won't have the chance to kill her. Although she's not happy about this, it eventually leads to her warming up to him.
"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?
Defiant to the End: Even with Earthrealm in the balance ready to be lost, Sonya refuses to accept Shang Tsung's challenge and give him the satisfaction of her acquiescing. Also, Shang Tsung, who claims that he still owns the souls he possesses even as they're leaving him.
Demoted to Extra: Sub-Zero and Scorpion are two of the most involved characters in the games' mythology from its inception (and arguably the most popular ones), and yet, they are reduced to being Shang Tsung's muscle with no individual character or backstory of their own (Scorpion gets about nine words total — all one-liners — and Sub-Zero doesn't even speak). The movie all but lampshades this when Shang introduces them, saying that they are the "deadliest of enemies, but slaves under my power."
Dirty Coward: Shang Tsung uses every trick in the book to keep Liu Kang from being in a position to win Mortal Kombat, from stacking the tournament against him to fleeing into another realm to nearly violating the kombat rules to force Sonya to face Shang Tsung instead. Even when this is thwarted, he then challenges Johnny before Liu puts an end to the nonsense.
Dramatic Thunder: All the time. For example, when Raiden explains to Liu Kang that Shang Tsung stole 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.
Dressing as the Enemy: Liu, Johnny, and Kitana disguise themselves as Shang Tsung's monks in order to get close enough for a confrontation and save Sonya.
Face Your Fears: Raiden talks to Sonya, Johnny 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.
Fake Action Prologue: Johnny is introduced beating up a bunch of guys in a warehouse, but it turns out that he is only filming a scene for a movie.
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 the very long fight scenes of Johnny (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.
Faux Affably Evil: Shang Tsung is this, hosting the tournament as if it is a respectable event, talking in polite tones to Raiden and the heroes, but there's no mistaking that all of it is a facade for someone who is evil to the core.
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, locales 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".
How Did We Get Back Home?: Twice: when Johnny somehow escapes Scorpion's dimension, and at the end when the heroes somehow escape Outworld.
How Do You Say: Shang Tsung pulls this when telling Raiden that Johnny's challenge of Goro and deal with Tsung is binding.
Too late, Lord Raiden. The rules are quite clear. It's...how do you say...'a deal's a deal'.
Human Aliens: Most of the non-protagonists, namely, Shang Tsung, Kitana, Liu Kang's first opponent, 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.
It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Why Liu left home; he couldn't bear the responsibility of saving Earthrealm to the point that he grew cynical about the whole prophecy. His brother being killed gives him enormous guilt about abandoning home and he initially only enters the tournament to get revenge on Shang Tsung, which Raiden warns will only bring the end to him and the world.
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 badness, even before he started taking souls. And then there's what he does to Art Lean after Goro kills him.
Loophole Abuse: Shang Tsung uses Johnny's offer to subvert the tournament structure in combination with his championship right to enter the tournament to essentially force Sonya to fight him for the right to Earthrealm in an attempt to lock out Liu Kang.
Movie star Johnny Cage brings several large bags to dock for the trip to the tournament. After asking Liu Kang to carry them for him, Liu dumps them into the bay.
It gets even better. Upon first landing at the island, Johnny falls right into the water due to being weighed down by so much luggage, and then, as the crew are climbing a huge number of steps, he falls and drops some of it, prompting Liu to ask "Do you need help with those?"
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 (who was standing not thirty feet away) conveniently remains off-screen instead of helping.
Mr. Fanservice: Liu Kang and Johnny Cage. Cary Tagawa's buff Shang Tsung references the second game's younger version of the character, although he's much older than MKII's 19-year-old character.
Ms. Fanservice: The battle outfits of Kitana and Sonya with more emphasis on the latter, where Brigette Wilson spent the movie's second act in a black tank top and skimpy shorts, and later a slave dress.
Multiarmed 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 Greatest Failure: Liu feels enormous guilt over abandoning home, leaving him unable to protect his brother from Shang Tsung. Raiden lets him know that Liu cannot possess the strength to win if he cannot absolve himself and let it go, and that Chan made his own way as should he.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Raiden becoming a mentor to the others instead of a fellow combatant was seen as an acceptable change by the fans.
To some degree, it has even become Ret Canon. Mortal Kombat 9, for example, takes place back in the time of the first three games. Raiden doesn't participate as a kombatant until the final boss fight, instead advising others. A similar theme shows up in the (infamous) MK animated series, in which Raiden typically stays in his Batcave.
Race Lift: Raiden is curiously white for an Asian deity. Likewise, as mentioned below, Kano went from Japanese to Australian background.
Ret Canon: The reception of the movie caused these elements to be carried over 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 and Goro.
The love interest angle of Kitana and Liu Kang, as well as Johnny Cage and Sonya.
Details like a realm having to win 10 tournaments in a row.
Raiden being established as a mentor archetype to the heroes rather than being a fellow combatant with his own agenda. Even minor changes like Raiden's white hair were made canon (it was originally brown, but never seen).
Revenge: What fuels all three protagonists much to Raiden's chagrin: Sonya avenging her partner, Liu avenging Chan, and eventually Johnny avenging Art. Raiden's main task in the movie is to get them to fight for the right reasons instead of their selfish ones.
Raiden: That's why you left the temple and ran away, isn't it? The Great Tournament was too much responsibility. But vengeance...that's so much simpler.
Roar Before Beating: An odd example. When Liu Kang, Johnny, and Sonya 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. He does play it straight once Shang Tsung releases him into the tournament.
Raiden: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. So tell me...what do you plan to do about...them? (cut to more mooks ready to charge)
Scenery Porn: The set designs are gorgeous, especially the Cage vs. Scorpion fight.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Johnny basically puts an end to the tournament himself by offering a deal with Tsung to face Goro, to which Tsung offers a subsequent stipulation that he could face anyone he chooses for the final fight. Raiden acts appalled at this at first, but once Johnny walks away, he shows a pleased nature at Cage's fortitude:
Raiden: What did you do?
Johnny: I made a choice. It's our tournament, remember? Mortal Kombat; we fight it. *leaves*
Raiden: *chuckles* Good. At last, one of them has understood.
She Will Come for Me: Sonya's story arc completes when she is imprisoned by Shang Tsung. She refuses to indulge in Shang Tsung's gambit for her to face him for Earthrealm, claiming that her friends will come for her, a 180 from the self-reliant character she was at the start. Her faith is rewarded:
Terror Hero: Shang Tsung makes no secret to his own allies that Liu Kang is their most serious threat, and ducks Liu at every opportunity until he is forced to face him.
This Is the Part Where...: Done twice by Johnny, once to a stuntman who botches a take while filming a fight scene, and an Ironic Echo as noted above, to Goro while he's hanging onto the ledge of a pit.
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.
Cameron Diaz was originally cast as Sonya. She broke her wrist before filming began.
Steven Spielberg was supposed to make a cameo appearance in the movie. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Spielberg backed out. The director in Johnny's first scene bears a pretty good resemblance to Sir Steven, making it pretty obvious where that cameo was going to slot in.
What Happened to the Mouse?: There are more Earthrealm warriors still left to compete; Shang Tsung tells Johnny that he's not supposed to face Goro until later, but only the heroes are seen from that point forward.
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 you, after all. Shang Tsung didn't allow her to be killed because she was the princess, 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.