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  • Adaptation Displacement:
    • The theme song is one thing a lot of people know about the entire series, but it wouldn't be used in any game until Mortal Kombat 11, released more than two decades later (apparently due to licensing issues).
    • The Sega CD version of the first game, released two years before the movie, had a version of the theme song in its opening. Both versions were available in a CD single sometime before the release of the movie. That's another layer of displacement.
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    • Even the famous title scream gets this. It actually first popped up in the Mortal Monday commercials for the console ports of MK1.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Was Shang Tsung really that determined to not concede to Liu Kang in the final round, or was he trying to avoid punishment for failure from Shao Kahn?
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The fight against Reptile, added to the movie in the last minute. Without explanation, the CG critter Reptile fuses with a statue he was kicked inside to take an appearance similar as in the games, and have a long fight sequence with Liu Kang. It's never mentioned again. Supposedly, it's because test audiences wanted more fights, so they went back to do some re-shooting. It's also why Johnny disappears during the course of the fight: Linden Ashby wasn't actually there for the additional filming. While the scene itself might seem out of place, the fight itself is praised by some fans as being the best in the film. There was also at least some foreshadowing for Reptile having a fight scene later on because early in the film, Shang Tsung is there to give Reptile orders to watch Kitana and keep her away from the main characters (Reptile being a last-minute addition might explain why he sucks at that job).
    • The fight between Scorpion and Johnny Cage. The way the movie cuts to it makes the whole scene feel like a very long cutaway gag that has no bearing on the plot.
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  • Broken Base: The PG-13 rating. Many consider this the movie's biggest detriment since the source material's appeal was its extreme violence, but others defend this decision since most of the fans of the franchise at the time were kids and teenagers. All in all, though, the movie is still very well-liked among fans despite this, though the announcement of a new Mortal Kombat movie with a hard R rating got many excited.
  • Cant Unhear It: A live-action version:
    • Kano's movie portrayal by Trevor Goddard was so well-received by the fans and creators alike, the character was since given an accent mimicking Goddard's and a similar appearance, and had his nationality retconned from a Japanese-American to Australian to honor his memory.
    • This film has the most popular depiction of Shang Tsung to date, likely helped by the fact that Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa adores the role for giving him the chance to be unrepentantly evil. He got to reprise his role in later adaptations, once in the Legacy web series and later in the games themselves come MK11, which modeled Shang Tsung's appearance on Tagawa in the film.
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    • This was the case with Linden Ashby's portrayal of Johnny Cage for many years but wore off over time. Linden also returned to voice the character in a skin pack for MK11 with a film-based skin for Johnny.
  • Complete Monster: Shang Tsung is an Evil Sorcerer who drains the souls of his victims and seeks to destroy Earthrealm for Shao Kahn, Emperor of Outworld. Starting the film by killing hero Liu Kang's younger brother and draining his soul, Shang Tsung manipulates the heroes into joining Mortal Kombat so he can see a victory for his side and finally see humanity destroyed. During his tenure as tournament grandmaster, Shang Tsung frequently drains the souls of defeated fighters, even still-living men from his own side, that he absorbs into himself, the souls suffering perpetual torment. When he realizes he may lose the tournament, Shang Tsung proves himself a dishonorable coward by doing everything he can to avoid fighting Liu Kang and trying to challenge weaker fighters in his place before relying on using Liu Kang's brother's form to try to break him mentally.
  • Critical Dissonance: Although it got mixed reviews from critics, the movie received praise from fans and casual moviegoers alike, and it is seen today as the best aversion of Video Game Movies Sucknote . The film was also a commercial hit, enjoying a three week run as the number one grossing movie at the box office and the soundtrack charted in the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts, going platinum in 10 days. Because of it's success elements of its story eventually became woven into the canon of the games. It helps too that the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was not well received, which helped keep the reputation of this film higher in comparison.
  • Foe Yay:
    • This can pretty much be seen as how Kano views his little rivalry with Sonya. His dialogue throughout the movie about her pretty much casts any doubt of this:
    "She's here, right on time! I LOVE punctuality in a woman!" (smiles)
    "Maybe Sonya and I should share a cabin, have our own little honeymoon cruise."
    "Ello baby, did chu miss me?"
    • Shang Tsung to Sonya, big time. He's constantly flirting with her, complimenting her looks and saying he has "great plans" for her, and her Go-Go Enslavement look after being "challenged" by him speaks volumes.
  • Genius Bonus: The traditional Kung Fu salute, palm over fist (well, it's palm against fist, but the palm overshadows) represents Peace over Power. Shang Tsung's odd bow before the final battle, fist on top of palm, is meant to represent Power over Peace, reflecting the opposing philosophies of the two characters.
  • Ham and Cheese: Lambert and Ashby seemed to know exactly what kind of film they signed on for and spent the entire time tossing the comedy ball back and forth. It helped that both Paul Anderson and producer Lawrence Kasanoff pushed them to ad-lib whenever they had a good idea for their characters.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • This film features two scenes which look much darker in light of Liu Kang's fate in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat X, two games which see him being killed and having his soul enslaved by an evil sorcerer:
      • The opening scene of the movie is a nightmare Liu Kang has of Shang Tsung killing his brother Chan and telling him that he will be next.
      • In the climactic battle, there is this exchange:
    Shang Tsung: I can see into your soul. You. Will Die.
    Liu Kang: You can look into my soul, but you don't own it.
    • In lieu of the movie's character portrayals becoming the basis of a skin pack in Mortal Kombat 11, many lamented that Trevor Goddard passed away long before its announcement, as his performance as Kano was so well received it re-shaped Kano's character in-game. Had Goddard lived long enough to see the game evolving to that point, a Kano skin based of his performance would've existed.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: This is the movie that introduced the Ship Tease between Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. 19 real life years later, this tease not only became canon in the main games, but it also gave birth to Cassie Cage.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo! Doo-doo-doo-do-do-doo! Doo-doo-do-do-doo-doo! MOR-TAL KOMBAAAAT!
    • Johnny's fight with Goro comes to mind, especially the last scenes:
    "Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole!"
    "This is where you fall down."
    • Shang Tsung's "Your Soul is Mine!!" is by far the most quoted line of the film.
      • Also his transformation in the beginning, with Boyd often changed to someone else.
  • Narm:
    • The very first line, Shang Tsung saying "Your brother's soul is mine!" while pointing at the camera, is so over-the-top it can elicit laughter. Thankfully the other instances of Your Soul is Mine! work better.
    • Sonya's reaction to Art Lean's death. She lets out a Big "NO!" as if one of her best friends is getting killed. However, she had one scene with Art where she didn't even talk to him. To see her screaming when her reaction to other deaths has been "meh", including one she caused, can be funny.
    • If some fights are awesome, then the Liu Kang vs. Reptile fight scene is hilarious, especially when Liu Kang does the Bicycle Kick to finish Reptile, rotating him for 360 degrees in slow motion.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Johnny's fight with Goro, particularly the Groin Attack and the "$500 sunglasses" one-liner. Also counts due to Frank Welker's amazing vocal effects.
    • Liu's fight with Reptile.
  • Song Association: "Techno Syndrome (7'' Mix)" by The Immortals is widely considered to be the theme song of the entire franchise.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Instead of regular ninja-esque tabi, Scorpion can be seen wearing what look like hiking boots during his fight with Johnny Cage. And in a bit of freeze frame failure, If you pause the movie while Reptile's doubled over from Liu Kang kicking him over a banister, you can make out a Nike swoosh on the soles of his feet.
    • Reptile's lizard form is a very obvious CG creature. Especially painful when compared with Goro. This was mostly due to Reptile being added at the last minute because test audiences felt like there weren't enough fight scenes. Ultimately, that paid off since Liu Kang's fight with Reptile was considered one of the best parts of the movie.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Scorpion and Sub-Zero, two of the game’s most iconic characters are reduced to mere mooks under the control of Shang Tsung. What’s worse is that their infamous rivalry is brought up by Shang Tsung, but is never acknowledged or brought up afterwards. They don’t even make it to the end of the movie and end up getting killed in rather ridiculous ways, with Scorpion blowing up and Sub-Zero getting impaled and frozen by an icicle he accidentally created.
  • Video Game Movies Suck: Generally seen as a subversion. It wasn't exactly a critical darling, but most fans of the series liked it enough to welcome it as a worthy adaptation for capturing the violent spirit in spite of the lack of gore, one of the games' source of appeal. It helps that it was based on a game that was based on one of the greatest martial arts movies ever, so by leaning into that they had a good framework to play with. The follow-up Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, unfortunately, hits this hard enough to leave a smoking crater.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: While not as great as other effects spectacles, it does have some decent effects, especially compared to its sequel. Goro, especially for a practical effect, stands out as a very detailed and well-done animatronic; you can see the behind the scenes creation of the 120 lb. suit here.

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