Mortal Kombat is a 1995 American fantasy martial arts film written by Kevin Droney, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, and starring Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Christopher Lambert, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Talisa Soto. Based on the early Mortal Kombat fighting games, the film was the first part of the Mortal Kombat film series. Its plot follows the warrior Liu Kang, actor Johnny Cage, and Special Forces officer Sonya Blade, all three guided by the 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 original title of the video game series, but it also features some elements and characters from the follow-up game Mortal Kombat II.
Mortal Kombat, a co-production between Threshold Entertainment and Midway Games, was filmed primarily in Los Angeles, as well as on location in Thailand, and premiered on August 18, 1995 in the United States. Its tie-in media included hit soundtracks Mortal Kombat: Motion Picture Score and Mortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and a prequel animated film The Journey Begins.
Despite receiving mixed reviews by critics, the film proved very popular with fans of the games and spent three weeks as the number-one film at the U.S. box office, earning over $122 million worldwide. Due to its commercial success, the film later spawned a sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, released in 1997, and a prequel television series, Mortal Kombat: Konquest, released in 1998. A reboot of the film was announced by New Line Cinema in 2011.
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 will be able to invade and conquer the Earth realm.
Shaolin warrior Liu Kang and his comrades, Hollywood movie star Johnny Cage and Special Forces officer Sonya Blade, were handpicked by Raiden, 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 seeks revenge against the tournament host Shang Tsung for killing his brother Chan; Sonya also seeking revenge on crime lord Kano for killing her partner; Cage, having been branded as a fake by the media, seeks to prove otherwise.
At Shang Tsung’s island, Liu Kang is attracted to Princess Kitana, Shao Kahn’s adopted daughter. Aware that Kitana is a dangerous adversary due to being the rightful heir of Outworld and that she will attempt to ally herself with the Earth warriors, Shang Tsung orders the creature Reptile to spy on her. Liu defeats his first opponent and Sonya gets her revenge on Kano. Cage encounters and barely beats Scorpion. Liu engages in a brief duel with Kitana, who secretly offers him a cryptic advice for his next battle. Liu’s next opponent is Sub-Zero, whose defense seems impregnable because of his freezing abilities, until Liu Kang recalls Kitana’s advice and turns the tables.
Prince Goro enters the tournament and mercilessly crushes every opponent he faces. One of Johnny Cage’s peers, Art Lean, is defeated by Goro as well, having his soul taken by Shang Tsung. Sonya worries that they may not win against Goro, but Raiden disagrees. He reveals their own fears and egos are preventing them from winning the tournament.
Despite Sonya’s warning, Cage comes to Tsung to request a fight with Goro. The sorcerer accepts on the condition that he be allowed to challenge any opponent of his choosing, anytime and anywhere he chooses. Raiden tries to intervene, but the conditions are agreed upon before he can do so. After Shang Tsung leaves, Raiden confronts Cage for what he has done in challenging Goro, but is impressed when Cage becomes aware of the gravity of the tournament. Cage faces Goro and uses guile and the element of surprise to defeat the defending champion. Now desperate, Tsung takes Sonya hostage and takes her to Outworld, intending to fight her as his opponent. Knowing that his powers are ineffective there and that Sonya cannot defeat Shang Tsung by herself, Raiden sends Liu and Cage into Outworld in order to rescue Sonya and challenge Tsung. In Outworld, Liu Kang is attacked by Reptile, with Kang slowly gaining the upper hand and defeating him. Afterwards, Kitana meets up with Cage and Liu, revealing to the pair the origins of both herself and Outworld. Kitana allies with them and infiltrate Tsung’s castle.
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 Kitana, Liu, and Cage appear. Kitana berates Shang Tsung for his treachery to the Emperor as Sonya is set free. Tsung challenges Cage, but is counter-challenged by Liu. During the lengthy battle, Liu faces not only Tsung, but the souls that Tsung had forcibly taken in past tournaments. In a last-ditch attempt to take advantage, Tsung morphs into Chan. Seeing through the charade, Liu renews his determination and ultimately fires an energy bolt at the sorcerer, knocking him down and impaling him on a row of spikes. 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 Shaolin temple. The jubilation abruptly stops, however, when Shao Kahn’s giant figure suddenly appears in the skies. 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.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Apr 5, 2014