Mortal Kombat (1995)
|Directed by||Paul W. S. Anderson|
|Produced by||Lawrence Kasanoff|
|Written by||Kevin Droney|
|Based on||Mortal Kombat|
by Midway Games
|Music by||George S. Clinton|
|Cinematography||John R. Leonetti|
|Edited by||Martin Hunter|
|Production company||Threshold Entertainment|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Release date||August 18, 1995|
|Running time||101 minutes|
|Box office||$122.1 million|
The plot of the film follows the warrior monk Liu Kang, the actor Johnny Cage, and the soldier 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 film's primary source material was 1992's original game of the same title, but it was also inspired by and incorporates elements of 1993's follow-up game Mortal Kombat II.
Mortal Kombat, a Lawrence Kasanoff/Threshold Entertainment production in association with 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. It received mixed reviews from the critics with praise towards its martial art sequences, atmosphere, exotic locations and production values whereas the performances were criticized along with the simple script. Its tie-in media included hit soundtracks Mortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Score and Mortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and a animated film, Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins.
Mortal Kombat spent three weeks as the number-one film at the U.S. box office, earning over $122 million worldwide. Threshold Entertainment followed with a 1997 sequel film, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and created two spin-off television series, Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and Mortal Kombat: Conquest. A Mortal Kombat film reboot was announced by New Line Cinema in 2011.
PlotMortal Kombat is a fighting tournament between the representatives of the realms of Earth and Outworld conceived by the Elder Gods amid looming invasion of the Earth by Outworld. If the realm of Outworld wins Mortal Kombat ten consecutive times, its Emperor Shao Kahn will be able to invade and conquer the Earthrealm.
Shaolin monk Liu Kang and his comrades, movie star Johnny Cage and military officer Sonya Blade were handpicked by Raiden, the god of thunder and defender of the Earth realm, 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 seeks revenge on an Australian crime lord Kano for murdering a fellow officer; and Cage, having been branded as a fake by the media, seeks to prove otherwise.
At Shang Tsung's island, Liu is attracted to Princess Kitana, Shao Kahn's adopted daughter. Aware that Kitana is a dangerous adversary because she is the rightful heir to Outworld and that she will attempt to ally herself with the Earth warriors, Tsung orders the creature Reptile to spy on her. Liu defeats his first opponent and Sonya gets her revenge on Kano by snapping his neck. Cage encounters and barely beats Scorpion. Liu engages in a brief duel with Kitana, who secretly offers him cryptic advice for his next battle. Liu's next opponent is Sub-Zero, whose defense seems untouched because of his freezing abilities until Liu recalls Kitana's advice and uses it to kill Sub-Zero.
Prince Goro enters the tournament and mercilessly crushes every opponent he faces. One of Cage's peers, Art Lean, is defeated by Goro as well and has 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 shows his awareness 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 Tsung by herself, Raiden sends Liu and Cage into Outworld in order to rescue Sonya and challenge Tsung. In Outworld, Liu is attacked by Reptile(under orders from Shang Tsung to prevent him and Cage from rescuing Sonya), but eventually gains the upper hand and defeats him. Afterward, Kitana meets up with Cage and Liu. She reveals to the pair the origins of both herself and Outworld. Kitana allies with them and helps them to infiltrate Tsung's castle while advising Liu Kang about three challenges in the castle: To face his enemy, himself and his worst fear.
Inside the castle tower, Shang Tsung challenges Sonya to fight him, claiming that her refusal to accept will result in the Earth realm forfeiting Mortal Kombat (this is, in fact, a lie on Shang's part). All seems lost for Earth realm until Kitana, Liu, and Cage appear. Kitana berates Tsung for his treachery to the Emperor as Sonya is set free, claiming that his arrogance and greed will cost him the tournament if he doesn't honor his deal. 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 bed of spikes. Tsung's death releases all of 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 declares "I don't think so," and the warriors take up their fighting stances.
- Christopher Lambert as Raiden, god of thunder and protector of Earthrealm who guides the warriors on their journey. He desires to aid the heroes in defending Earthrealm, but as he himself is not mortal, he is not permitted to participate in the tournament and may only advise them and act to prevent cheating.
- Robin Shou as Liu Kang, a former Shaolin monk, who enters the tournament to avenge his brother's death. He is also Kitana's love interest and among the first who notice her sympathy towards Earthrealm. As in most of the games in the Mortal Kombat series, Liu Kang is the main protagonist. This was Shou's second American film, as his last American role was in 1990, for the made-for-television film Forbidden Nights.
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung, a powerful, sadistic and treacherous demon sorcerer, he is the film's main antagonist who killed Liu Kang's brother Chan. Tagawa was the filmmakers' first and only choice for the role; he was instantly selected after he came to his audition in costume, and read his lines while standing on a chair.
- Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage, a Hollywood superstar that enters the tournament to prove to the world that his skills are for real. He is also Sonya's love interest. Once again, Jean-Claude Van Damme was approached to portray Johnny Cage in the live-action film, but he was already committed to doing the Street Fighter movie. Instead, actor and martial arts expert Brandon Lee, son of the legendary Bruce Lee (who served as inspiration for Liu Kang), was cast to play Johnny Cage. However, the actor was tragically killed by an accidental shooting while making The Crow. Ashby trained in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Kung Fu 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 Ashby suffered while shooting Cage's fight scene with Scorpion.
- Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade, an American Special Forces officer from Austin, Texas who's in hot pursuit of Kano, the criminal who killed her partner. She is also Johnny's love interest. Cameron Diaz was originally set to play Sonya Blade, but broke her wrist during a Karate training session prior to shooting and was replaced by Wilson, who was jokingly nicknamed "RoboBabe" during production by director Paul W. S. Anderson. Wilson performed all her own stunts, including fight scenes.
- Talisa Soto as Princess Kitana, the Outworld emperor's adopted daughter who decides to help the Earth warriors. She is attracted to Liu Kang, who reciprocates and takes her advice to go further. Soto had previously appeared alongside Tagawa in Licence to Kill.
- Chris Casamassa as Scorpion, an undead warrior under Shang Tsung's control. As with the games, Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon provided the voice of the character.
- François Petit as Sub-Zero, a cryomancer warrior under Shang Tsung's control. The rivalry between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is only briefly mentioned by Shang Tsung at the beginning of the movie.
- Keith Cooke as Reptile, a creature who serves Shang Tsung. Cooke portrayed the character's human form, while his lizard form was rendered with the use of computer-generated imagery. Reptile's vocal effects were provided by Frank Welker.
- Tom Woodruff, Jr. as Goro, prince of the subterranean realm of Shokan and general of the armies of Outworld. Goro is the reigning champion of Mortal Kombat.
- Kevin Michael Richardson provides the speaking voice of Goro, while his vocal effects are provided by Frank Welker.
- Kenneth Edwards as Art "Kai" Lean, a fellow martial arts actor and friend of Johnny Cage who competes in the tournament.
- Steven Ho as Chan Kang, Liu Kang's younger brother.
- Gregory McKinney as Jax, Sonya's Special Forces partner. Steve James was originally cast to play Jax, but he died from pancreatic cancer a year before production on the film began.
- Peter Jason as Master Boyd, Johnny Cage's sensei.
- Frank Welker provides the voice of Shao Kahn, the Emperor of Outworld.
- Sandy Helberg is briefly seen in the beginning of the film as the director of Cage's latest movie. Originally, this part was to be a cameo appearance by Steven Spielberg, but scheduling conflicts forced him to back out; the "director" character in this scene still resembles Spielberg.
|The Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya used as the place of confrontation between Liu Kang and Raiden|
Cameron Diaz was the original choice to play Sonya Blade but she broke her wrist before filming begun and Bridgitte Wilson replaced her last minute. Brandon Lee was the filmmakers' first choice to play Johnny Cage but his tragic death at the set of The Crow forced them to re-cast the role. Jean-Claude Van Damme was offered the role but turned it down in order to do Street Fighter and the role eventually went to Linden Ashby. Russell Wong, Dustin Nguyen, Keith Cooke and Phillip Rhee all auditioned for the role of Liu Kang.
|The Wat Phra Si Sanphet temple was used in the opening of the film for the fight between Shang Tsung and Liu Kang's brother|
|Wat Chaiwatthanaram was used as the film's temple of the Order of Light|
The film was originally scheduled for a May 1995 U.S. release, but was pushed back to August. According to co-producer Larry Kasanoff, this was because New Line Cinema's executives felt the film had the potential to be a summer hit. It was released on October 20 in the United Kingdom, and on December 26 in Australia.
Mortal Kombat: The Journey BeginsOn April 11, 1995, several months before the film's release, Turner Home Entertainment and Threshold Entertainment released a tie-in animated film on VHS and Laserdisc, Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. It features traditional animation, motion capture and CGI to explain the origins behind some of the movie's main characters, as well as a 15-minute behind-the scenes documentary of the theatrical release. Trailers of the film was seen on the promotional screener VHS copy, and on other VHS releases from Turner Home Entertainment and New Line Home Video. The film was included on the Mortal Kombat Blu-ray released in April 2011.
The plot follows Liu Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade—also the three main characters in the live-action movie—traveling on a mysterious boat on 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 battles takes place, Raiden retells the origins of Shang Tsung, Goro, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and the Great Kung Lao in between fight scenes.
Mortal Kombat: A NovelA novelization of the movie by "Martin Delrio" (James D. Macdonald and Debra Doyle) was released through Tor Books. It is based on an early version of the film's script, and as such it includes several deleted or unfilmed scenes, such as a fight between Sonya Blade and Jade.
MusicMortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Score is the instrumental score album with the music by George S. Clinton, released by Rykodisc on October 11, 1995. Mortal Kombat: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the compilation album released by TVT Records on August 15, 1995. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack won the BMI Film and TV Awards BMI Film Music Award and went platinum in less than a year reaching No. 10 on the Billboard 200.
Box officeMortal Kombat opened on August 18, 1995, and was #1 at the box office for the weekend, with $23.2 million, 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. The film enjoyed a three-week stint at number one, grossed $70 million domestically, and earned an estimated $122 million worldwide. As of September 2016, the film sits as the fifth highest-grossing video game adaptation ever released in the US, behind Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Angry Birds Movie, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Pokémon: The First Movie.
Critical responseMortal Kombat received a score of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes sampled from 32 reviews, with an average score of 4.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Despite an effective otherworldly atmosphere and appropriately cheesy visuals, Mortal Kombat suffers from its poorly constructed plot, laughable dialogue, and subpar acting." Metacritic gave the film a rating of 58/100, based on reviews from 12 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A to F scale.
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called Mortal Kombat "a contentedly empty-headed extended advertisement for the joy of joypads (filmed in cheesily ornate cinema de Hong Kong style)" and too noted how it "is notably free of blood and gore." According to Stephen Holden of The New York Times, "Mortal Kombat might be described as mythological junk food. Although there is talk of the three kombatants' having to face their deepest fears to prevail, the action is so frenetic and the dialogue so minimal that the allegory is weightless." Roger Ebert said he was "right in the middle" and noted that the fans might be disappointed by the film's killings being much less brutal than the notoriously violent Mortal Kombat video games. Similar to Ebert, Marc Savlov from The Austin Chronicle mentioned that " It's the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, but you may recall, you loved that stuff as a kid. I know I did" giving it a 2.5/5 star rating. Laura Evenson from San Francisco Chronicle mentioned "Mortal Kombat the movie has everything a teenage boy could want: snakes that jut out of a villain's palms, acrobatic kung- fu fighting and a couple of battling babes. Everything, that is, but an interesting plot, decent dialogue and compelling acting" commenting however that it will likely become a cult classic.
Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times gave the film a much more positive review, writing that "as impressive as the special effects are at every turn, even more crucial is Jonathan Carlson's superb, imaginative production design, which combines Thailand exteriors with vast sets that recall the barbaric grandeur of exotic old movie palaces and campy Maria Montez epics. John R. Leonetti's glorious, shadowy camera work and George S. Clinton's driving, hard-edged score complete the task of bringing alive the perilous Outworld". Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave it a "thumbs up" rating on Siskel and Ebert, calling it "the only half-way decent video game movie [he] has ever seen" and "a lot of fun," saying he was positively surprised by its various high quality production values, including the "often sensational" special effects, exotic locations and the cast of characters being "clearly drawn out of appealing types". Leonard Klady from Variety awarded the film a 3.5/5 stars stating that "But where others have sunk in the mire of imitation, director Paul Anderson and writer Kevin Droney effect a viable balance between exquisitely choreographed action and ironic visual and verbal counterpoint". Kim Newman from Empire magazine said "By the time the big, world-saving bout comes around, it's hard not to wish that Shung Tsu would settle the fate of mankind by asking Liu Kang what the capital of Venezuela is... rather than engaging him in yet another round of supernaturally assisted dirty fighting" with a final rating of 3 stars out of 5.
SequelThe sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was released in 1997, directed by John R. Leonetti (cinematographer of the first Mortal Kombat) and starring the returning Robin Shou and Talisa Soto as well as Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn "Red" Williams, Irina Pantaeva, Marjean Holden and James Remar. Its storyline is largely an adaptation of Mortal Kombat 3, following a band of warriors as they attempt to save Earth from Shao Kahn himself. Although the story picks up where the last film left off, most of the lead roles were recast.
In contrast to its predecessor, which was a box office success and marginally well received, Annihilation was critically panned and underperformed at the box office. As a result, development of the planned third installment halted and never progressed beyond pre-production.