Isn’t the effect of rose-colored glasses when remembering movies an interesting one? I remember Mortal Kombat vividly, I remember seeing it in the theatre, I remember the epic battles, pitch perfect characters and amazing effects. Watching Mortal Kombat with a more critical eye (and 16 years later) I see mostly faithful characters, hit and miss fight scenes, a story that is incomprehensible, effects that have not aged too badly and Liu Kang’s (Robin Shou) amazingly feathered hair.
Mortal Kombat, for those living under a rock, was based on an ultra violent videogame that first debuted in arcades in 1992. The videogame Mortal Kombat had a loose storyline involving the god Raiden gathering earth’s mightiest warriors to battle in a tournament. If they lost the evil Shao Khan would invade Earth, killing everyone. The story is as basic as can be and it receives no deeper examination in the big screen version of the game.
The movie still centers on the god Rayden (note that the movie spells it this way instead of Raiden), played surprisingly well by Christopher Lambert of Highlander fame, gathering a group of fighters to engage in Mortal Kombat. The main hero in this movie (as well as the game) is Liu Kang (Robin Shou), who is a self exiled shaolin monk. Liu Kang is hunting down the wizard Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) who killed his brother in a previous Mortal Kombat tournament. Oh, I may have forgotten to mention that the Earth needs to lose Mortal Kombat 10 times in order for Shao Khan to break the seal and invade Earth. Rayden convinces Liu that the only way to get to Shang Tsung is to join the tournament.
The other main heroes are generally faithful to the source material. Special Agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), heads to and is embroiled in the tournament as she follows her nemesis Kano (Trevor Goddard) to the Island it is held on. The Hollywood actor Johnny Cage, played perfectly by Linden Ashby, joins the tournament to prove he actually can fight as most of his movie audience thinks his moves are fake. All of them are convinced by Rayden, somewhat reluctantly, once they arrive that they need to fight in the Tournament in order to save the world.
The villains really have no screen time or motivations outside of being punching bags for the heroes. In the games the ninjas Sub-Zero (Francois Petit) and Scorpion (Chris Casamassa) are deadliest of enemies, but they fight together against the heroes. Goro, the four armed giant is portayed by an animatronic creature, that actually holds up pretty well, and is the current Mortal Kombat champion. The last major character is Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto) who is trying to help Liu Kang and his new friends defeat her cruel adopted father Shao Khan.