Its predecessors, “Street Fighter” and “Double Dragons,” both were box-office disappointments. Although “Mortal Kombat’s” only name star is Christopher Lambert, there are a host of big-name behind-the-scenes martial artists. But what makes the film unique is the following. The world’s greatest warriors must survive the ultimate battle in New Line Cinema’s science-fiction, action-adventure epic, “Mortal Kombat.” For nine generations, Shang Tsung, an evil sorcerer, has led a powerful prince to victory against his mortal enemies. Should he win the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, the desolation and evil that have flourished in Outworld will reign over earth forever.
Now, guided into battle by Rayden, a mighty and powerful god, three human warriors must delve deep within their souls to discover the power they need to conquer a host of insurmountable events and superhuman foes.
A multi-layered and visually thrilling story with state of the art special effects, impressive fights and spectacular sets, “Mortal Kombat” is an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Production was inspired by the characters and mystical back-story that have captivated game enthusiasts worldwide. Close to 200 special effects sequences were created to enhance the film’s fantastic characters and elaborate sets, which graphically depict the differences between life on earth and the dark reality of the Outworld. The film stars Christopher Lambert as Rayden, the Thunder God; Robin Shou, Linden Ashby and Bridgette Wilson as three warriors fighting againsat devastating odds; Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung; and Talisa Soto as Princess Kitana.
“Mortal Kombat” is a cross-cultural phenomenon that has generated excitement worldwide. The popular characters appear in such diverse platforms as a U.S.-touring, live-action stage show; an animated video; three arcade games; a series of interactive game cartridges; and action figures. “Our film is a high-intensity companion to all the media formats,” says “Mortal Kombat” producer Larry Kasanoff (“True Lies”; “Terminator 2”). “Rayden is the guide and protection for the realm of earth,” explains Lambert. “He is a good and evil character . . . evil in a witty and funny sense. He is protecting the three mortals agains the evil forces of Shang Tsung. Robin Shou stars as Liu Kang, a martial arts expert who discovers that he can no longer run from his heritage or his destiny — to serve as a Kombatant, just as his ancestor did 500 years before. Shou, a well-known martial arts star only in Hong Kong, did all of his own stunts for the film, as did most of the other cast members. Linden Ashby stars as Johnny Cage, a martial arts movie star who enters the tournament to prove to himself, and to his fans, that his fighting skills are genuine. The third Mortal Kombatant is Sonya Blade, played by Bridgette Wilson. She is a beautiful, tough leader of a Special Forces Team who, while pursuing a hated enemy, unwittingly lands in the middle of atimeless bloodsport. The trio’s diabolical enemy is S’hang Tsung, a terrifying sorcerer played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.(“Rising Sun”; “License to Kill”). “Cary came in to read for the part costumed in full regalia and then spent two hours spinning tales of demons and mysticism,” says “Mortal Kombat producer He is the sorcerer, and we hired him immediately.”
Of the other cast members: the best known is retired U.S. tournament forms champion Chris Casamassa, who plays the villainous rapscallion, Scorpion.(“Highlander”) (“Wyatt Earp”) (“The Last Action Hero”). Other prominent U.S. martial artists who worked on the film include Steven Ho, Master Fumio Demura, retired world kickboxing champ Earnest Hart, Jr. and Tae Kwon Do Olympic Gold Medalist Dana Hee.
About the Production: “Mortal Kombat” was filmed on massive sound stages in Los Angeles and on location in Thailand. The massive L.A. sets filled almost 100,000 square feet of warehouse space in Santa Monica and Van Nuys, California. The 12 large sets were made of foam and constructed to represent a variety of locations, including the craggy peaks of Outworld and the dank recesses of Goro’s cave.
Veteran fight choreographer Pat Johnson designed most of the fights for the film and trained some of the actors. However, the film’s release was delayed several months when Johnson’s final fight scenes did not work well enough to satisfy the producers. Several key fights scenes had to be reshot under Robin Shou’s direction before the movie was finally set for release. This was not the first time Johnson had fouled up fight scenes in his career. Shou’s greatest fight scene is his climactic battle with six different warriors. The actors’ fights were enhanced in post-production by visual effects supervisor Alison Savitch. Marshalling a small army of effects wizards, Savitch was responsible for creating computer-generated villains like Scorpion and Reptile. And now, “Mortal Kombat” the movie has proved the most profitable martial arts film, at least in the U.S., of 1995.
This article was published inside a 1996 edition of Kung Fu magazine.
Story: John Corcoran