When Midway first tasked programmers Ed Boon and John Tobias with creating a combat game to rival Street Fighter II in 1991, one man immediately sprang to mind: Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Boon and Tobias originally envisioned an action game with the Muscles from Brussels front and centre but were forced to scrap their plans after finding out JCVD was already in negotiations with another company to develop his own computer game.
That game never ended up getting made, but Mortal Kombat did and, thankfully for Boon and Tobias, there wasn’t a trace of Van Damme in sight. A gore-filled fight-fest unlike any that had come before, Mortal Kombat was a global gaming phenomenon, spawning multiple sequels and, eventually, two blockbuster movies – or at least that was the plan.
Though the first Mortal Kombat movie released in 1995 introduced the world to the talents of director Paul W.S. Anderson and was a success at the box office, the film nevertheless garnered negative reviews from critics.
However, it got worse with the sequel– much worse. Released two years later and with few of the original cast returning, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was lambasted by critics and didn’t fare as well as its predecessor at the box office, seemingly killing any hope of a third film in the process. However, that only tells half the story.
Here are the 18 Things You Never Knew About The Failed Mortal Kombat Movies.
18. A Lot of Big Stars Were Approached and Even Cast in Mortal Kombat
The cast of the original Mortal Kombat movie may not have been household names, Christopher Lambert aside, but that wasn’t for a lack of trying. Van Damme was once again approached with an offer of a role in the Mortal Kombat franchise but said no, opting to take up the part of Guile in the Street Fighter movie, despite the fact the character of Johnny Cage was based on the Belgian.
Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp were also considered for the role before Brandon Lee was cast as Cage. However, when Lee died during an accident on the set of The Crow, Linden Ashby was brought in. Elsewhere, Cameron Diaz was cast in the role of Sonya Blade after producers saw the dailies from her debut, The Mask.
However, when she broke her wrist in training, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras was drafted in, having previously turned down the part to appear in Billy Madison. Sean Connery and Danny Glover were also offered the role of Raiden but turned it down, with Lambert coming in.
17. Steven Spielberg Was Meant To Cameo In The First Move
The E.T. director was a huge gamer back in the 1990s and, after hearing about plans for a Mortal Kombat movie, asked to make a cameo appearance in the final film. A part was seemingly written for Spielberg too – during the scene introducing Ashby as Johnny Cage on the set of his latest action movie, viewers encounter a director character clearly modelled on Spielberg.
Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts meant Spielberg was unavailable to appear in the movie. In the end, the part ended up going to the similarly-named Sandy Helberg, a writer, actor and comedian with a string of minor roles in TV and film to his name and writing credits on The Golden Girls and Harry and The Hendersons among other shows. He also looked a hell of a lot like Spielberg, which helps.
16. The Cast of Mortal Kombat Suffered For Their Art
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras escaped largely unscathed despite performing her own stunts, though she did suffer one injury early in the shoot. “I did a partial dislocation, but it was weird because I was totally fine,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “They were worried. They made me undergo these tests.”
During reshoots, Linden Ashby was also left with a bruised kidney after a fight between Johnny Cage and Chris Casamassa’s Scorpion. “I had a pad on but his heel just came right between the pads and got me in the kidney, hard. I was peeing blood. It hurt a lot,” Ashby told THR.
Robin Shou, who played Liu Kang, suffered two fractured ribs filming a fight scene with Reptile but kept it to himself. “If I told them I fractured the ribs, they’re going to stop production and then there goes my Hollywood dream,” he told THR. “I was hurting. I was taking a lot of Advil and then I continued.” Once filming was complete, Shou went to hospital.
15. Mortal Kombat Was Filmed In Some Extreme Locations
Director Paul W.S. Anderson was determined to make the Mortal Kombat film look as cinematic possible while maintaining the feel of the original games. That meant filming on location across Thailand.
However, when Anderson went to scout several locations, he soon realised that the ones he liked were also the ones it would be hardest to get a film crew and equipment to. The studio went along with Anderson’s wishes though, meaning every morning all of the equipment was loaded onto a boat and transported to the set.
Anderson always looked on the bright side though. “It was wonderful because I went to work on a speedboat every day,” he told THR. “It didn’t matter how tired you were from the night before. By the time you got to work with the wind blowing in your hair, going at 60 miles per hour across this bay, it was fantastic.”
14. Reptile Was A Late Addition To The First Mortal Kombat Movie
Reptile may have been a popular character among gamers but there was no room for him in the original script for Mortal Kombat. That all changed after the studio got feedback from test audiences on the first cut of the movie.
Producer Larry Kasanoff told THR : “The audience response was 100 percent uniform. ‘We love everything we see. There are not enough fights in this movie.’ We went back and spent a lot more money and we shot more fights.”
One of the two major fights added to the film saw Liu Kang go up against Reptile. Frank Welker provided the voice of the character, having already impressed as the voice of Emperor Shao Kahn. Welker is perhaps most famous for providing the voice of Dr. Claw, the main villain on the popular animated series Inspector Gadget. Try listening to Reptile or Shao Kahn without thinking of Dr. Claw now.
13. Mortal Kombat’s Soundtrack Was A Huge Gamble And A Massive Hit
Movie soundtracks were big business in the ’90s, which made the decision to give Mortal Kombat an electronic dance music score a bold one. “We insisted on using electronic dance music, which at the time was insane,” Larry Kasanoff told THR. “We got kicked out of two record companies.”
Sony wanted to produce the soundtrack and have it composed by cult rocker Buckethead with contributions from Eddie Van Halen. Virgin Records also put forward the idea of a soundtrack fronted by Janet Jackson.
Both were rejected, and the studio moved forward with the EDM plans. George S. Clinton composed the bulk of the soundtrack with contributions from Buckethead. Several DJs and dance musicians also provided additional contributions to the film’s music, including Belgian duo The Immortals and their hit single Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat).
12. The Animatronic Goro Was A Nightmare
Mortal Kombat villain Goro was brought to life using a giant animatronic version of the character created by Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis from Amalgamated Dynamics. Woodruff had experience of playing a Xenomorph in Alien 3 but nothing could prepare him for the task of controlling Goro.
“That guy had 13 to 16 puppeteers,” production designer Jonathan A. Carlson told THR. “One guy would be doing the eyeballs. The other guy would be doing the eyebrows. The other guy would be manipulating something else. They spent $1 million on that puppet.”
The animatronic Goro also regularly broke down on set prompting crew members to joke about his diva-like behaviour saying “Goro won’t come out of his trailer.” Several scenes had to be cut because of these limitations though, with CG enhancements also added in later.
11. Christopher Lambert Was An Absolute Gentleman To Work With
Being the top-billed, highest paid actor on a movie can go to some actor’s heads, but that definitely wasn’t the case with Highlander icon Christopher Lambert. Paul W.S. Anderson credits Lambert for helping him through the tricky process of making the Mortal Kombat movie, which was his first big movie in Hollywood having caught the eye of the film’s producers with the British gangster flick, Shopping.
“Nothing was too much trouble for him,” Anderson told THR. “And that person sets the tone on the set. Because if it’s not any trouble for him, it can’t be trouble for anybody else.”
It went beyond that though; Lambert agreed to fly out to Thailand to film additional scenes for no extra charge rather than do them separately in L.A. He also paid for the wrap party at the end of production on the movie.
10. The Actor Playing Scorpion Landed The Part At The Last Minute
Chris Casamassa ended up playing Scorpion in Mortal Kombat but his route to the role wasn’t as straightforward as any of the other characters in the film. Originally hired as a stunt ninja on the movie and martial arts teacher for other members of the cast, Casamassa’s role changed when test screening feedback called for the film to include more fights.
As well as including a fight scene between Reptile and Liu Kang in the reshoots, another between Johnny Cage and Scorpion was planned. Scorpion had not featured in the original version of the film though, so producers approached Casamassa about playing the part, given his excellent fighting skills.
9. Tom Cruise Was Blocked From Visiting The Set
Tom Cruise was one of several actors to apparently turn down the chance at appearing in Mortal Kombat, with the Top Gun star opting against playing Johnny Cage so he could instead star as Ethan Hunt in the first Mission Impossible movie, which was still a pretty smart movie in hindsight.
You would have though Linden Ashby, the relative unknown who eventually wound up getting the part of Cage, would be a little more thankful and respectful of Cruise as a result, but he’s not. In fact, he shared an amusing story with THR about the time Cruise tried to visit the set – and was denied.
“Tom Cruise had a hangar nearby and came over and was like, ‘Hey what are you guys shooting? Can I check it out?’ And the medic goes, ‘You’re not in this movie. Go away!’ And Tom Cruise goes, ‘I just want to see,’ and he goes, ‘I don’t care who you are, get out of here!’ He turned away Tom Cruise!” Sounds like one brave medic.
8. Annihilation Is Why Paul W.S. Anderson Does All Of The Resident Evil Movies
Anderson may have gone on to enjoy some success with the excellent sci-fi horror movie Event Horizon, but he’s probably better known for his work on the Resident Evil films – he’s either produced or directed six of them to date.
Part of the reason why Anderson remains so attached to the Resident Evil movie franchise is Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, the follow-up to his Mortal Kombat movie, which ended up taking a massive, steaming, dump all over his work from the first film. Anderson had been open to doing the sequel but had already signed up to do Event Horizon.
“It’s one of the reasons why on a go-forward basis, when I became involved with Resident Evil, I felt if I’m going to do another one of these adaptations, this time I’m going to stay with it,” he told THR.
7. Almost All The Original Movie’s Stars Said No To Annihilation
Linden Ashby turned down the chance to return as Johnny Cage for Annihilation after reading the script, in which his character gets killed in the opening scene. This may have been written in as a result of Ashby’s insistence on rewriting most of his lines from the first movie and improvising edgier, humorous dialogue.
Christopher Lambert wasn’t all that happy with the script but was still keen to return. Unfortunately, he had already signed on to star in the movie Beowulf so James Remar was cast as Raiden.
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, meanwhile, opted to play Jennifer Love-Hewitt’s sister in I know What You Did Last Summer while even Chris Casamassa was unable to return after signing up to coordinate stunt work on Batman and Robin. Michael Jai White had looked set to sign on as Jax for the sequel but ultimately had to say no to the movie after being cast as Al Simmons in the Spawn movie.
6. Mortal Kombat’s Co-Creator Considers Annihilation To Be A Low Point
While Paul W.S. Anderson is no fan of Annihilation, the co-creator of the original Mortal Kombat gaming franchise, Ed Boon, has an even lower opinion of the movie, despite returning to voice Scorpion once again.
Once asked by Complex to list the worst moment in the entire history of Mortal Kombat, Boon responded “That’s a tough one. I don’t know if this is my least favorite memory, but I wasn’t a big fan of the second movie.”
The Mortal Kombat co-creator also previously took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the movie after hearing from fans that it was on television at the time. He tweeted: “… Mortal Kombat Annihilation is on TV. Should i watch it EB: Shoot your TV screen….. NOW !!!!” Audiences and critics seem to agree though – the movie has a 3% rating on the Tomatometer and an audience score of 25%.
5. A Power Ranger Auditioned And Two American Gladiators Were Cast
While Mortal Kombat stars Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Talisa Soto (Kitana) both returned for Annihilation, the bulk of the original film’s cast did not return, forcing producers to pad things out with some rather, shall we say, interesting casting choices.
Two former American Gladiators stars – Deron McBee and Lynn Williams – featured in the movie, for example, and even ended up having a fight scene together which may or may not have been a deliberate nod to their time as competitors on Gladiators.
Interestingly, the late Thuy Trang also auditioned for the part of Jade on the movie. Trang was perhaps best known for playing the part of the original Yellow Power Ranger on the show’s original run. Despite boasting the necessary physicality for the part, Trang ultimately missed out on the role, with Irina Panteaeva landing the part in her place.
4. Producers Had Serious Problems Casting Jax In Both Movies
The role of Jackson Briggs, aka Jax, the fighter with the bionic armour-plated arms, should have been among the most sought after on the whole project but producers had serious problems casting the part thanks to a series of tragic events.
The very first actor cast in the role was American Ninja and Delta Force star Steve James. James had previously featured alongside Bruce Lee in the classic movie Game of Death and was seen as the ideal fit for a martial arts-focused movie.
Unfortunately, James died of pancreatic cancer a year before production began. He was replaced by Gregory McKinney, an actor who had previously enjoyed small roles in movies like Beverly Hills Cop III and Babylon 5.
However, McKinney then had to step down from the role for Annihilation due to ill health. He died in 1998, aged 41 – the same age as James. Lynn “Red” Williams eventually got the part after Michael Jai White left the project.
3. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation Is Littered With Glaring Errors
John R. Leonetti, the director of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, worked primarily as a cinematographer prior to landing the main gig on the sequel and it would be nine years before he directed another movie.
In all fairness, the film isn’t the finest example of his or anyone else’s work, with several major errors easily spotted throughout. IMDb lists 44 separate goofs in the finished film, including 16 continuity errors.
It gets worse though; around the hour mark, when Lui Kang knocks Baraka into a fire pit, not only is the shot recycled from a previous scene where Baraka was thrown into the same pit, but a hand can be seen reaching up and pulling him in.
In another scene, Shao Kahn is heard saying his iconic line “You will never win.” The only problem is that his mouth doesn’t move. In fights between Sonya and Ermac, as well as Sub-Zero and Scorpion, several of the character’s masks fall off in the ensuing tussles. This is only the tip of the iceberg too.
2. Sheeva Was Originally A Much Bigger Character In Annihilation
Perhaps the biggest loser in the entire sorry mess that was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was actress Marjean Holden, who played the multi-limbed Sheeva as part of an all-too-brief appearance in the finished film.
It hadn’t always been that way, of course. Best known for her role as Arina in the series Beastmaster, the original script saw Sheeva play a more central role in proceedings, including a two-on-one fight against Lui Kang and Raiden.
Unfortunately for Holden and any Sheeva fans, budget cuts saw the fight scrapped. The rationale was that the scene would have cost a lot of time and money to film, due to the character’s prosthetic limbs and the additional requirement for CGI.
1. A Third Mortal Kombat Movie Is Still Stuck In Development Hell
Though plans had been in place for a third Mortal Kombat movie, scheduled to be released a couple of years after Annihilation, the film’s poor reception both critically and commercially saw the project stall.
Titled Mortal Kombat: Destruction, the project went through several script rewrites and story changes. At one point, Highlander director Russell Mulcahy was set to direct a script that saw Johnny Cage resurrected to fight Quan Chi and Shang Tung.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina apparently destroyed most of the sets and locations that were set to be used for the movie in 2006. Then, in July 2009, Chris Casamassa and Linden Ashby both separately announced they would be reprising their roles as Scorpion and Cage, respectively but those claims came to nothing.
By September 2011, New Line cinema had hired Kevin Tancharoen to direct a new Mortal Kombat movie, following the success of his web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, but by October 2013, he had left the project. James Wan has since signed on to produce a reboot.
Did we miss anything out? Have your say on the Mortal Kombat movies in the comment box!
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