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Kung Lao is such an important character in the Mortal Kombat video-games (especially in Shaolin Monks). Why isn't he in any of the Movies? Does anyone know a specific reason behind this?

The Great Kung Lao is mentioned in the first movie, but he is a different character from the one I'm referring to. I'm talking about this Kung Lao:

Kung Lao

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    Maybe you should clarify which Kung Lao you are referring to in your question since there seems to be confusion about it :) – steelersquirrel Dec 26 '16 at 18:02
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    @cde Okay...well, I guess it is good to clarify for those of use who aren't Mortal Kombat enthusiasts. Before OP edited it, you would have had to been well-versed in all of the characters, I'm assuming. The question is much more clear to everyone now, not just those who are well versed in Mortal Kombat. – steelersquirrel Dec 26 '16 at 18:17
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Because Kung Lao is a secondary character that wasn't in the first game, which the first movie is based on, and was barely in the third game's story mode. He didn't even have a bio in the arcade game.

His MK2 backstory is that he was supposed to be the Shaolin warrior champion in MK1, but declined, so Liu Kang was chosen instead.

His MK3 backstory is that when Shao Khan invaded Earth, he handed Kung Lao his ass very quickly. This enraged Liu Kang into beating Shao Khan.

He wasn't even a minor character in the games being adapted and is basically a pallette swap of Liu Kang on terms of background and personality. The film did not need a carbon copy of Liu Kang. They used Johnny Cage's death as the motivation for Liu Kang instead (also being that the actor who portrayed Cage declined to reprise the role, two birds one neck).

Besides, Shaolin Monks wasn't released until 2005, years after the Mortal Kombat and Annihilation films were released. The supposed sequels never got off board due to Annihilation's poor box office performance and problems with Midway. The character wasn't prominent until after the movies existed.

A bit of trivia: the Great Kang Lao is featured in the Mortal Kombat: Conquest TV show, set 500 years before the games/movies, and semi-canon having been made by the same company that made the movies.

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