Photo: ‘Mortal Kombat’/Warner Bros. Pictures
As we’ve talked about in the past, the history of video-game-to-movie adaptations is one that’s not particularly bright, filled with messes like the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ movie. But recent years have seen things take a slight turn for the better with more successful examples like ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’; the ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot movie did well enough that a sequel is currently in development; we’re cautiously optimistic about the upcoming ‘Uncharted’ film.
In the meantime, we now have ‘Mortal Kombat’, a new live-action adaptation of the iconic video game franchise as well as a reboot of the film series. The first trailer for the film just arrived last week and, frankly, it actually looks pretty cool. And if it’s any indication it promises to deliver on the signature blood, gore, and fatalities that have defined the video games. With the film due out soon, here’s everything we know so far about ‘Mortal Kombat’.
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‘Mortal Kombat’ HD Trailer 2021
What’s the Plot of the New ‘Mortal Kombat’?
As mentioned, the latest film serves as a reboot to the previous ‘Mortal Kombat’ film series. It promises appearances by several of the games’ iconic characters while centering on all-new character Cole Young as he finds himself targeted by otherworldly forces with the fate of the Earth at stake.
Per Warner Bros.:
“MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana—the immense power from within his soul—in time to save not only his family but to stop Outworld once and for all?”
For Newbies — What is ‘Mortal Kombat’?
For those not familiar, ‘Mortal Kombat’ is an incredibly popular fantasy-themed fighting video game series created by Ed Boon and John Tobias which debuted in arcades in 1992 (trivia: the first game began as a project starring Jean-Claude Van Damme). The games’ premise centers on an ancient martial arts tournament where the greatest fighters from the universe’s various realms compete to prevent their worlds from being conquered. Among the warriors chosen to represent and fight for Earth are Shaolin monk Liu Kang, Special Forces officer Sonya Blade, and (in a nod to Van Damme) Hollywood action star Johnny Cage, with the trio under the stewardship of the thunder god Raiden.
The first game was a smash hit at arcades and only grew in popularity when it was released for home consoles. But it also generated controversy at the time due to its depictions of graphic and bloody violence: a trademark of the series are its Fatalities—in which the winner of a match can inflict a brutal finishing move on a defeated opponent. While usually to comic effect or done in a very over-the-top manner, these finishing moves are known for their use of blood and gore (especially as graphics become more realistic). It got to the point that U.S Congressional hearings were held on the subject of video game violence, leading to the formation of the ESRB, or Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which is the video game equivalent of the movie industry’s MPA in rating content.
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‘Mortal Kombat’ was first adapted into a film back in 1995 directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. While it debuted to mixed reviews as well as criticism over the film’s PG-13 rating (to appeal more to kids and teens), the film was a box office hit. And in the years since its release, the film has gone through a bit of a re-evaluation, with fans praising it for its cheesy-but-fun B-movie vibe and for capturing the spirit of the source material; nowadays it’s considered as one of the better video game adaptations. But the 1997 sequel ‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’ (without Anderson) was a box office disappointment and panned by both fans and critics. Interest in the series as a movie franchise went dormant until director Kevin Tancharoen released the short film ‘Mortal Kombat: Rebirth’, which took things in a more grounded direction. While it and the web series ‘Mortal Kombat: Legacy’ got him the job of directing a new feature film, delays led to him eventually leaving the production. But things picked up in 2015 when ‘Aquaman’ and ‘The Conjuring’ director James Wan signed on as the film’s producer.
The Team Behind the Film, and What to Expect
‘Mortal Kombat’ marks the feature directing debut of Australian commercial director Simon McQuoid, who has previously directed ads for Playstation, H&R Block, Nissan, Samsung, HP, ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Halo’. In addition to Wan, producers on the film also include McQuoid, Todd Garner (‘Tag’, ‘Into the Storm’), and E. Bennett Walsh (‘Men in Black: International’, ‘Kill Bill’). The screenplay comes from first-time writer Greg Russo and ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ writer Dave Callaham, based on a story by Russo and Oren Uziel (‘22 Jump Street’, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’).
The film stars Lewis Tan as Cole Young; Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade; Josh Lawson as Kano; Mehcad Brooks as Jax; Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden; Ludi Lin as Liu Kang; Chin Han as Shang Tsung; Max Huang as Kung Lao; Sisi Stringer as half-demon assassin Mileena; with Indonesian actor and martial artist Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero/Bi-Han and Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion/Hanzo Hasashi, two otherworldly feuding ninjas.
As to what fans can expect, the filmmakers have promised first and foremost that the series’ signature use of graphic violence, as well as Fatalities, will finally be featured on the big screen. As McQuoid tells Entertainment Weekly, “It’s amount of blood, it’s amount of red, it’s interpretation of how you go about it. We had a lot of discussions about getting the balance right so there was gore and there was blood and there were fatalities…and there is gore, blood, and fatalities”. Needless to say, and based on the red-band trailer we got, this is definitely getting an R rating; and Tan adds that the film will indeed feature some crazy Fatalities. McQuoid is also touting the film’s fight sequences, with some of the cast (like Tan, Huang, Taslim, and Sanada) already having martial arts backgrounds. At the same time, the filmmakers also promise some grounded moments as well, from Cole’s journey of self-discovery to the revenge-fueled story between Scorpion and Sub-Zero.
As mentioned at the top of the article, the first trailer is pretty strong. The fight sequences look appropriately brutal and very stylish, the series’ iconic characters look accurate, and it’s filled with easter eggs and nods to the series from Fatalities to character catchphrases (“Finish them!”, “Get over here!”). The trailer’s orchestral music even finds a way to subtly work in the awesome techno theme from the 1995 film. And with regards to diversity and representation, I appreciate that the film looks to have a predominantly Asian cast befitting some of the characters.
I do have a few reservations though. I’m still unsure on the new character Cole Young being the lead protagonist, especially since Liu Kang is already widely considered as the series protagonist but appears to be playing more of a supporting part here. The trailer oddly also makes it look like Kano (typically a villain and archenemies with Sonya and Jax) might be one of the good guys, but it could be an intentionally misleading edit. And I can’t help but miss Johnny Cage, who doesn’t appear to be in the film: he’s actually a fun character in the games. Then again there could be reveals and twists in the film that the trailer is withholding for now.
So for the time being, mark me down as also “cautiously optimistic”.
‘Mortal Kombat’ is set to release in theaters nationwide on April 16, 2021, and will be available the same day on HBO Max for 31 days.
Director: Simon McQuoid | Screenplay: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham | Story: Oren Uziel, Greg Russo | Based on the video game, created by Ed Boon and John Tobias | Producers: James Wan, Todd Garner, Simon McQuoid, E. Bennett Walsh | Music: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada
By Mario Yuwono
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