Mortal Kombat is no stranger to film and television, and there’s been news circling around for a while now that the film franchise would be getting a reboot. The last time we saw an adaptation of Mortal Kombat, it was the webseries Mortal Kombat: Legacy that ran from 2011 to 2013, which itself was a reinvention of the MK mythos. Now thanks to That Hashtag Show, we have our first details on what the film will focus on, and it’s probably not what you would have expected.
Instead of focusing on an established Mortal Kombat character like Liu Kang or Sub Zero, the film is going to follow a new character named Cole Turner, a boxer from Philadelphia. Cole is said to be recruited by a Prophecy Chaser to compete in the Mortal Kombat Tournament. Based on his description, Cole is a struggling boxer and a single father after the death of his wife. But Cole doesn’t give up, even against the fantastical enemies he’s about to face. Cole’s daughter is named Emily, who’s wise-beyond-her-years and she’s primarily looked after by Cole’s mother-in-law Sophia, who’s understanding of Cole’s situation. Cole also has a sister-in-law named Jess who views Cole as a bad father.
So, I know what you’re thinking, nothing I just said outside of the tournament sounds remotely like Mortal Kombat, it sounds more like an offshoot film in the Rocky universe. I can see that they’re going for with this, they want a more grounded lead to help with ease of entry for new fans. In a world of special agents, Chinese ninja warriors, four armed monsters, and Johnny Cages, a down-on-his luck boxer is much easier for a newcomer to understand and relate to. But this isn’t to say that no familiar faces will be in the film, in fact there are quite a few listed here.
First off, we have Sonya Blade as our female lead, who is also the aforementioned Prophecy Chaser. She described as a brainy blonde writer who, despite fighting bravely alongside her team she recuits, can’t be a true part of it until she earns a medallion in battle. So, for her anyway, they’re radically changing her, from a special forces agent chosen compete in the Tournament to a writer who wants to. Honestly outside of one other character, she’s probably the most different from her original counterpart.
Our other supporting lead is Kano, who sounds much more like himself. He’s a large Australian man, as he’s been since the first Mortal Kombat film, who’s a former special forces agent turned merc-for-hire who’s incredible arrogant, but skilled. It seems from the offset that this time he’s fighting for Earth’s side, but that can easily change if Outworld gives him a better offer. The team will be lead a trained by Raiden, the immortal Thunder God, at an area that apparently contains a clocktower. Interestingly enough, Rayden will be in a guise of a 14-year-old boy named Jin. The rest of Earthrealm’s team consists of Jax, Liu Kang, and Kung Lao. Jax in the film is a mercenary or military officer who loses his arms in an outworld attack before joining the team, so it looks like he’ll have the metal arms right in the first film. Liu Kang is basically Liu Kang, a fire shooting, talented Warrior monk. Kung Lao actually changed quite a bit, instead of being Liu Kang’s petulant cousin who’s jealous of him, he’s his brother and is also mute. He’s still got the hat though.
On Outworld’s side we have Mileena, who like in the games is gorgeous from what we see and scantily clad but covers her lower face with a veil. Then we have Shang Tsung, a shapeshifting, powerful sorcerer, so no major change there. Kabal on the other hand, while physically the same as his game counterpart, with his scarred and cover face, leather jacker and hook swords, seems to be from Outworld in this film. The rest of the choices for the team are…odd to say the least. We have Drahmin, an oni mask wearing creature with twisted flesh and a mace replacing one of his hands, and Nitara, a female vampire with two batwings coming out of her back. I say it’s odd because these two have only appeared in two games in the series and aren’t exactly popular with the fanbase. They may be hoping to build on this film in later sequels with more recognizable faces, so they’re using admittedly visually interesting but minor characters before bring out the bigger names later on. Finally, we have Reiko, who’s slightly more notable than the previous two, he’s an outworld general with a giant Warhammer. Hopefully we’ll get to see him play dress up as Shao Kahn.
So, there’s a lot to unpack here. First off, having Raiden as a 14-year-old boy will likely rub some people the wrong way. It could work if done well, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t want to see a more traditional Rayden. The radical changes to Sonya will likely have a similar reaction as well. There’s also some notable absences from the listed cast, most especially Scorpion and Sub Zero, the series mascots. Likely they’re show up in some form, they’re too well known to leave out, especially since Scorpion is series co-creator Ed Boon’s favorite character. On a similar note,f the decision to use minor villain on the Outworld side is interesting, it does open up the possibilities for more obscure characters to show up if this becomes a series.
What this film needs to do most is focus on its story and characters. Compared to other games in its genre, that’s what Mortal Kombat does best, outside of near comedic levels of gore. But the two prior reasons are why people look forward to the story mode of the games and why the first film from the 90s is considered one of the better examples of a Video Game movie, despite its lack of blood. Hopefully, Cole’s story will be complimented by the spectacular nature of Mortal Kombat, rather than it clashing with it, which it easily can.
We have a while to see how this film pans out. Will it be a Flawless Victory or a Hara-Kiri to the franchise?