In 1995, the first Mortal Kombat film proved that video game adaptations could be successful at the box office. However, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation performed a fatality on the goodwill of moviegoers just two years later. Now, after nearly 20 years, the Mortal Kombat video game series may finally be getting another chance on the big screen.
Variety is reporting that commercial director Simon McQuoid is in negotiations to helm the Mortal Kombat reboot for New Line Cinema. That’s far from a done deal, but if the studio is already talking to a director than it could mean that the reboot will actually happen this time. Director Kevin Tancharoen previously pushed for a new Mortal Kombat movie that eventually led to the two-season webseries, Mortal Kombat: Legacy.
The phenomenal response to Mortal Kombat 9 and Mortal Kombat X has proven that there’s still life in the franchise, but it’s not the easiest project to translate to live-action. The first Mortal Kombat movie did an admirable job of bringing that world to life, but it was far from a perfect adaptation. If a new MK film is going to thrive in the modern box office, it needs to be more than just “okay.”
Before McQuoid or another director step in to offer their take on the next Mortal Kombat movie, we hope that they take the following list of suggestions in mind.
Embrace the Concept
The first Mortal Kombat video game and movie were clearly inspired by some of the classic martial arts films of the ’70s. The plot basically followed a few characters who were brought to a mysterious island for a tournament that had grave implications for humanity’s future. That’s all this film needs to be. Fortunately, James Wan is producing this reboot and he seems to get that. Back in August, Wan told ComingSoon that he loved the MK characters and the world they inhabited. “It’s such an amazing take on, basically, Enter the Dragon,” said Wan. “It’s that fantasy version, the video game version, of Enter the Dragon. And in doing so, they ended up creating such interesting characters and I think that is such a cool world to explore.”
Stick to the Originals
The later Mortal Kombat games did a fantastic job of expanding the realms and bringing in new characters. But for the first movie in a reboot, the focus should absolutely be on the original seven characters: Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Kano, and Raiden, although we wouldn’t be against adding Jax, Kung Lao, and Kitana to the mix. But even the first MK movie made the mistake of not giving Scorpion or Sub-Zero anything meaningful to do other than being disposable brainwashed henchmen for Shang Tsung. We didn’t even get a Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero fight, and that’s one of the marquee matchups of the franchise! They need to have much bigger roles in the reboot.
Story Does Matter
Too many video game movies tend to make the mistake of going into production with terrible scripts because the director and the producers either didn’t know any better or they simply didn’t care. Fans don’t just want to see a video game movie; they want to see a good movie. That means that the creative team needs to take the time to make this a compelling story. As much as we love the first MK game and the mythology behind the franchise, that’s more of an outline than a fully formed adventure. It can be a great movie, but the screenwriter or writers will have to take the extra steps of making the characters engaging while offering a new take on a very familiar story.
Another reason fans want to see MK on the big screen is to see some of the game’s insane fights come to life. Within the first movie, the battle between Liu Kang and Reptile was particularly intense, and we’d love to see more of that style of fighting in the new film. Each fight in Mortal Kombat should seem like an important event within the movie, and that means the film should constantly be trying to top itself with each additional confrontation until the final match. To quote the most recent Godzilla movie, “Let them fight!”
One of the big reasons that fans love the Mortal Kombat games is the Fatalities. The ability to kill your opponent in a fighting game was innovative for its time, and it’s still the gaming franchise’s biggest signature feature. This time, the Fatalities need to be more present in the movie, and that may mean that even a few of the fan favorite characters could fall prey to them. The deaths mean nothing when they happen only to the nameless extras. For the Fatalities to carry any narrative weight, some of the main players have to fall.
After working their way through the regular roster in the first game, players were rewarded by a penultimate battle against Goro, the four-armed monstrosity who was the reigning champion of Mortal Kombat. Even in the game, Goro was such an intimidating presence that adding any more Shokan characters or other creatures from the later sequels would take away from his impact. Goro should stand alone as the most otherworldly character in this story.
Additionally, Goro should be treated as an actual character this time, with his own personality and motivations. Goro can and absolutely should be one of the film’s primary villains, but he deserves to have a much bigger role in the story and more development than he previously had. Since he no longer has to be a puppet with limited mobility, that should be easier.
Save Outworld For Later
Mortal Kombat II was the first game that brought players into the Outworld realm for a second tournament, and it’s been a major part of the franchise ever since. But Outworld and its various races really don’t have to be in the first Mortal Kombat movie, and it would be refreshing to see the director show some restraint by not stuffing the game’s entire mythos into a single film. If the new Mortal Kombat does well enough to earn a sequel, then that would be the ideal time to enter Outworld and explore the weirdness that awaits.
What do you want to see in a possible big screen reboot of Mortal Kombat? Test your insight in the comment section below!
Images: Warner Bros. Interactive/Netherrealm Studios/New Line Cinema