Mortal Kombat has arrived. Nearly two decades since the first film and even longer since the game was first released, the R-rated fighting flick is here. Now that you’ve seen the brutally brilliant film and soaked yourself in fatalities, it’s time to get a little deeper. To assist your post-watch deep dive, we chatted to Mortal Kombat scribe Greg Russo. The writer got into everything from that Cole Young reveal, his favorite Easter eggs, and that huge tease!
Breaking down the truth about Cole Young
Ever since it was first revealed that Lewis Tan would play a new character, fans have wondered how Cole Young connected to the greater world of Mortal Kombat. Now the movie’s out there the answer is too: he’s the descendant of Scorpion. It’s a key part of the movie’s lore and to the future of the potential franchise. So how did that come about? “When I saw that there was a new protagonist for this movie, I decided to find the best avenue for him,” Russo told us. “The way I did it was I used his story device to kind of tie Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s stories together. I wanted Cole’s journey and his character to feel like he’s part of the mythology, not just thrown in there. His story actually matters to Scorpion’s story, and vice versa.”
Russo continued. “Cole is the one that actually unlocks Scorpion. He’s the one that brings him into this world. So I wanted to charge our new protagonist with one of the most important parts of that story: he brings our favorite character in. There’s also a really nice mirror between both their stories. Hanzo is a man who watched Bi-Han kill his wife and daughter in a block of ice and by the end of the movie, Cole is in the same situation. 400 years later it’s happening again. So when Scorpion comes back and sees his distant relative in the same situation, it awakens that loss and tragedy that he experienced.”
Fitting in those fatalities
One of the most iconic parts of Mortal Kombat are the fatalities. The gruesome finishing moves have long defined the fandom. And they’re one of the most anticipated parts of the film. Russo was just as excited as fans were for them. “There are seven fatalities in the movie, and I got to pick them all!” Russo told us excitedly. “I wanted to do a nice balance. So there’s a lot of old school stuff. Scorpion’s Toasty, that’s probably the most iconic. Kano’s Heart Rip. I grew up on the arcade machines so I wanted to put some of that stuff in there. Jax’s Head Clap, that’s one I love! I’m a big MKII fan so there’s a lot of fanservice to that one in there. And then I put my all time favorite fatality in there, which is Kung Lao’s fatality.”
Teasing the future of the franchise through Easter eggs
While there’s no post-credits scene, the final moments of the film do feature a huge tease. It’s an inclusion that will make die-hard fans happy. It’s a poster for a Johnny Cage movie, Citizen Cage. It teases his inclusion in a potential sequel, but why wasn’t he in this film? For Russo, it was a simple matter of characters. “If you want to talk about why Cage isn’t in the movie, it really comes down to Kano,” Russo explained. “And I take full responsibility for that! If I’ve got heroes on a journey, say Cole, Sonya, and Liu Kang, then they all have the same idea. As a writer, I’m always trying to find conflict. So if I drop in Kano, he’s self serving and egotistical, and he’s going to clash with the characters and he’s going to make it difficult.”
The addition of Kano was such a hit that it rendered Cage obsolete this time. “Kano and Cage have very similar abilities. They’re over the top, egotistical characters. And when I put Kano and Cage in a scene, it felt like the same character talking to themselves. It actually started to feel like a farce. So then we decided in an effort to leave ourselves places to go and to have big characters that I think can be upcast, hopefully in the future. It felt like that was a really exciting character to wait on, so then it became a matter of how we tease him.”
While the team settled on a simple pan over a Citizen Cage poster, there was a different version. “I’d written a scene where the heroes Cole, Sonya, and Liu Kang actually go to Warner Bros. They’re going to a meeting, but it felt like too much. So I’ve gotta give Simon McQuoid and the production team credit for coming up with what’s actually there.” Russo did get to pick the poster, though, and it was almost another famous Cage poster and fan fave Easter egg. “It was almost Ninja Mime! It was between those two!”
Mortal Kombat is in theaters and on HBO Max now!
Featured Image: Warner Bros.