Mortal Kombat has been notoriously hard to adapt to film. In the ’90s, we got a brilliant B-Movie whose faults included the wild casting of Christopher Lambert as Raiden. A few years ago, we got far closer to what fans wanted with Machinima’s limited web series. And in 2019, it was announced that James Wan would be producing a Mortal Kombat movie, leaving us to wonder if this could be the one that gets it right. And for the first time we’ve gotten a look at what to expect. And spoiler averse readers beware as there are some surprises in store!
Here’s everything we know so far about the promising project:
What Is It About?
Directed by Simon McQuoid. Mortal Kombat will be a new adaptation of the popular fighting game. Greg Russo and Dave Callaham wrote the screenplay with the story by Russo and Oren Uziel. The martial arts-savvy cast means that it will likely be a serious action film, and the R rating means that we’ll undoubtedly get some of the game’s famous gore. And now thanks to an EW feature we’ve got a clearer idea of what Mortal Kombat is actually about.
The piece goes into detail about some of the most vital and exciting parts of the game. “Mortal Kombat… begins with a crucial piece of lore from the original games: the blood feud between the clans of Hanzo and Bi-Han (Joe Taslim). The 10-minute opening sequence kicks off in feudal Japan, long before these fighters wielded supernatural abilities as Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and it ends in ‘a pretty nasty hand-to-hand combat’ between the two, McQuoid says. It’s why the first-time feature filmmaker cast Sanada and Taslim, two actors known for their martial arts prowess. ‘[Hanzo’s] the leader of a ninja clan and he’s strong, but also… at the beginning, he’s a peaceful family man,’ Sanada says. ‘It is like a family drama with excitingly brutal fighting. That’s the image of this movie for me,’ he adds.”
One of the most exciting parts of this cast is the roster of martial arts stars. So will this be a big budget fight movie? According to director McQuoid it sounds like it. “As a joke, McQuoid told stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner to craft ‘the best fight sequences ever done in a movie ever.’ In reality, these action pieces are some of the highest-rated elements of the movie to come out of early test screenings, according to McQuoid and Lewis Tan. ‘We need to be smart about how we go about [the fights],’ the director notes, ‘and there are times, you’ll see when you see the movie, when it’s just, ‘F— it! Let’s have some fun.'”
Speaking of Tan, there’s also the new introduction Cole Young. He’s apparently the mortal in character to the supernatural world. A washed up MMA fighter, Cole will be drawn into the world of Mortal Kombat after being targeted by Sub-Zero. You can find out more about Cole and the other characters below.
Who’s in It?
Lewis Tan is Cole Young
Finally Lewis Tan’s role has been revealed. He’ll be playing an entirely new character called Cole Young. “‘When we first meet Cole, he’s in a really bad spot,’ Tan says. ‘He’s down on his luck. He’s kind of a washed-up MMA fighter who used to be a champion, who used to believe in himself, who used to have a lot of hope in his career. And it’s all gone down the drain. It’s a very interesting place for a hero to start, and I think that, along the journey of Mortal Kombat and Cole discovering where he comes from, you’re introduced to all these other iconic characters and elements that everybody loves so dearly.'”
EW revealed that “Cole knows nothing of his heritage aside from the mysterious birthmark on his chest — in the shape of the Mortal Kombat symbol. Tan remains mum on how this birthmark connects to the character’s origins but agrees “it’s a unique symbol” that “will eventually tie into the journey that he’s going on.” It remains the only clue Cole has when the sinister sorcerer and emperor of the realm Outerworld, Shang Tsung (Chin Han), sends Sub-Zero, now with his cryomancy powers, to hunt him down.”
According to the piece this leads Cole to meet some other key MK characters. “Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs (Mehcad Brooks), a special forces major who bears the same mark as Cole, urges him to seek out Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). She ferries him onward to the next leg of the journey, to the thunderous Elder God known as Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), who grants sanctuary at his temple to all those with the mark. There, Cole encounters even more recognizable characters from the Mortal Kombat games — Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang), and Kano (Josh Lawson) — as they all train for a high-stakes tournament to defeat the invading enemies from Outerworld.”
Joe Taslim Is Sub-Zero and Hiroyuki Sanada Is Scorpion
According to reports, action star Joe Taslim will be playing Sub-Zero, one of the core characters from the Mortal Kombat franchise. It’s an extremely exciting bit of casting as Taslim is a talented martial artist known for brilliant and brutal films like The Raid: Redemption and The Night Comes for Us. Seeing as the Mortal Kombat movie is coming from Warner Bros’ famed horror studio New Line, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the project will be leaning into the more violent aspects of the controversial game. The R-rating and promise of a “blood universe,” seems to promise that’s the case.
In another exciting bit of casting, Westworld, Lost, and Message from Space star Hiroyuki Sanada will be taking on the role of Mortal Kombat‘s other most recognizable character: Scorpion. The connection between Scorpion and Sub-Zero runs deep and will likely play a key part of the narrative in the new film. Sanada was most recently seen being horribly wasted in Avengers: Endgame and it seems that Mortal Kombat will rectify that by giving him a meaty action role to luxuriate in.
Ludi Lin Is Liu Kang and Max Huang in Kung Lao
You probably know him best from the underrated 2017 Power Rangers flick, but Ludi Lin was most recently seen in Aquaman and the Black Mirror episode “Striking Vipers.” This is a massive moment for Lin as Liu Kang is the main character in pretty much every Mortal Kombat game. The iconic Robin Shau played Kang in the ’90s movies based on the game. Liu is the closest thing to a good guy in the world of Mortal Kombat and is the arch-enemy of the nefarious magical sorcerer Shang Tsung.
Max Huang is a stuntman and actor who regularly works alongside Jackie Chan. This is a powerhouse team up for two of Mortal Kombat’s most important figures. Kung Lao is a former Shaolin monk whose ancestor was a great warrior. Lao though would rather not take part in the brutal fight to the death. But while he’s a pacifist at heart he’s also a stunning fighter.
Mehcad Brooks Is Jax
Jax is a cybernetically enhanced super-soldier and special forces officer who works alongside Sonya Blade. Mehcad Brooks is a charming and talented actor whose most recent role was playing mild-mannered Jimmy Olsen on Supergirl, so we’re very interested to see how this one shakes out. Mehcad definitely has the chops for the role and it’ll be fun to see him getting some more action in this R-rated movie.
Jessica McNamee Is Sonya Blade
The original female Mortal Kombat character, Sonya Blade is a badass special forces officer who has been a part of the game since its first release in 1992. The actress bringing her to life was last seen fighting a giant shark alongside Jason Statham in The Meg, so she can likely be trusted to take on the mysterious evils of Mortal Kombat.
Josh Lawson Is Kano
Josh Lawson is best known for comedic roles in House of Lies, The Campaign, and Anchorman 2, but he’ll be joining the Mortal Kombat cast as Kano, a vicious mercenary who often crosses proverbial and literal swords with Sonya Blade and Jax.
Tadanobu Asano Is Raiden
Raiden is the literal God of Thunder (no, not that one) so this inclusion confirms the film will likely be leaning into the more mystical elements of the Mortal Kombat series. Asano is a radical Japanese actor with an impressive list of credits, but he’s probably best known in America as one of Thor’s Warrior’s Three. So this is a perfectly wonderful bit of meta-casting!
Chin Han Is Shang Tsung
Probably best known for his role in The Dark Knight, Chin Han is taking on the iconic role of Shang Tsung, one of the biggest bads in the world of Mortal Kombat. The evil sorcerer who oversees the inter-dimensional battle, Shang Tsung is only out-eviled by Shao Khan, who has yet to be cast. So for now, Chin Han looks like he’ll be the antagonist of the new Mortal Kombat movie.
Sisi Stringer Is Mileena
Newcomer Sisi Stringer will play Mileena, one of the most iconic characters in the game. A clone of her “sister” Kitana made by the sorcerer Shang Tsung, Mileena is a conflicted and violent woman whose brutality is only matched by her skills as an assassin. We’re very excited to see whether this means that we might see Kitana, Jade, and Baraka in the film.
Will There Be Fatalities?
Thanks to the r-rating we already knew there would be gore and the EW feature confirms that. “‘I wanted to make sure that everyone respected the material, the lore of Mortal Kombat, the fans and the love they have for this. Everyone was clear on it,’ McQuoid says of developing the reboot. Respect for the material also meant leaning into what makes Mortal Kombat so popular after all these years. Blood has a lot to do with that.
McQuoid is still editing the film, but he already knows ‘it’s definitely not gonna get a PG-13 rating.’ ‘Out of context this quote might seem incendiary, it’s not: The rules around ratings aren’t what a lot of people think they are,’ he says. ‘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.’ He pauses to repeat what he just said. ‘And there is gore, blood, and fatalities.'”
“‘There are some crazy fatalities,’ Tan confirms. ‘We’ve picked a couple of iconic ones. There’s a lot of really cool signature moves that you’ll see, a lot of Easter eggs that we snuck into the film, but there are some really badass fatalities that I can’t wait to see on the big screen. They’re brutal, man. They, they don’t hold back.’ At the same time, McQuoid ‘didn’t want to get into NC-17 territory.’ He notes, ‘It’s amazing how quickly you can get there. It doesn’t take much.’ At least, not for a Mortal Kombat movie.”
When Will It Be Released?
The release date is currently set for April 16th 2021! On both HBO Max and in theaters–if it’s safe to visit them!
Keep your eyes peeled on this post as we’ll be updating as we get more news and until then, practice those fatalities.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.
Originally published on August 30, 2019 and updated on January 15th, 2021.