This Mortal Kombat article contains spoilers.
Simon McQuoid was given an interesting challenge directing the 2021 cinematic reboot of Mortal Kombat. While it does have an R-rating to help prop it up, this is hardly the first adaptation in this universe. The story has been told in movies, comics, novels, TV shows, and even the games, which were rebooted for the sake of retelling the first few chapters in a more detailed fashion. Hell, they just came out with an animated movie a year ago that explained the first game’s plot from Scorpion’s perspective.
The new movie certainly finds its own route into the mythos, and barring some bad luck, we’re probably going to get a sequel out of this. After all, it is coming out during a nice, sweet spot where people are getting vaccinated and are equally parts confident and desperate to see a movie in theaters. When they’re bored with Godzilla and Kong’s brawling, I imagine this is the shiniest prize.
The Big Prelude
One of the surprising developments of the movie is that, while it’s called Mortal Kombat, it isn’t Mortal Kombat. It’s ABOUT Mortal Kombat. All that talk about the tournament and protecting Earth from Outworld and last chances, it’s really all setup for the next installment. It’s not so much a remake of the 1995 movie as a full-length remake of that scene on the boat where Raiden gets mad at Shang Tsung for sending Sub-Zero and Scorpion after his champions.
It’s probably more comparable to Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, the laughable animated movie that came out as a tie-in to the first movie. That one also showed off Sub-Zero killing Scorpion and ended with Raiden yelling at Shang Tsung for trying to screw over the heroes pre-tournament.
It also lines up a little with the Mortal Kombat novel by Jeff Rovin. The obscure 1995 release had various characters from the first game meet up in what ended up being a prequel to the story. Not only was it noticeably missing a certain movie star (more on him in a moment), but in this telling of the story, Scorpion was the ghost of Sub-Zero’s slain victim merged with the body of his son. Not quite the same as Hanzo and his descendant fighting alongside each other, but similar enough for someone like me to connect the dots.
The Return of Scorpion
Hanzo Hasashi is killed in the opening scene but his baby daughter survives under Raiden’s watch. We learn that a prophecy claims that his bloodline will one day unite a new group of heroes to prevent Outworld from winning their tenth Mortal Kombat in a row. Eventually, this is revealed to be our protagonist Cole Young, Hanzo’s descendant. This prophecy ends up being more literal than expected in the final battle against Sub-Zero as Cole is stabbed with Hanzo’s iconic kunai and it magically allows Hanzo to return from the Netherrealm (Hell) to exact his revenge on Sub-Zero.
After succeeding in getting his vengeance, Scorpion shows respect to Cole and vanishes. Presumably, he’s returned to the Netherrealm to he can rest as well as anyone can in a world of pain and fire.
We obviously haven’t seen the last of him. In the games, Scorpion returned once again due to what appeared to be the resurrection of Sub-Zero. It ended up being Bi-Han’s younger brother, Kuai Liang, who was actually a good person and ended up reforming the Lin Kuei clan for the better. Scorpion became rivals with this Sub-Zero but later made peace with him, their clans fighting alongside each other against evil threats.
This is where things get interesting because in the movie’s continuity, Hanzo existed centuries ago instead of in the present. Bi-Han never aged during that time, presumably due to some magical reward of Shang Tsung’s. There would be no reason for him to have a brother taking his spot.
On the other hand, giving Sub-Zero his own Cole Young counterpart would make plenty of sense. Perhaps Kuai Liang will appear in the sequel as Sub-Zero’s conflicted descendant, having to decide between the duties of blood and virtue.
The Rise of Noob Saibot?
During Shang Tsung’s final speech, he mentions how death is itself like a portal. He then teleports the corpses of Sub-Zero and Goro into Outworld. He could have left them to rot, but he appears to have plans for them.
For fans of Mortal Kombat lore, the follow-up for Sub-Zero makes enough sense. In the games, Bi-Han went under his own Scorpion-like transformation after death. He returned as the all-black shadow assassin Noob Saibot, acting as a more warped and sinister version of his human self. Noob was also closely aligned with Quan Chi, Scorpion’s main nemesis and former handler, so we’ll see if that guy pops up down the line.
As for Goro, there’s no real instance in the games of him being resurrected, but it’s not like this movie doesn’t take liberties as is. Goro can have a little necromancy, as a treat.
Barring resurrections, Shang Tsung has lost Reptile, Goro, Sub-Zero, Kabal, Nitara, Reiko, Mileena, and Kano. He notes that these soldiers can be easily replaced. That opens up a lot of possibilities for who could pop up in a sequel. Perhaps Ermac? Skarlet? Erron Black? You could easily put money on Baraka.
Raiden also tasks the surviving heroes with searching for other champions for the tournament. Unlike the villains, there aren’t too many Earthrealm heroes to choose from. The blind swordsman Kenshi is very likely to join the crew. Nightwolf was also briefly referenced on Sonya and Jax’s wall of research, so don’t be surprised if he’s on the team.
Considering Mileena is a grotesque clone of her “sister” Kitana, you should expect Sisi Stringer show up in the sequel in a more heroic role.
Johnny Cage Cliffhanger
The money shot comes in the last scene. Cole quits his low-level MMA lifestyle and announces that he’s going to Hollywood. As he leaves the gym, we see a poster for Citizen Cage with the tagline “Fight For Your Rights.” The movie stars Johnny Cage (complete with large “CAGE” belt buckle), who we only see from the chest down due to the fact that the character hasn’t been cast yet.
Since the movie’s cast was first announced, fans have noted the blatant lack of Johnny Cage. Not only was Linden Ashby’s portrayal one of the most popular parts of the original movie, but Johnny’s the only character from the original game to not appear in this movie. A prominent theory before the movie’s release was that Cole was going to be Johnny all along and change his name at the end of the film.
But no, Johnny Cage is sequel bait and I’m right there chomping on the hook.
Jonathan Carlton is a talented martial artist who used his skill to become a popular action star under the name Johnny Cage. Due to his outrageous skill and moves, he’s been accused of being a fraud who uses camera tricks and stunt doubles to pull off his fight sequences. He initially entered the Mortal Kombat tournament because he was under the impression it would revitalize his career and prove his legitimacy, not quite understanding the severity or even secrecy of the event.
Mostly portrayed as comic relief and the audience’s POV character, Johnny became a regular in the Mortal Kombat series. When they rebooted the games’ story, it was revealed that in case of Liu Kang’s death, Johnny was a back-up “chosen one.” He’s the descendant of a cult of warriors dedicated to making the most badass offspring possible capable of slaying gods.
Funny enough, when Street Fighter did its cinematic reboot with Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, it also ended with a sequel hook about an upcoming fighting tournament and a quest to look up a series staple (in that case Ryu). I can’t help but feel that Mortal Kombat will be a little more successful in following up on its cliffhanger.
Now let’s see who they can get to fill those sunglasses.