It’s taken 24 years, but we’re finally getting a new live-action Mortal Kombat movie. The R-rated reboot is set to come out in April, but outside of some casting news, a few recent stills, and a very brief appearance in a HBO Max ad, and some character posters, Warner Bros. has kept a lid on the movie.
Fortunately, we finally have a trailer to dissect, and it’s quite the ride. Action-packed, dark as hell, and seemingly very faithful to the original games, the Simon McQuoid-directed movie seems on the right track..
Give the trailer a look below:
There are quite a few story hints, easter eggs, and nods to the games in this short trailer. Before we share our findings and try to figure out what it might all mean, we need to start with the big question…
WHO IS COLE YOUNG?
Lewis Tan plays Cole Young, who appears to be the protagonist of this movie. At the very least, he appears to be our POV character, as opposed to Liu Kang or Sonya. So what does this trailer tell us about him? Cole apparently has a birthmark shaped like the Mortal Kombat dragon logo. He also has a younger sister named Emily (Matilda Kimber).
But really, who is he?
There’s always the chance that Cole is really just a new character, but it’s just as likely that he’s a familiar Mortal Kombat character. Kind of like how Agents of SHIELD had the character Skye around for a season and a half before revealing her to be the existing comic character Quake.
One of the popular theories is that he’s Johnny Cage. Since this movie is most heavily inspired by the first game, Johnny Cage’s absence in this movie is notable. He’s the only guy on the first game’s roster that the movie seems to be ignoring. With Cole Young, the movie could be forgoing the comedic aspects of Cage’s quest and getting rid of the nonsensical “gain public notoriety by winning a super secret tournament that nobody’s ever heard of” storyline, which seems like a smart move.
Besides, Cole’s tattoo seems to suggest that he’s a “chosen one,” and the most recent games have doubled down on Cage being special, too. Turns out his ancestors were Mediterranean warriors bred and trained to kill gods.
The other big possibility is that Cole is actually Kuai Liang, the younger brother of Sub-Zero, who is featured heavily in this trailer. In Mortal Kombat lore, there are two Sub-Zeros, the villain Bi-Han and the hero Kuai Liang. After Bi-Han dies in the first game, Kuai Liang takes his place.
Revealing that Cole is in fact Sub-Zero’s good guy brother and can perform all of his awesome ice attacks would be a fun third act reveal.
Plus it would explain why he appears to be haunted by Scorpion’s demonic visage.
Then again, maybe Cole is someone lame like Taven. It would almost make sense if he were Rain. Almost.
Joe Taslim is Bi-Han, the first Sub-Zero. The trailer puts a ton of emphasis on him despite Sub-Zero being more of a henchman villain when he isn’t being depicted as an antihero. What’s great about this movie is that it’s using bits from the modern games for inspirations. Instead of just throwing ice balls and making frozen puddles, this Sub-Zero is able to weaponize his surroundings. Just look at the way he’s able to create a wall of frozen ice and throw Scorpion through it, or the way he freezes Scorpion’s blood and turns it into a dagger.
There’s an interesting shot in the trailer of Sub-Zero walking out of a dark, smoky portal. At first I thought this was supposed to be Smoke, but it’s very possible that it’s Bi-Han’s post-death form, Noob Saibot.
Hiroyuki Sanada is Hanzo Hasashi, the ninja warrior fated to die and return as the specter Scorpion. Prior to becoming an undead warrior, we do get to see him wiping out a bunch of idiot invaders with his trademark kunai.
We see more of him later, wearing an outfit closely resembling his Mortal Kombat 11 look, complete with an aura of Hellfire. More importantly, it appears we’ll finally get that cinematic Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero fight we’ve been wanting for decades.
“Slaves under my control,” my ass.
Ludi Lin is Liu Kang, the hero of Mortal Kombat. At some point, the people behind the games realized that Liu Kang had become a pretty bland protagonist and shunted him to the sidelines. Even the recent Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge made a big deal about him being the chosen one, but also kept him in Scorpion’s shadow.
That leaves us wondering how much he’ll get to do in this movie. He was fine in the original film, but if Cole Young is the main character, what does that mean for Liu? Who is going to watch who save the world?
Regardless, we get to see Liu show off his fire powers. This includes summoning a giant, flaming dragon. Definitely a step up from the awful CGI of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
Josh Lawson is Kano, playing up Trevor Goddard’s previous take on the character as much as humanly possible. Kano has his cybernetic eye, including the laser, but it’s less overt, hidden by a bit of skin grafting.
Kano’s appearance overall is interesting. Based on what we see in the trailer, it seems very likely that he’s an ally who betrays the rest of the heroes. He travels around with them, but we also see Sonya take him down and Kung Lao deflect the eye laser, so the timeline of events is unclear.
He also gets to take out what appears to be Reptile with his classic heart rip Fatality.
Mehcad Brooks is Jackson “Jax” Briggs, who unfortunately ran into Sub-Zero during a mission years before the events of the movie. Jax got his arms shattered in that fight, but he tends to lose his arms quite often so no biggie.
As expected, he gets cool metal arms as replacements. He’s shown later in the trailer preparing for his head-clap Fatality against some goon in armor. I give you fifty/fifty odds it’s an established character that nobody likes like Hotaru or Dairou.
Jessica McNamee is Sonya Blade, and while she’s seen guiding Cole a bit early on, she doesn’t appear to do too much else in the trailer. We do see her very briefly fight with Mileena in the final moments in the trailer. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cut, she appears to blow off a huge chunk of Mileena’s midsection using her laser gauntlets. Nasty.
Finally, Kung Lao makes his movie debut and is played by Max Huang. All he does in the trailer is identify himself and deflect Kano’s laser with his hat, and that’s about it.
In the games, Kung Lao is the descendant and reincarnation of the Great Kung Lao who defended Earthrealm in Mortal Kombat until being killed by Goro. He’s Liu Kang’s best friend, but is also jealous that Liu is the hero when the glory really should go to the original hero’s descendant.
Goro only appears for a second, leaping at an unknown opponent wearing what appears to be gold armor for a shirt. Goro was the initial selling point of Mortal Kombat as the returning champion and penultimate boss. Hopefully, this shot pertains to a real fight in the movie and not, say, a flashback to a tournament from centuries earlier.
Sisi Stringer appears as Mileena, Shao Kahn’s beloved daughter figure, personal assassin, and the deranged clone of Kitana. What’s interesting about her appearance in the trailer is that there’s been no mention of Kitana nor Baraka in this movie. Mileena is a spinoff/hybrid of the two, so seeing her appear on her own is surprising.
Her design is pretty reined in here. Gone is the character’s usual giant piranha mouth.
Tadanobu Asano is Raiden, who doesn’t do anything other than stand around and look cool. At least we see him staring down Shang Tsung, suggesting that his role isn’t to compete in the tournament,but to mentor the heroes and keep Shang from abusing his authority.
Chin Han is Shang Tsung, who doesn’t have much going on here either, but we do get confirmation that Sub-Zero and Mileena work for him.
Much like the first Mortal Kombat game, Shao Kahn, the emperor of Outworld, seems to be off the table in this movie. He’ll likely be mentioned or referenced at some point, but it’ll likely be in the form of the statue we see in the trailer.
The statue very closely resembles his Mortal Kombat 11 look. In fact, it’s like he walked straight out of the game…or off the side of your cool uncle’s van.
There are a couple of shots of what appears to be Reptile. Instead of going with the ninja version of the character, the movie depicts him as the two-legged lizard creature from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
Not only does he get his heart torn out by Kano, but he’s also turning invisible at one point. Better than the CGI mess from the ’90s at least.
The movie seems to be connecting the wacky birthmark with the existence of the Mortal Kombat tournament, which is odd. What is cool is this painting, which appears to depict the Great Kung Lao after kicking Shang Tsung’s magical ass in the tournament finals.
They should totally make a live-action TV show about that era, and kill off all the good guys in the final episode before getting cancelled. That would be cool.
Mortal Kombat is out on April 16 on HBO Max.