Get over here! — because we’ve got all the info you’ll need about the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie. An action-packed, R-rated adaptation of the classic fighting video game series, Mortal Kombat looks like it might be the rare video game movie that’s actually pretty good (or, at least, pretty fun). Here’s the rundown on what to expect from the film, which comes out on April 16.
Mortal Kombat, like all of Warner Bros.’ 2021 movies, will be available to stream on HBO Max for no additional cost on the same day it premieres in theaters, on April 16, 2021. WarnerMedia, which owns both the famed film studio and the streaming service, made the somewhat controversial decision due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as it’s still unclear when the masses will be able or willing to see movies in theaters. Mortal Kombat will open in theaters (including in Imax) on April 16, but it can also be safely streamed at home, though the film will only be available on HBO Max for one month before going down the traditional premium VOD route.
Mortal Kombat was directed by Simon McQuoid, and while it’s the Australian director’s feature film debut, he’s a fairly prolific director of commercials. And, crucially for those wondering if he has the chops to helm a big action movie based on a video game, McQuoid has directed ads for Call of Duty and Halo. Greg Russo, who co-wrote the script with Dave Callaham (The Expendables, Wonder Woman 1984), is another relative unknown, but Aquaman director James Wan is producing, which bodes well.
An ad for HBO Max’s upcoming slate of movies featured a quick glimpse of Mortal Kombat earlier this year, but the first proper trailer debuted on February 18. Fans of the video game series and its notoriously violent finishing movies will be pleased to know that there’s a “red band” trailer — essentially meaning the trailer itself is rated-R. Considering that Kano drops an F-bomb and there’s tons of bloody, gory action (Sub-Zero stabs Scorpion with his own frozen blood!), the trailer seems like a fitting promotion for the movie, which is decidedly R-rated. The final few seconds alone, a quick montage of several of the “fatalities” — the infamously graphic finishing blows from the game series — seem to merit the rating.
So far, there’s really only one character from the original Mortal Kombat arcade game who hasn’t been confirmed to appear in the 2021 movie: Johnny Cage, the Hollywood action star-turned-champion who was the ostensible protagonist of the 1995 movie. The new Mortal Kombat stars Lewis Tan, best known for Into the Badlands and Wu Assassins, who plays a brand-new character (as far as we know) named Cole Young, an MMA fighter with a birthmark shaped just like the Mortal Kombat logo, meaning he’s destined to fight in the iconic tournament.
However, there are plenty of other familiar faces. Joining Cole in his fight to defend Earth are Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), a special forces officer; Kano (Josh Lawson), an Aussie mercenary with a laser eye who is typically more villainous than he appears to be here; Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), a Shaolin monk with fire powers; Kung Lao (Max Huang), a Chinese warrior with a razor-sharp hat; and Jax Briggs (Mehcad Brooks), another special forces officer who has robotic arms following a run-in with a certain chilly ninja. Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), a god of thunder and protector of Earthrealm, will serve as a mentor for the forces of good.
On the other side stands Shang Tsung (Chin Han), the right-hand-man of Shao Khan, the ruler of the mystical realm of Outworld. Mileena (Sisi Stringer), a fighter with a gnarly mouth, also appears in the trailer, as does Goro, the four-armed champion.
And, of course, Sub-Zero and Scorpion, arguably the two most famous Mortal Kombat characters, appear as well. The former, a deadly warrior with the ability to control ice, is played by Joe Taslim, who has proven his martial arts bona fides in movies like The Raid and The Night Comes for Us, and he appears to the film’s major villain. The latter, an undead ninja whose name in life was Hanzo Hasashi, is played by veteran actor Hiroyuki Sanada, who is probably best known outside of Japan for his roles in The Last Samurai, Westworld, and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.
The Mortal Kombat games do have a fairly complex mythology — there’s a plot reason why all those fighters need to throw hands. Essentially, Shang Tsung, the emperor of another realm called Outworld, has his sights set on conquering our world, otherwise known as Earthrealm. However, in order to get permission to start the conquest, Outworld’s champions need to defeat Earthrealm’s champions in a contest known as Mortal Kombat. The movie appears to be following the same basic set-up, though the specifics may vary, of course.
Here’s the official synopsis, per Warner Bros.:
“In Mortal Kombat, MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana — the immense power from within his soul — in time to save not only his family, but to stop Outworld once and for all?”
That sounds like what most viewers would expect, more or less, so it’ll be the action that determines whether or not the film will win fans over. Judging from the trailer, it looks like Mortal Kombat has that part nailed.
Movies based on video games are typically thought of as uniformly terrible, though that’s starting to change. Last year’s Sonic the Hedgehog movie was, perhaps surprisingly, quite well-received, as was Detective Pikachu the year before. The 1995 big screen adaptation of Mortal Kombat is generally considered to be one of the better video game movies ever made, and it has become something of a cult classic (its defenders make a much better case for it than its Tomatometer score might suggest). The 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat Anhiliation, however, is universally considered to be pretty awful. So, if 2021’s Mortal Kombat is any good, it stands a chance of winning the title of best Mortal Kombat movie.
Expect a violent fatality if it does.
Mortal Kombat will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on April 16, 2021.