The upcoming James Wan-produced Mortal Kombat movie reboot has been in development for ages now. So long that it looked like Wan and director Simon McQuoid would never FINISH HIM… uh, I mean finish it. But the movie is now seemingly in the can with Warner Bros. recently scheduling it for release on 16 April on both HBO Max and theatres worldwide. That’s only a few months away, and yet for a movie that’s been shooting since September 2019, we have had literally NOTHING to show for it so far outside of a cast list and some set training vids. That all changed this weekend past though thanks to an exclusive preview from Entertainment Weekly who debuted a batch of images as well as chatting to the cast and creators.
First up, the secret is finally out about who martial arts actor Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Wu Assassins, Into the Badlands) is actually playing. And no, it’s not the blind swordsman Kenshi as many fans had suspected, or any of the other ass-kickers found in rosters of Mortal Kombat’s three-decades-long franchise. Tan is actually playing a brand new character named Cole Young, a brash MMA fighter who doesn’t know his own past, with the only clue to his heritage being a dragon-shaped birthmark on his chest. Yes, it’s the Mortal Kombat logo! As Tan explains, the “unique symbol… will eventually tie into the journey that he’s going on.”
When we first meet Cole, he’s in a really bad spot. 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.
Tan continued, explaining that he pulled on various different fighting styles like muay thai, judo, jiu jitsu, and for an MMA source he tried to emulate the “salt-of-the-earth grit” of UFC superstar Jorge Masvidal to develop Cole’s unique fighting style. He also spoke about how he knows fans may be apprehensive about a new character being introduced here – and he would know since he’s a Mortal Kombat fan himself.
I’ve been playing the game since I was a kid. For lack of a better way to describe it, you don’t want to mess it up because it’s so iconic. You want to bring something new to the table that people haven’t seen before, but at the same time, really respect and pay homage to these legendary worlds that were already created.
Cole’s journey into these worlds starts when icy cool ninja assassin Sub-Zero, played by the incredibly talented – and super friendly! – Joe Taslim (Warrior, The Raid, Furious 6), is sent by Outworld ruler Shang Tsung to capture Cole. Chin Han (Skyscraper) brings to life the evil otherworldly soul-sucking sorcerer, who his own agend with Cole.
But while encountering Sub-Zero is where Cole’s story starts, it’s not where Mortal Kombat starts. The film’s opening is a 10-minute fight between Sub-Zero and Mortal Kombat’s other ninja mascot Scorpion, played by Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin, The Last Samurai). Or rather, a fight between Bi-Han and Hanzo Hasashi, Sub-Zero and Scorpion’s early identities before they gain supernatural gifts and were just members of feuding ninja clans locked in a deadly personal battle. Set in feudal Japan, the opening scene sees the two engage in “pretty nasty hand-to-hand combat” which is why McQuoid hired such accomplished martial artists. But there’s more to it than just the blood being spilled, as there’s also a key story that “needed to be told within the fight.”
There are some great camera moves to give it a bit of dynamism, that make it really enjoyable. We needed it to be really elemental and really brutal. It’s not a shiny film… I wanted the dirt and the grime to come through.
Sanada added that at this point, “[Hanzo’s] the leader of a ninja clan and he’s strong, but also… at the beginning, he’s a peaceful family man.”
It is like a family drama with excitingly brutal fighting. That’s the image of this movie for me.
As for the rest of the Mortal Kombat family, there are some very familiar faces that Cole meets as he tried to unravel the mystery of his past, as EW described in their write-up:
Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs (Supergirl’s Mehcad Brooks), a special forces major who bears the same mark as Cole, urges him to seek out Sonya Blade (The Meg’s Jessica McNamee). She ferries him onward to the next leg of the journey, to the thunderous Elder God known as Lord Raiden (Thor’s 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 (Power Rangers’ Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (actor and stuntman Max Huang), and Kano (Superstore’s Josh Lawson) — as they all train for a high-stakes tournament to defeat the invading enemies from Outworld.
Even with the new wrinkle of Cole and the kind of cheesy dragon birthmarks, the rest sounds very Mortal Kombat to me. But it wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without a whole lot of violence, of course. Previous big-screen adaptations have dialed down the blood and gore, but McQuoid assures that this version will “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. 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 [PAUSES] And there IS gore, blood, and fatalities!
Tan echoed his director’s sentiments and confirmed that “There are some crazy fatalities,” referring to Mortal Kombat’s signature finishing moves that often end with characters dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, and much more in very gory fashion.
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.
McQuoid asked stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner to craft “the best fight sequences ever done in a movie ever,” and it would seem that the latter definitely went for that lofty goal. Test screenings for Mortal Kombat have reported seen the film’s fight scenes consistently garner some of the highest ratings from those that have seen it, which McQuoid credits to their willingness to just let his skilled cast go wild.
We need to be smart about how we go about [the fights], and there are times, you’ll see when you see the movie, when it’s just, ‘F— it! Let’s have some fun.’
Let’s hope it all turns out to be as fun as McQuoid and co makes it sound when Mortal Kombat finally hits screens in April.
Last Updated: January 18, 2021