I really had a bloody good time with Mortal Kombat, but I’ll be the first to admit the recent R-rated video adaptation reboot had issues. The flavour and severity of those issues differ from person to person, but one common complaint is that for a movie based on a game originally built around a fighting tournament, there’s practically no tournament to speak of here.
Now it has to be pointed out that the story of the Mortal Kombat games stopped featuring any tournaments whatsoever a very long time ago, relying on just a series of combat encounters between Earthrealm defenders and Outworld invaders, just like in the movie. But you would expect the first movie in a new franchise to pull from the first game in an established franchise, right? Wrong. Not if this is just the first movie with more to come. That’s what writer Greg Russo explained to Collider when asked about how he structured this story.
Movie one, we were always kind of setting this up as — well I was setting it up, it’s basically in my head — I always saw [movie one] as pre-tournament, then [movie two is] hopefully tournament, then [movie three is] post-tournament. So the idea was that this was going to be a pre-tournament movie that would hopefully sow the seeds for the tournament, the final.
Russo continued, explaining that the plan was always to do a trilogy of films, not just for the tournament arc, but also so that there’s enough screentime to bring in everybody’s favourite characters from the expansive roster the Mortal Kombat games now feature.
Everybody was focused on movie one, right? You don’t get a trilogy without it. But as a writer, you should never be painting yourself in a corner, that’s my motto. You should always be thinking about ‘Where can your story go even beyond the two hours — this is not a lot of time — that I have to tell this story? Where else can it go?’ So I always saw it as leading up to something bigger. And so the idea then became, alright, we have a certain amount of characters we can fit, don’t have the luxury of having individual movies of all these characters, I’m getting thrown right into Avengers mode, which is fun and a challenge. But I knew that there were other characters I just couldn’t get in, and it actually didn’t even make sense to bring in yet for the story. So then it became a matter of, ‘Well, who’s the big characters that we wanna save?’ ‘Cause you also don’t wanna use everything.
One of those characters that was saved for later use was Johnny Cage. And it’s all Kano’s fault. Josh Lawson’s foul-mouthed mercenary undoubtedly steals the movie with his barrage of dirty one-liners, and that non-stop delivery left no room for another wise-cracking character like the showboating action hero Cage, as Russo explained in a previous interview with Polygon.
So picking the roster was really difficult. And when it came to Johnny Cage, it was really a story decision. It was. We had Kano, and everybody loved the way that Kano was fitting into that story. And the thing is, Kano and Johnny Cage have very similar personalities. They’re both that egotistical, noxious character. And when I was putting them next to each other, it was way too much. And then it got down to the point of being different. We didn’t just want to recycle the same three people getting on a boat that you’ve seen in every iteration of Mortal Kombat in the last 25 years. So it felt like, OK, let’s not do that same core group of people again, and if we’re going to take a character out, let’s wait and make sure that we can do them justice.
While Mortal Kombat lost the spot at the US box office this weekend past as previous runner-up Demon Slayer: Mugen Train managed to narrowly switch places in its second week, the video game adaptation is currently sitting on a worldwide total of $66.9 million off a $50 million budget. Normally that would not be enough to celebrate turning a profit once marketing costs were factored in, but Mortal Kombat has also been a huge success on HBO Max where it reportedly posted big numbers for the streaming service on its debut. Combine those two factors and it looks like a safe bet that Russo will get his chance to do both Johnny Cage and the Mortal Kombat tournament justice in another movie.
Last Updated: May 4, 2021