Mortal Kombat dropped last week and quickly became one of the biggest hits of the year. It’s outpaced Godzilla vs. Kong, done well at the domestic and international box office (by pandemic standards), and sequel plans are already being discussed. Fans of the games were also delighted to see their favorite characters brought to life like this, with the general consensus being that writer Greg Russo and director Simon McQuoid understand what makes the franchise tick.
But one thing that’s had a few people scratching their heads is that there was no Mortal Kombat in Mortal Kombat. At the core of the games are perennial fighting tournaments between Earthrealm and Outworld to decide their fates. As we begin the movie, Outworld has notched up nine straight wins, with a tenth giving them the right to invade. And as you’ll know if you’ve seen it, Shang Tsung decides to tip the scales, assassinating Earth’s most promising fighters before the competition even begins.
This meant that while the tournament and its rules were frequently mentioned, it didn’t appear on screen. In an interview with GameSpot, McQuoid explained that this was partly to separate it from the 1995 movie, saying:
“We didn’t want to just do the same movies again. Just as important, though, the movie’s creative team wanted to reflect how the game franchise has changed over the years. If you look at the way the games evolved, and the storylines within, it’s kind of moved away from that as well.”
“We weren’t just recreating [the] original film, we weren’t recreating the first five years of its existence. We had to consider its entire history, coupled with the fact that when you have a tournament structure for a film, it really informs your structure, it becomes a very specific structural element within the script itself. And that then informs a rhythm within a film that we didn’t really feel like we wanted to be locked into. So if you look at both of those things, we needed to talk about it because it’s an essential part of what Mortal Kombat is, but we didn’t want to be locked into it.”
But with Mortal Kombat 2 now all but certain, it’s difficult to see how the next film can avoid depicting the tournament. As we left our heroes, they were searching for new champions to replace the ones killed by Shang Tsung and his goons. Liu Kang, Sonya, Jax and Cole will all return, and the signs are very good that the sequel will see scrotum-pummelling movie star Johnny Cage join them. And, if they go for an older version of the character, maybe we could also get his badass daughter Cassie Cage. Fingers crossed.