Mortal Kombat: Two words that would change the face of the video game industry, rating systems, and pop culture forever. In 1992 creators Ed Boon and John Tobias unleashed the original Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet across the world to universal praise. Well, kind of. Parents weren’t thrilled, but 90’s kids like myself were absolutely over the moon for it! I’ll never forget growing up in Agoura Hills, CA. and playing Mortal Kombat as often as possible at the Round Table Pizza every day after school on my way home (thanks for the Quarters, mom!).
MK was all we kids talked about back in those days because nobody (especially kids) had ever seen so much blood & violence in a fighting game before. The game itself was filled with rich and colorful characters, epic looking levels to fight in, and you could uppercut peoples head off of their body! It was mind-meltingly awesome! There was a mystique to the original three MK games back then because, at the time, the internet didn’t exist. So when numerous rumors about secret codes that would unlock hidden characters, moves and stages were talked about amongst kids in the arcades or in the cafeteria, it was golden information for any fan who wanted to dive deeper into the games hidden treasures!
After a few years of dominating the video game and toy markets, Hollywood came knocking and in 1995 hardcore MK fans were gifted a holy grail of epic cinematic proportions…the Paul W.S Anderson masterpiece (besides Event Horizon!) Mortal Kombat, the movie! Even if you weren’t a fan, there was no way to deny the cultural impact that Mortal Kombat had made on the world during this time. It was EVERYWHERE and it was intoxicating.
Lord Rayden (Christopher Lambert) handpicks three martial artists — federal agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), Shaolin monk Lui Kang (Robin Shou) and action movie sensation Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) — and mentors them. After intense training, Rayden transports the trio to Outworld, the site of an inter-dimensional fighting tournament. There, the three humans must defeat the demonic warriors of the evil Shang Sung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) — or allow Sung to take over the Earth.
The film itself was chock-full of incredible practical effects such as the animated puppet for the four-armed warrior Goro created by A.D.I, insane set design pieces (and some not so incredible early CGI but back then, but nobody cared about such a small gripe!). We fans were grateful the movie even existed and we couldn’t get enough of it. Sure, there was no blood, no real fatalities like in the games (and some odd storytelling choices) but we got to see Scorpion, Sub Zero, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Kano brought to life for the very first time and it RULED! We also got a hilariously bad yet memorable performance from Christopher Lambert as Raiden, as well as a perfectly cast performance of Shang Tsung played by the wonderful Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who recently reprised his role as the master soul stealer in Mortal Kombat 11, the latest entry in the video games franchise (more on that later). Every single kid I knew exhausted the VHS when it was released and I think we can all agree that to this day the soundtrack for the 95’ film is easily one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Don’t even pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. Unless you actually don’t. In which case you should stop reading this article and go listen to those sweet sounds of synth right now!
Another unfortunate blow to the original film was it’s PG-13 rating, hence the no blood and all that jazz. The ’90s were a magical time for filmmaking and though many projects that would never see the light of day in 2020 got the greenlight; there were also a lot of properties that studios wanted to make money on but in order to get kids asses in seats, they needed to tone some things down and adjust the material in films like The Mask and Mars Attacks. from their original, more violent origins.
After the insane box office success of Mortal Kombat which raked in $122.1 million worldwide on a $20 million dollar budget, a sequel was quickly developed and released two years later in 1997. Unfortunately for fans, it was pretty much hated by everyone who saw it. That film was called Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Multiple actors were recast, Anderson wasn’t returning to direct, the story was awful, and pretty much everything about it was just really, really bad. I still saw it in theaters, but even at 11-years-old, it was nowhere near the effort of the first film in my Kombat lovin’ heart.
Every generation, a portal opens up between the Outerworld and Earth. Emperor Shao-Kahn (Brian Thompson), ruler of the mythical Outerworld, pounces the moment the portal reopens and slips through with his mighty warriors, intent on total domination and uniting the two worlds. However, he has only seven days to complete his task. In the meantime, opposition grows and warriors Sonya Blade (Sandra Hess), Jax (Lynn “Red” Williams), Kitana (Talisa Soto) and Liu Kang (Robin Shou) get ready for war.
After Annihilation, MK floundered for years trying to find its footing again. A short-lived live-action series called Mortal Kombat: Conquest, a cartoon and multiple video games followed, all of which never lived up to the original three games and film that cemented the franchise in the first place. Fans grew up and moved on for a while.
In this martial arts action series based on the popular video game series, vicious megalomaniac Shao Kahn wants to add Earth to his growing collection of conquered realms known as Outworld. Kung Lao and his compatriots defend Earth against the forces of Outworld in Mortal Kombat, a tournament based on honor and tradition. In the Mortal Kombat tournament, the battles between Earthrealm and Outworld decide the fate of Earth. Characters from the video games that appear in the series include Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile and Goro.
However, we now live in the year 2020! A time where R-rated films like Joker and Deadpool have proven to be HUGE money makers for the Hollywood machine, despite their graphic nature. And video games are more popular than ever before, which brings us to the Mortal Kombat movie REBOOT! That’s right! Mortal Kombat is back in style these days as nostalgia seems to be burning brighter than ever in the heart of our current zeitgeist. Thanks to more recent offerings like the 2013 live-action web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, the 2015 video game MKX which featured horror icons Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Predator, the Xenomorph from Alien (badass, I know), and the most recent installment in the franchise simply known as Mortal Kombat 11, NeatherRealm Studios and the Mortal Kombat brand have earned their resurgence and are back in high demand for the first time in a long time. I’d also argue that MK11 is not only the greatest installment in the history of Mortal Kombat video games, but is easily one of the greatest fighting games ever made. It’s simply a work of fighting game art and has opened the flood gates for a new generation of Mortal Kombat fans.
That being said, here we are all these years later and in January 2021 we will be getting a brand new Mortal Kombat film. So, what’s the story with the new flick? I’m glad you asked! Apparently due to the overwhelming success of movies in the Marvel cinematic universe such as the Avengers films, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros have appointed the one and only James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious, Aquaman) to produce a script penned by Greg Russo that will bring Mortal Kombat to a new generation with grounded storytelling, characters we care about, and (most importantly) an R-rating that will give us the fatality-filled gory glory fans have been craving since 1995. The film was directed in Australia by commercial director/first time feature filmmaker Simon McQuoid and is currently in post production.
One of the best parts about this new entry is that, from what I’ve heard, this will not be a one and done. Supposedly James Wan and co. are attempting to create a Marvel universe of their own by introducing both old and new characters while simultaneously setting up storylines for future installments. This excites me beyond words because one of the things about Mortal Kombat as a story is that its universe and lore are huge. The characters, the world, the storyline, everything about it is highly detailed and vast. To try and contain it all within one film would be a mistake, but I feel that due to the players involved we can finally expect to see a truly special Mortal Kombat movie.
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The one we’ve been waiting for and, from what it sounds like, we will be getting multiple films giving us a real story we can invest in over time. So far, even the casting announcements feel better and more realistic than what we’ve been given in the past. Also, fatalities… I can’t stop thinking about how amazing those fatalities are going to look. So much blood. ANYWAY, with all that being said, all we can do now is wait till January to see what’s truly in store for us. I don’t know about you, but in a world where everyone is currently locked in their homes and trying to look on the bright side, I think everyone should be excited for the future as Mortal Kombat 2021 might just be the exciting theater-going experience we can all enjoy together as fans and begin the beautiful blood-soaked journey we’ve been clamoring for since we first learned the two most important words in fighting game history: “Mortal Kombat!”