Picture it: the year is 1995 and a six-year-old boy living in Southern California has spent hours playing the first Mortal Kombat game on the Sega Game Gear only for a live-action movie to be released. Unfortunately for said six-year-old, his parents refused to allow him to watch the PG-13-rated big-screen adaptation. Luckily, a friend would soon have a sleepover birthday party which said six-year-old would attend, and the featured film of the evening would of course be none-other-than Paul W.S. Anderson’s iconic ‘90s adaptation. Needless to say, this was a pretty influential moment in this six-year-old’s life.
Now, 26 years later, that six-year-old is a grown-up who writes for a website about gaming and esports and, lo and behold, the long-awaited trailer for a new major cinematic adaptation of Mortal Kombat has dropped. Let’s talk about it.
Right off the bat, we can see that the trailer is ‘Red Band,’ meaning even this first look at the upcoming movie will feature the sort of gore and violence fans of the franchise are sure to be anticipating in a good movie adaptation. With a voiceover from the iconic game character Sonya Blade, we see frozen stalactites of ice and a face-off between Jax and one of the most notable MK characters in the franchise, Sub-Zero. Jax is most known for his metallic arms and Sub-Zero for his supernatural freezing abilities, so watching Sub-Zero freeze and then shatter Jax’s arms in a rain of frozen blood isn’t too much for a trailer to give away, even if it doesn’t go along with other established backstories for Jax’s metal limbs.
The backstory for Jax’s arms isn’t the only thing different from the established lore of the games. It’s soon revealed that Sonya is speaking to a new character named Cole, played by Lewis Tan. While introducing a non-canonical central protagonist is often done with movie adaptations of video games (Sonic the Hedgehog,) the fact that Tan is an actor of Asian descent is a nice change of pace considering another trend is to center these sorts of stories on white, male protagonists (Street Fighter, Double Dragon, and countless other examples.) Furthermore, the character of Raiden, who was inspired by the Japanese god of thunder and lightning and was played by white actor Christopher Lambert in the first movie, is played by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano. Video game movies have a pretty bad track record of white-washing characters originally meant to be specific ethnicities (the original Mortal Kombat movies, Prince of Persia, etc.), so the fact that Raiden and the numerous other characters designed and inspired by various cultures are cast appropriately is extremely exciting.
The trailer features a lot of impressive-looking fight sequences and offers a glance at a lot of fan-favorite characters including Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Mileena, Goro, and Kano, in addition to the ones mentioned previously. There appears to be some awesome-looking backstory showing Scorpion before he adopts his signature look as well as hints at the iconic special attacks and character costumes from the video games.
With musical allusions to the iconic theme music from the game and previous film adaptations to the delivery of signature lines, the trailer is sure to pump up fans of the games, the movies, or even the comic books. From the action, design, and super-important special effects, Mortal Kombat (2021) is bound to make a splash when it hits theaters and HBO Max on April 16. In the meantime, this now 31-year-old longtime fan is going to play the trailer on repeat and dust off the dvd of the 1995 version, remembering how it blew his six-year old mind the first time he saw it.