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Things Mortal Kombat Fans Can't Wait To See In The New Movie

If you hadn't heard about the legendary Mortal Kombat fighting game series getting another film adaptation, that's perfectly understandable; it's been more than 25 years since Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero first graced the silver screen, and the results were mixed, to say the least. The first movie, 1995's Mortal Kombat (released only a few months after Mortal Kombat 3 hit the arcades) is a flawed, cheesy, and extremely fun cult classic. Its sequel, 1997's Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, was an unmitigated disaster. Currently sitting at 2% on Rotten Tomatoes, Annihilation was so bad that plans for a third film were reportedly scrapped, and while there have been a few adaptations since — including the TV show Mortal Kombat: Conquest, the short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, and the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy — the franchise has been unable to work its way back into the movies.

That's changing in 2021, and while the red band trailer might not have everything we wanted, it's more than enough to get us excited for the release of the new Mortal Kombat. From the presence of our favorite fighters (both familiar and obscure), to the return of fatalities and superpowers, to directly addressing the flaws of the first two films, it looks like the 2021 movie might just be the blood-drenched masterpiece we've always wanted.

As a warning, spoilers for all things Mortal Kombat lie ahead!

Finish him

There was always going to be one huge question surrounding any new Mortal Kombat movie, especially one coming out in 2021: What are they doing about the fatalities? Fatalities are, after all, one of the things that have distinguished Mortal Kombat from other fighting games over the years — the ability to input a secret code after winning a fight, then sit back and watch your fighter brutally dismember their helpless foe, has been a huge driver of the franchise's popularity, and as time has gone on, fatalities have gotten gorier and gorier to the point of ridiculousness. They are as much a part of Mortal Kombat as face masks and fireballs.

As a result, it's bizarre to go back and watch the '90s adaptations and realize with growing horror that they were both rated PG-13. There really isn't anything resembling a fatality in the films — Shang Tsung captures someone's soul at one point and hilariously says "fatality," but that's pretty much it. So will the 2021 movie do it differently? The red band trailer clearly knows that fans are asking this question, and after teasing us with other things for two and a half minutes, it finally answers it, climaxing with a relentlessly bloody sequence of kills that lets us know once and for all that, yes, this movie is going to be all about the fatalities. Kano even says "Kano wins" in a hilarious callback to the cheesiness of the film's predecessors.

How Jax lost his arms

The red band trailer is structured around two things: promising fans a degree of violence that mirrors the increasingly macabre video games, and setting up Sub-Zero as the movie's ultimate badass. To these ends, it opens with a bang — or, more precisely, the sound of shattering ice. That's because Sub-Zero has just frozen and smashed both of Jax Briggs' arms in a gruesome flashback scene, immediately setting the anticipated tone for the film. Not only is it going to involve copious and creative bloodshed, which many consider to be at the core of Mortal Kombat, it's also continuing the long tradition of rewriting Jax's origin story.

Jax's calling card has long been his massive cybernetic arms (even though he doesn't get them until Mortal Kombat 3). In the games, it's largely just a matter of Jax getting an upgrade, which is also how Annihilation plays it. In fact, in that film, the limbs are a sign of Jax's lack of confidence, and his arc actually involves removing them and relying on his natural arms. In the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, however, Jax's original arms are telekinetically destroyed by the villainous Ermac, and the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, which released its first episode that same month, also sees him lose his arms in combat and have them replaced. The new film appears to be following in the latter tradition, potentially giving Jax an inner conflict related to overcoming disability and making him a far more interesting character.

Deadliest of enemies

Another way in which the new movie seems to be following in the footsteps of Mortal Kombat: Legacy is in its focus on Sub-Zero and Scorpion. One of the strangest things about the '90s movies is their seeming reluctance to highlight the franchise's two most recognizable characters, both of whom have appeared in every Mortal Kombat game. The 1995 film makes them both unambiguous villains, glossing over their feud by putting them under the control of Shang Tsung. Scorpion is dispatched by Johnny Cage relatively early in the movie, and Liu Kang defeats Sub-Zero prior to his journey to Outworld in the third act. They return in Annihilation and briefly fight, but neither is in any way the film's focus.

Mortal Kombat: Legacy, however, adheres more closely to the game script, fully depicting the ancient rivalry between Hanzo Hasashi and Bi-Han before they were known by different names, and between their respective ninja clans, the Shirai Ryu and the Lin Kuei. This rivalry also appears to be centered in the new film, as we see the human Hasashi fighting ninjas in feudal Japan early in the trailer, and the undead Scorpion (presumably, as the film appears to take place in the modern era and Scorpion is shrouded in flames at one point) battling Sub-Zero in the trailer's big finish. It's always made sense to highlight these two characters and their hatred for one another on the big screen, and now we finally get to see it.

In cold blood

If that's what they were willing to give away in the trailer, we can't wait to see the entire fight between Sub-Zero and Scorpion. Especially considering the level of detail, creativity, and faithfulness that clearly went into how Sub-Zero uses his powers — a huge improvement from the '90s movies. The 1995 film has one cool moment when Sub-Zero freezes a thug mid-leap and allows him to shatter on the floor, but the only supernatural thing he does in his big fight with Liu Kang is create a sphere of coldness (via sustained crotch chop) that slowly emanates outward from him. The primary effect of this is that it allows Liu Kang to kill him with a bucket of water. In Annihilation, a different version of Sub-Zero — the younger brother of the original — manages to pull off a move from the video games where he leaves an ice copy of himself behind to take a hit, but beyond that, all he's able to do is create an ice bridge that looks suspiciously like Styrofoam.

25 years later, with the benefit of a quarter century's worth of advances in special effects, Mortal Kombat fans will at long last see Sub-Zero fully realized in the movies. In the trailer alone, he creates a sword made out of ice (which fans of later games like Deadly Alliance and Deception will recognize), puts Scorpion through a wall of ice that is definitely not made of Styrofoam, and stabs his enemy with a frozen icicle of his own blood. Now that's exciting.

Return of the dragon

Beyond a bigger budget and better special effects, there's an reason why things like fatalities and Sub-Zero's powers have been amped up for the 2021 movie. For all that it contains fantastical elements, the original Mortal Kombat is, fundamentally, a martial arts movie. That's why it cast actual martial artists like Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in major roles, and why displays of supernatural power are few and far between. Annihilation is more interested in embracing the unique brand of Mortal Kombat madness, but it simply can't make it look good, with the low point being Liu Kang's transformation into a truly hideous CGI dragon — one that gets immediately beaten by a different, uglier monster despite Liu spending the entire middle portion of the film questing to find his "animality."

From the look of the trailer, the emphasis is now less on the martial arts and more on the superpowers (though several actors, including the lead, Lewis Tan, have martial arts backgrounds). And as if to deliberately make up for that awful dragon in Annihilation, the trailer features Liu Kang not turning into a dragon, but creating one out of fire in one of the most breathtaking shots from the movie we've seen so far. Animalities, which have been part of the games to one degree or another since Mortal Kombat 3, may not be part of the film, but it's definitely leaning into, not away from, the supernatural.

Secret character unlocked!

The status of animalities in the new movie remains unclear, but there's definitely an animal — or some kind of animal-like creature, at least. It shows up for just a moment toward the end of the trailer, and there's been some speculation that it might be Reptile, a fan favorite who was the first secret character ever programmed into a fighting game. In his early appearances, Reptile looks like a regular human ninja, albeit with a green color scheme. Later, however, it's revealed that he's actually a reptilian creature who can take human form — an interpretation of which can be seen in the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. The creature in the trailer bears a resemblance to the more blatantly animalistic version of Reptile from later games.

If that is Reptile, his fans might want to temper their expectations — in the one shot he appears in, it sure looks like he's getting his heart ripped out by Kano, who we see at the end of the trailer standing in a similar-looking room with a bloody heart in his hand. If Reptile's inclusion is meant to be a big surprise in the same vein as his inclusion in the first game, it seems like a weird move to give it away in the trailer, along with his death, so it might not be him. Either way, the new movie is bound to have a few secret characters in store for us, and we can't wait to see who they are.

Nitara and Kabal

One character whose presence isn't exactly a secret, but who doesn't appear in the trailer, is Nitara, the Mortal Kombat universe's resident vampire who originally appeared in 2002's Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Yes, that kind of vampire, complete with huge bat wings and a blood-themed combat style. As far as Mortal Kombat characters go, she's incredibly obscure, and her inclusion in the new movie is something of a mystery — we wouldn't even know about it if one of the writers hadn't mentioned on Twitter that Nitara would be played by stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell. She's not in the trailer and we've been given no other details about what her role might be in a film that has apparently passed on significantly more well-known characters like Kitana and Johnny Cage.

Another character who does show up briefly in the trailer is the mercenary known as Kabal, though he's onscreen so briefly it's difficult to spot him. He's recognizable, though, based on his cowl and his signature hookswords that he uses to fight Liu Kang. In the games, Kabal has a connection to Kano, as they are both members of the same mercenary organization, the Black Dragon, but like Nitara, his inclusion qualifies as head-scratching when you consider some of the fighters who aren't here. Still, even if Kabal and Nitara are just low-level villains who show up to pad the ranks of the antagonists, both characters have unique visual designs that should make for a fun watch.

Goro, but good this time

One uniquely designed character we definitely can't wait to see, and whom we get a glimpse of in the trailer, is Goro, prince of the four-armed half-dragon Shokan species and one of Mortal Kombat's most legendary villains. Goro is a major character in the 1995 film, in which he is brought to life not through CGI, but through practical effects. Goro in that first movie is a giant animatronic puppet weighing 125 pounds and being worn by stuntman Tom Woodruff, who controlled Goro's lower set of arms, while the upper arms and head were controlled by puppeteers using a telemetry system to link their movements to those of the puppet. It's an impressive feat, especially in contrast to the disastrous CGI of Annihilation, but the puppet does come across as unintentionally comical at several points. While it contributes to the pleasant sense of camp that permeates that first movie, it also makes you wonder what Goro could look like if properly rendered by modern special effects.

Well, now we know, and so far it looks pretty good. The design is similar to what we've seen before in the original film, but far more polished, particularly around the face, which was the biggest problem back in 1995 — the only part of Goro that did get hit with CGI at the time was his lips, to help with lip-synching, but they couldn't get rid of his silly expressions. Fortunately, those seem to be a thing of the past.

The hat man cometh

So far we've mainly talked about the villains and monsters that show up in the trailer, but what about the heroes? One thing that makes it difficult is that the new Mortal Kombat has decided to introduce an original character named Cole, and the trailer establishes him as the primary protagonist of the film. This is a curious choice, especially considering the presence of Liu Kang — the Mortal Kombat franchise has traditionally revolved around Liu as the main hero, so it's odd to see him in the movie but relegated to the side. In terms of getting excited for the film, though, it's much more interesting to talk about Liu's best friend and fellow champion of Earthrealm, Kung Lao.

Despite debuting in Mortal Kombat II, Kung Lao has never appeared in a film adaptation (though he was the star of Conquest). In fact, he's the only playable character from the first two games who didn't make it into either 1995's Mortal Kombat or Annihilation. It's perplexing, because Lao could offer a lot to any given Mortal Kombat story — he's the descendant of the Great Kung Lao, Earthrealm's first champion; he's a devoted pacifist, giving him a built-in inner conflict when it comes to fighting in the tournament; and his fighting style, which involves throwing his razor-rimmed hat, is visually arresting. It was past time for one the franchise's oldest and most popular characters to step into the spotlight, and we're glad he's finally getting the chance.

Kano looks (and acts) a bit different

Another character who appears in the trailer on the side of the angels is, surprisingly, Kano, leader of the Black Dragon mercenary gang and traditional arch-enemy of Sonya Blade. Now, though, it seems as though Kano and Sonya are working together — at least for the time being. We wouldn't be at all surprised if Kano turns on his allies at some point turning the film; in fact, we'd be way more surprised if he doesn't. Assuming Mortal Kombat, like pretty much every other movie these days, is in the business of setting up sequels, it would make sense for Kano's betrayal of his comrades to act as his villainous origin story in anticipation of future films.

His alignment isn't the only change being made to Kano, however. The 1995 movie brings him in with largely the same appearance he has in the games, most notably with half his face covered in metal, including a gleaming red eye. In the games, these are part of Kano's cybernetic augmentation and the eye can shoot laser beams, but it never happens in the original film. The trailer, however, shows Kano shooting a laser beam out of one eye despite the apparent absence of cybernetics — though those enhancements could simply be beneath his skin rather than on top of it. This last theory seems particularly plausible given the trailer's final shot of Kano holding a recently ripped-out heart in what certainly looks like a cybernetic hand.

Sonya stands alone

Sonya Blade was the only female character in the first Mortal Kombat game, and as such, she holds a unique place in the franchise's history. But that position of prominence wouldn't be hers for long. Mortal Kombat II introduces the character of the assassin Kitana and her mutant clone, Mileena, both of whom would become enormously popular. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Sonya doesn't appear in the sequel at all, apart from an extremely minor and demeaning cameo, in which she can be seen chained up in Shao Kahn's arena — a detail that was included in the 1995 film, when she gets chained up by Shang Tsung. Since then, despite Sonya continuing to have a major role in the series, she has been overshadowed by Kitana and Mileena.

The 2021 movie, however, seems to have once again placed Sonya at the top of Mortal Kombat's female hierarchy. She's the only woman featured in the trailer — Mileena appears a couple of times, but she's not highlighted the way Sonya is, and there's already fan consternation about the lack of both her mask and the hideous sharp teeth hidden beneath. The movie seems to have done away with her origins and her storyline with Kitana, who isn't shown or mentioned at all, and seems likely at this point to be absent from the film. This leaves Sonya as the lone warrior for female representation in Mortal Kombat, which, arguably, is how it was destined to be.