Warner Bros. has released the red-band trailer for its forthcoming Mortal Kombat reboot, which had long languished in development hell. A Russian-dubbed version of the trailer initially leaked on Reddit, according to Eurogamer, before being pulled. It’s basically a nonstop, blood-soaked fighting fest, featuring all the fan favorites from the popular video game franchise.
(Some spoilers for the games and earlier films below.)
Midway Games released the first Mortal Kombat game in 1992, which proved hugely influential for many a teenager who frequented video arcades during that era. There have been 11 main games and multiple spinoffs in the franchise thus far, all set in a fictional universe of eight different realms. The greatest warriors from the various realms must compete in a series of Mortal Kombat tournaments to conquer other realms.
The popularity of the game soon brought Hollywood knocking for a film adaptation. The original plan was for a three-picture franchise, beginning with 1995’s Mortal Kombat, followed in 1997 by Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. But the sequel bombed badly, both critically and at the box office, so the planned third film was indefinitely shelved. There were a couple of animated films released direct to video—Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins (1995) and Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge (2020)—as well as a spinoff comic book series and even a card game.
The shelved third film underwent multiple script rewrites and cast changes over the years. A bankrupt Midway Games found itself embroiled in a lawsuit, and in the end, Warner Bros. bought up most of Midway’s remaining assets, including the rights to Mortal Kombat. Director Kevin Tancharoen made a pitch to the studio to make a full-length feature by creating a short film in 2010 (Mortal Kombat: Rebirth), which Warner Bros. approved. But production was delayed due to budget constraints, and Tancharoen eventually left the project.
It wasn’t until James Wan (Insidious, Aquaman) came on board as producer in 2015 that the reboot movie finally got off the ground, with a planned R rating, to better showcase the game’s famous fatalities on the big screen. He tapped Simon McQuoid to direct the film. More shooting delays followed, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but at long last, Mortal Kombat is almost here.
Per the official premise:
MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana—the immense power from within his soul—in time to save not only his family, but to stop Outworld once and for all?
Lewis Tan (Iron Fist, Into the Badlands) stars as Cole, and the formidable Joe Taslim (Fast and Furious 6, Warrior) makes for a fittingly menacing Bi-Han/Sub-Zero—a personal fave. Several other popular mainstays are featured in the cast. Jessica McNamee (Sirens) plays Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson (House of Lies) is Kano, Tadanobu Asano (47 Ronin) is Raiden, Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl) is Jackson “Jax” Briggs, Ludi Lin (Power Rangers 2017) plays Liu Kang, Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Last Samurai) plays Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion, and Chin Han (Arrow) plays Shang Tsung.
Ars’ own Aurich Lawson gave the most recent MK video game (released in 2019) a mixed review, declaring it “a visual tour de force that can be a little overly gross and grindy feeling,” although it was also surprisingly story-rich. This trailer, however, is light on story and heavy on combat and gore, including what looks like Sub-Zero’s signature spine rip finish. The iceman gets a lot of screen time, in fact, even freezing an opponent’s gushing blood into a dagger to finish him off. Liu Kang transforms into a fire dragon, and Scorpion gets to utter his signature line (“Get over here!”).
If a trailer puts a film’s best face forward, the dialogue’s best face is clearly bloody and bruised. (“It’s a birthmark.” “What do you mean?” “He was born with it.”) But for a series like Mortal Kombat, that seems to be the point, and the trailer spends much more of its time looking awesome than sounding smart. The final film may or may not be good, but this trailer should make the hardcore fans happy.
Mortal Kombat will be released on April 16, 2021, in theaters while streaming simultaneously for one month on HBO Max.
Listing image by YouTube/Warner Bros.