With a new movie arriving in theaters and on HBO Max this week, it’s hard not to look back at the films that came before, 1995’s Mortal Kombat and 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Not only did the characters from the games make up the supporting cast for the film, but the story centered around the iconic Liu Kang. In the new film, though, the central figure isn’t from the games. He’s an original character.
While the new Mortal Kombat is loaded with that fans of the franchise will be very familiar with–along with a few surprises–this is essentially the story of Cole Young (), who is a new creation for the film. What we know of Cole is that he’s a former mixed martial arts champion who’s fallen on hard times and winds up entwined in the mysterious Mortal Kombat tournament due to a dragon-shaped birthmark on his chest.
Practically everything else about the character is being kept under wraps. However, director Simon McQuoid told GameSpot that utilizing Cole as the primary protagonist in the story was an easy decision. “We needed to have a way to bring a new audience into this and also allow for those fresh eyes to be on and to learn things,” he explained.
After all, while Mortal Kombat clearly has a dedicated fanbase and is a lasting presence in pop culture, much of the movie-going audience has no idea about its long and complex lore that has been doled out over the last three decades through various games, movies, and animated series. Like them, Cole is learning about this new world fighting to the death against monsters, ninjas, and whatever Kano is.
As for the characters established in the game, their knowledge of Mortal Kombat varies. One thing we know for sure if Jax has some personal experience with Sub-Zero, who can be seen in the first trailer.
Still, having a character like Cole, who is new to the concept of Mortal Kombat, seems like a wise choice to help shepherd the audience–especially as the movie is going to stick pretty close to the game-established lore, even if it can’t put it all on-screen.
“[The lore is] so complex that a film can’t really house a lot of it,” McQuoid . “So there’s a lot of it that’s just not there. It doesn’t mean we’re not truthful to it, it’s just that we couldn’t touch everything. So [we] just tried to be as truthful and as true to that as we could when we talk about stuff. And as we sort of put it within the film story construct, the sort of structure of our film, we had to consider, ‘Is this too complex?'”
As for how deep the movie will be able to dive into the established backstory, we already know it will explore the –and his long-standing rivalry with Sub-Zero. In fact, that’s . Now, if only they’d explain why Kombat is spelled with a K.
Mortal Kombat will be in theaters and on HBO Max on April 23.
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