On April 23, Hollywood’s latest video game adaptation is hitting theaters, and it’s arguably one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time. Classic fighting game Mortal Kombat is getting another big-budget movie adaptation for a new generation. The feature film from first-time feature director Simon McQuoid looks to be just as visceral and bloody as the video game itself, with gnarly special effects creating some interesting fight scenes and finishing moves:
The story follows Lewis Tan’s Cole Young as he discovers the birthmark on his chest is actually a mark denoting he’s destined to fight in an ancient battle to the death. He assembles Earth’s greatest fighting champions in order to stand against the enemies of Outworld in an epic battle royale that will determine the fate of the world.
As it’s a fighting video game, there are, understandably, a lot of characters; the Mortal Kombat ensemble cast is a big one. For those who have never played the games – or those who have but haven’t pulled off a brutal video game fatality in a few decades – allow this character guide to help you sort who’s who, what their powers are, and where they fit into the story.
(Note: All character poster images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.)
Cole Young (Lewis Tan)
Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Wu Assassins, Into the Badlands) plays Cole Young, the protagonist of the film. When the film starts out, Cole is an MMA fighter who has no knowledge of his destiny or that what he thinks is a dragon-shaped birthmark on his chest is actually a brand that means he’s fated for an ancient battle where the losers don’t walk away. His power set and special abilities are being kept under wraps for now and unlocking them will undoubtedly be part of Cole’s journey in the film. Interestingly, Cole Young is a brand-new character created for the film. However, fans have long theorized he’s actually classic Mortal Kombat character Johnny Cage, who is suspiciously the only main character from the video game franchise to not be appearing in the movie. Warner Bros. has been a bit cagey (hah) about his real identity, so it will be interesting to see if that theory pans out.
Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee)
Played by Jessica McNamee (The Meg), General Sonya Blade is one of the OG Mortal Kombat characters. An American and a General in the military, Sonya is part of Earthrealm’s elite Special Forces unit known as Outer World Investigation Agency (OIA), with Jax Briggs, an agency that investigates and stops otherworldly threats. Currently in the games, she commands all operations in the Special Forces. In the trailer, she mentions that she and Jax learned of the Mortal Kombat tournament about seven years ago when they were on a covert mission in Brazil to capture a wanted criminal. In the video games, she has the ability to manipulate pink-colored energy, from firing projectiles and energy rings to blinding her opponents with pink dust. She’s human in the movie so it’s unclear whether or not she’ll have magical powers, but the purple-pink cast of her poster suggests she might.
Jax Briggs (Mehcad Brooks)
Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl) plays Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs, another OG character and Sonya Blade’s longtime comrade in the Outer World Investigation Agency. You may have noticed from the trailer and the poster above that he appears to have a Winter Soldier-like bionic arm – make that arms. Jax’s cybernetic arms have had their backstory changed a number of times in the video games and multiple movie adaptations and spinoffs. The upcoming movie appears to be streamlining the backstory, explaining that he lost his arms the first time he and Sonya went up against Sub-Zero, who froze Jax’s arms with his Cryomancer powers and then shattered them. That should make for an interesting revenge subplot in the upcoming film with Jax understandably wanting to get back at Sub-Zero for wounding him so grievously. Jax’s trademark powers have to do with his impressive physique and his bionic arms – he’s able to punch the ground hard enough to cause earthquakes and crush an opponent’s head in one blow. In later video games, his bionic arms also get upgrades and weaponry.
Liu Kang (Ludi Lin)
Played by Ludi Lin (Aquaman, Power Rangers), Liu Kang is one of the main characters of the video game franchise and serving as the lead protagonist in a number of the games. A Chinese Shaolin monk, Liu Kang is a master martial artist and a disciple of the thunder god Raiden. He’s extremely skilled and is the Grand Champion of the first four Mortal Kombat tournaments in the original timeline of the games. Along with his natural prowess as a fighter, Liu Kang’s special skills all revolve around fire, with his finishing move showing him turning into a giant dragon. This appears to be slightly modified in the movie, with the trailer showing a shot of him conjuring a fire dragon instead of turning into one himself, but it’s still a wildly impressive display of skill.
Kung Lao (Max Huang)
Like Liu Kang, Kung Lao, played by Max Huang (Kingsman: The Secret Service stunts) is also a former Shaolin monk and a member of the White Lotus Society. However, unlike Liu’s elemental powers, Kung Lao’s powers are hat-based. Yes, hat-based. Initially just wanting to live a peaceful life, Kung Lao has since been retconned to be slightly immature and impulsive and desperate to show he’s Liu Kang’s equal. His Peaky Blinders-esque Razor-Brimmed Hat is his deadliest weapon, which he uses to brutal effect, slicing and dicing his opponents by cutting their torso in half or decapitating them, which is aided by his BAMF ability to teleport short distances to get behind his opponent. The trailer also shows him using his hat as a shield, so it will be interesting to see if it has any other extra uses not in the video games.
Raiden (Tadanobu Asano)
As the aforementioned God of Thunder, Raiden, played by Tadanobu Asano (Thor franchise, Midway) is one of the most powerful and important characters in the video game series, serving as the mentor and teacher of both Liu Kang and Kung Lao. As the protector of Earthrealm, he’s a powerful force for good, having ascended to the status of an Elder God. Thanks to his status as a deity, he has a radically different outlook on life than humans and tends to think in terms of centuries and millennia instead of weeks and years. Also as a god, he has the powers to match, with the ability to teleport, fly, and, as one might expect of a thunder god, control lightning and electricity. His signature fatalities usually involve him using that electricity in some truly gruesome ways, such as exploding his opponents via electrocution. If there’s a way to manipulate electricity, Raiden does it.
Kano (Josh Lawson)
Played by Josh Lawson (Bombshell, Superstore), Kano has historically been an antagonist in the video games as the ruthless and duplicitous leader of the Black Dragon clan. He’s traditionally been Sonya Blade’s archnemesis in the games, so it’s interesting that the trailer seems to be positioning him to be working along side Sonya and Jax – however, given how much of a treacherous scoundrel he is, and how wildly against his character it would be for him to be working with Sonya, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kano betray Sonya in the film. Another change to Kano is his bionic eye. In the video games, he has a Phantom of the Opera-like metal plate over his face anchoring his bionic eye in place. In the movie, the plate is gone and while the red laser eye is the same, the only nod to the metal plate is some scarring around his eye. As in the video games, that eye can shoot a deadly laser beam. It also appears the movie will incorporate one of Kano’s finishing moves, one of the most brutal in all the games, in which he punches through an opponent’s chest to rip out their heart.
Shang Tsung (Chin Han)
Played by Chin Han (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ghost in the Shell), the sorcerer Shang Tsung is a terrifying opponent and Liu Kang’s archnemesis. He’s a longtime villain of the series and is the usual host of the deadly Mortal Kombat tournament. He made his mark in the very first video game and was the final boss, but wasn’t playable until the second game. Still, he made his mark as one of the game’s celebrated antagonists. As a shapeshifter who needs to consume souls in order to sustain his longevity, it’s no surprise that’s his signature move. His portrayal in the movie appears to be somewhat different from the video games. In the game, he has an allegiance to Emperor Shao Kahn; in the movie, however, he appears to be the emperor of Outworld himself. It’s also possible that he’ll have more of an issue with Cole Young in the movie than with Liu Kang as the synopsis says he’s the one who sends Sub-Zero to track down Cole.
Mileena (Sisi Stringer)
Played by Sisi Stringer (Bloody Hell, Children of the Corn), Mileena is also on Team Villain in the Mortal Kombat series. She’s a horrifying genetic experiment by Shang Tsung – technically a mutant hybrid clone of the character Kitana – and, in the video games, one of the adopted daughters of Emperor Shao Kahn though in the movie it’s entirely possible she’ll have no relation to him considering Shang Tsung’s changed backstory. At first glance, under her purple half-mask, Mileena is stunningly beautiful, being half-Edenian. However, the other half is Tarkatan, and that’s what lies under the mask: a gaping, inhumanly wide jaw with rows of razor-sharp teeth and a slavering, overly-long tongue. Mileena is capable of athletic grace and stunning savagery, with a cruel sadistic streak that delights in murder. In combat, she uses her two energy-charged sais as deadly weapons, but she’s also quite willing to tear into her opponent with her needle-sharp teeth and rip them apart.
Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada)
Played by Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin), Scorpion is a former Japanese warrior resurrected as a vengeful undead revenant after his murder at the hands of a rival ninja named Bi-Han, who was the original Sub-Zero and brother of the current one. Adding to his trauma and thirst for revenge, his family was also murdered at the command of the sorcerer Quan Chi. As such, he’s been something of a misguided antagonist in the games post-resurrection, his fury and grief causing him to commit heinous acts. However, he’s since been restored to his human form and reformed. He’s Sub-Zero’s main nemesis, and judging from the trailer, it appears as though the movie will do away with Quan Chi’s involvement in the murder of Scorpion’s family and instead, it will be at the hand of Sub-Zero. In the games, Scorpion wields the harpoon-like kunai blade, and, thanks to his being resurrected, has the ability to summon Hellfire.
Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim)
Finally, we get to Sub-Zero, played by Joe Taslim (Warrior, The Raid, Fast & Furious 6). He is the Grandmaster of the Lin Kuei assassin clan, and, as noted above, the main nemesis of Scorpion. In the games, there are two incarnations of Sub-Zero, the first being Bi-Han, and, later, his younger brother Kuai Liang, who took up the mantle after Bi-Han’s death. The brothers are descended from Cryomancers, a race exiled from Edenia and, as one might guess from the name of their race, have the ability to manipulate and control ice. Though Kuai Liang is the one carrying the Sub-Zero mantle from the second game on, director Simon McQuoid has confirmed the Sub-Zero in the movie will be Bi-Han, which makes sense considering it’s essentially a reboot of the franchise and thus setting up all the rivalries. As Jax learned, Sub-Zero’s powers are terrifying and involve flash-freezing opponents to temperatures so low they shatter. In his most gruesome finishing move, he rips out his opponent’s entrails and spine, freezing them into an icicle sword which he then stabs into his dying opponent’s eye socket. Producer Todd Garner has confirmed the rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion will be the central personal conflict of the movie, as evidenced by the dual-sided poster, so expect some gnarly fights between the two.
Find out who lives and who dies when Mortal Kombat hits theaters on Friday, April 23.
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