Mortal Kombat’s latest incarnation of live action goodness has finally arrived and gamers are geeked! Anytime Hollywood invests good money on a living franchise, the gaming community is either up in arms against it or up in a frenzy to devour every little detail about it. Thankfully, the trailers and cast selections chosen before Mortal Kombat’s release have had an energetic effect on all who have any kind of interest in the movie.
As we all know, anytime there is a live action interpretation, there are oftentimes deviations from the canon that most fans know in order to try and ‘win over’ new and unsuspecting fans. As a result, let’s take a closer look at the characters used in the movie and how their arc is or isn’t represented by the game’s wide ranging canon.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
If you have not seen the movie, then do NOT read ahead.
From the first few moments of the Mortal Kombat, you would think that Scorpion himself was to be the main protagonist of the movie somehow. By showing the ‘origin story’ of Scorpion and his eternal nemesis in Sub-Zero, the beginning of the movie pays homage to two of arguably the most popular characters in the franchise.
The story of how Sub-Zero kills Scorpion is a bit different in the movie than it is depicted in most of the games. In the games, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are naturally enemies due to them being in rival ninja clans. They both encounter each other on a mission to retrieve an artifact for a necromancer named Quan-Chi. In that encounter, Sub-Zero kills Scorpion. Later on, his ninja clan is tasked by Quan-Chi to take out their rival clan. In the process, Scorpion’s family is killed even though Sub-Zero isn’t technically the one who does so.
Later on, Quan Chi decides he needs an assassin and resurrects Scorpion. To give him purpose, he tells Scorpion that Sub-Zero killed his family and then sets him on a path of vengeance. The result is the iconic feud between these ninja’s that stands the test of video game sequel to video game sequel.
In the movie, however, the story simply paints Sub-Zero as evil and has him slaughter his family as well as Scorpion in an epic battle. Somehow, Quan Chi is not involved in either the beginning of their feud or the resurrection of Scorpion later on in the movie. While he isn’t the main protagonist of the movie, his story (aka his bloodline) is the driver of the movie.
As said in the explanation of Scorpion, the movie version of Sub-Zero paints the icy combatant out as strictly an evil ninja that is a part of a ninja clan called the Lin Kuei. While not far from the version in the game, the game actually depicts Sub-Zero as both a hero and a villain…and also, an entirely different person.
The Sub-Zero in the first Mortal Kombat game is, as is in the movie, named Bi-han. In Mortal Kombat 2 however, the Sub-Zero mantle is taken on by Kuai Liang who is Bi-han’s younger brother. This is due to Scorpion killing the original Sub-Zero after he is resurrected as Scorpion. The Kuai Liang even joins the heroes of Earthrealm and befriends Scorpion as well.
Raiden, based on the Japanese thunder god Raijin, is the thunder god and protector of Earthrealm. In both the movie and the game, his role is the same. While he is not allowed to fight as a champion in the Mortal Kombat tournament, he does all that he can to help the champions of Earthrealm reach their potential and survive until the Mortal Kombat tournament.
As the only female champion in the original Mortal Kombat game, Sonya Blade exists in the movie just as she had in the game…kinda. In the game, she is the general of a special forces unit dedicated to defending Earthrealm. Occasionally, as is done in the movie, other realms (Outworld in particular) try to invade Earthrealm in spite of the rules of the tournament. Sonya Blade is in charge of defending against those attempts as well as acting as one of the champions in the tournament.
In the movie, however, she is simply a soldier that stumbled across another champion that had ‘super powers’ and a dragon shaped marking on their skin. As a result, she changed her focus to tracking down anyone who has these dragon markings as well as learning about the history of the Mortal Kombat tournament.
Introduced as a captured criminal of the Black Dragon clan, Kano is both hero and villain in the movie. Initially set up as one of Earthrealm’s champions, he then betrays them to allow Shang Tsung and his assassins enter the Mortal Kombat temple.
Not far from his role in the video game, Kano wields his trademark eye laser as well as one of his fatalities from the original game in spectacular fashion!
In video game canon, Jax is not introduced in the second Mortal Kombat game as Sonya Blade’s partner. In the movie, Jax fills this same role as Sonya’s partner. The only real difference is that in the game, Jax getting his cybernetic arms isn’t explained until the Mortal Kombat video game reboot in 2011. There, his arms are telekinetically removed by a character named Ermac. In the movie, his arms are frozen and shattered by Sub-Zero in spectacular fashion.
Shang Tsung is a soul stealing sorcerer who serves as the main villain in both the original game and the first Mortal Kombat movie. In this movie, he once again serves as the primary threat to Earthrealm and leads Sub-Zero and a crew of other Outworld champions to take over Earthrealm. Originally based upon the main villain of the movie Big Trouble In Little China (Lo Pan), Shang Tsung was depicted as old and decrepit in the first Mortal Kombat game. There, Shang Tsung even morphed into all of the other characters in the game using their own powers against them to defeat the player.
In the movie, while he does showcase his soul stealing powers, he does not shapeshift or fully utilize his powers. Still, he wholeheartedly strikes fear into the heroes of Earthrealm and has no problems leading the likes of Sub-Zero and others into battle.
An odd choice for inclusion in this movie, Kabal is revealed as an underling of Shang Tsung initially. Without much explanation of who or what he is, Kabal is later revealed to be a former member of Kano’s Black Dragon Clan.
In the game, Kabal is revealed as a former member of the Black Dragon Clan as well. However, throughout the course of various games, he is both hero and villain. He even ends up joining the NYPD in order to make up for his earlier life of crime with the Black Dragon Clan.
Mileena is a significant character in the video game lore of Mortal Kombat. Created as a genetic experiment by Shang Tsung, Mileena is the adopted daughter of the lord of Outworld who is named Shao Kahn. Not revealed in the movie, Shao Kahn uses both Mileena and his stepdaughter Kitana to both assassinate and do his bidding.
Surprisingly, Mileena’s importance in the Mortal Kombat lore is not revealed in this movie and instead is merely one of Shang Tsung’s minions. Her trademark jagged teeth and unsettlingly wide mouth make an appearance as well as her trademark weapons (sais). Given she is technically a clone of Kitana in the video game lore, however, she could make an appearance again in future Mortal Kombat movies.
Presented as the champion of the Mortal Kombat tournament in the original video game, Goro is a massive 4 armed creature. With immense strength, size, and multiple arms, Goro showed up in multiple games and was a force to be reckoned with.
In the movie, he is shown as a combatant in the murals of Mortal Kombat before showing up as a foe of the main protagonist, Cole.
As a central character in Mortal Kombat lore, Liu Kang brings the movie’s heroes together along with Raiden to both train and oppose Shang Tsung. WIth his trademark ability to throw fireballs and gravity defying bicycle kick, Liu Kang embodies the spirit of a well trained warrior whose sole purpose in life is to defy the Outworld.
Following closely with that role from the video game, Liu Kang shows off his immense skill and ability in the movie as a key champion in the defense of the Earthrealm.
Kung Lao is both the best friend of Liu Kang and a highly trained Shaolin monk in both the movie and the video games. Trained, as was Liu Kang, by Bo’ Rai Cho, Kung Lao wields his trademark razor edged hat alongside his impressive martial arts skills. The movie gives Kung Lao ample time to flex his skill and ability as well as one of his goriest fatalities!
A rarely used character in Mortal Kombat lore, Nitara was a winged minion of Shang Tsung in the movie. Only appearing to take on Kung Lao and provide him with one of the movies’ trademark fatalities, Nitara only seemed to exist as a throwaway pawn in the movie.
In the game, Nitara only appears in a few games as a cameo primarily. First appearing in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Nitara exists as a vampire of Outworld.
As the main protagonist of the movie, Cole Young is a descendant of Scorpion’s bloodline. As a part of some prophecy that Shang Tsung is apparently afraid of, Cole eventually is the vessel used to resurrect Scorpion and help the champions of Earthrealm defeat Sub-Zero.
While he isn’t a character in the games as of yet, it is clear that Cole is going to be the focus of future Mortal Kombat movies.
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