Mortal Kombat: A Guide to the Movie Characters
4/7/2021 • 5 min read
Thanks to a series of video games that spans nearly three decades, there are dozens of Mortal Kombat characters. The new movie, directed by Simon McQuoid, is set to offer new film versions of at least 12 of the fighting game's most iconic characters.
Long-time fans of the video games will need no introduction to the slate of fighters lined up to battle in the new movie — just the silhouette of many of the characters will be enough to trigger recognition. But for anyone who hasn't learned the complex moves required to achieve victory in the game's Outworld arenas, here's a refresher on the many MORTAL KOMBAT characters in the new movie.
While the games can be seen as a simple way to give players outlandish ways to play out an otherworldly tournament, the characters have backstories that intertwine and evolve. Take Scorpion, played in MORTAL KOMBAT by Hiroyuki Sanada (THE LAST SAMURAI, THE WOLVERINE). The yellow-garbed, masked fighter gives the games a recognizable catchphrase — "get over here!" — but he also points to the stories that give weight to the game's conflicts. Take the Japanese ninja Hanzo Hasashi, murdered by the Chinese assassin Bi-Han, aka Sub-Zero. Hasashi is reborn as Scorpion and driven by a mission of vengeance. Scorpion has allied with various characters throughout the game series, including even Sub-Zero, but his signature look and moves are always at the core of MORTAL KOMBAT.
Naturally, then, we turn to Sub-Zero, whose look and moves are similar to Scorpion, underscoring their intertwined relationship. The astonishing Indonesian martial artist Joe Taslim (THE RAID, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US) plays Scorpion, but we're curious to see if the character's younger brother, Kuai Liang, also shows up in the new movie. That's because the younger man is actually under the Sub-Zero mask in many of the games, due to his elder brother's fate in the original "Mortal Kombat" game.
Jessica McNamee (THE MEG, "Sirens") plays the Special Forces officer Sonya Blade, who is hot on the trail of the criminal Kano. Inspired by the martial artist and actor Cynthia Rothrock, Sonya Blade is a no-nonsense soldier with a killer fighting instinct.
Josh Lawson plays Kano, the dangerous Australian criminal who is the subject of Sonya Blade's investigation. Kano has played a few different roles in the overall storyline of the "Mortal Kombat" games but he's almost always explicitly a slippery villain. Kano's mechanical eye and faceplate were inspired by the Terminator, while his heart-ripping fatality move — seen in one trailer — comes right from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.
The character played by Mehcad Brooks ("True Blood," "Supergirl"), Jax, also debuted in the game "Mortal Kombat II," where he was set up as the superior officer of Sonya Blade. United States Special Forces Major Jackson Briggs is on the trail of the Black Dragon criminal organization — and he seeks Blade, who has gone missing while undertaking her own mission. Jax was partly inspired by the Marvel Comics character Luke Cage (not to be confused with MK's Johnny Cage) and has been part of most of the "Mortal Kombat" games since his debut.
The glue holding the new MORTAL KOMBAT movie story together takes the form of a new character, Cole Young, played by Lewis Tan (DEADPOOL 2, "Into the Badlands"). Because Cole is a new addition we can't tell you anything about his history, but because Lewis Tan's fighting prowess is unquestionable, we're eager to see him compete.
Raiden is a thunder god who protects Earthrealm, and as such is both a Mortal Kombat champion and sort of a general who pulls together forces to protect the planet. Like that other famous god of thunder, Thor, he can fly, call down lightning, and is generally supremely powerful. Raiden's powers are drawn from figures in both Japanese and Chinese mythology, while some aspects of his look and behavior were inspired by The Three Storms, from John Carpenter's movie BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. He's played by the Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, who is already familiar with characters like Raiden, having played the Asgardian Hogun in the THOR movies. (All of Asano's roles are worth seeing, even when that means tracking down Japanese or Thai movies like BRIGHT FUTURE or LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE.
One of the first playable characters in the original "Mortal Kombat" and the quickly-minted hero of the entire game series, Liu Kang is a cornerstone of MORTAL KOMBAT. Ludi Lin (POWER RANGERS, AQUAMAN) plays the Shaolin monk character whose heroics and fighting style are inspired by the work of Bruce Lee and, to some extent, Gordon Liu, star of THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN.
Max Huang (a stuntman on movies like KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE and THE FOREIGNER) plays Kung Lao, who was introduced in the game "Mortal Kombat II." He's on the heroic side of the game fence, with a backstory rooted in the game's version of the Shaolin Temple. He has a long-standing friendship with Liu Kang and has been a constant part of the ever-evolving story in the game series. Kung Lao also has a very cool hat, which factors into his unique spin on Shaolin Kung-fu and which was reportedly inspired by Oddjob in the James Bond movie GOLDFINGER.
This four-armed giant is one of the most recognizable characters in the series. He's from the race called Shokun, which is basically a human-dragon hybrid. He was the Mortal Kombat tournament champion for 500 years after taking the title from one of Kung Lao's ancestors — and lost the crown to Liu Kang in the original game. Like some of the other game characters, Goro has movie roots: He was inspired in part by the Kraken from the original CLASH OF THE TITANS, and from some of the stop-motion animated creatures in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. While this incarnation of Goro is all-digital, he's voiced by Angus Sampson ("Fargo," MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY).
All the action in MORTAL KOMBAT is ultimately orchestrated by a shape-shifting, soul-eating warlock and Outworld general, Shang Tsung. Introduced as the boss of the original "Mortal Kombat," Shang Tsung has remained a core part of the game's lore even as he was further developed as the right-hand man of Outworld's leader, Shao Khan. The character was inspired by a long string of string-pulling villains from martial arts movies, and the Lo Pan character from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. He's played by Chin Han (THE DARK KNIGHT, CONTAGION).
The carnivorous, crazed character played by Sisi Stringer (CHILDREN OF THE CORN, BLOODY HELL) was originally designed for "Mortal Kombat II" as a palette swap of Shang Tsung's daughter and heir Kitana, where a palette swap is a way for game designers to create new characters without developing different assets. Indeed, Mileena is an unstable half-clone of Kitana. In the games that followed, however, Mileena became more and more popular, and was given more unique characteristics as a result — she even claimed the throne of Outworld for a while!
Once a part of Kano's Black Dragon crime syndicate, Kabal reformed and joined forces with Raiden. In an early battle with Shao Khan's forces, he was badly wounded and disfigured, leading him to wear a mask and respirator inspired by the Tusken Raiders from STAR WARS. Kabal has been part of the game series since his debut in "Mortal Kombat III," and in the new movie he is played by Daniel Nelson (a stuntman on GODZILLA VS KONG and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES) and voiced by Damon Herriman (of "Justified" and an actor who has played Charles Manson twice, in "Mindhunter" and ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD).
This lady vampire debuted in the game "Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance" and has been a small part of the franchise so far. But this movie appearance of a character who works to protect her own realm, Vaeternus, from the machinations of Shao Khan and his Outworld forces, might be a chance for Nitara to finally get the spotlight. She's played by Mel Jarnson ("Between Two Worlds").
Added to the game in "Mortal Kombat 4," the game version of hammer-wielding Reiko is basically a Shang Tsung clone. He's an ambitious Outworld military leader who hasn't had a chance to distinguish himself in the game series — maybe this movie is his time to shine? Nathan Jones (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, CONAN THE BARBARIAN) plays Reiko.
Reptile, aka Syzoth, was a secret character in the original "Mortal Kombat" and was gradually refined in several games that followed. Initially he was a palette-swapped version of Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Over time Reptile became more, well, reptilian, with a look that lives up to his name. Truthfully, his appearance in the movie is yet to be fully confirmed, but the character fought by Kano in one trailer certainly looks as if it could be no one else.
MORTAL KOMBAT opens on April 23!
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.