When you hear about a video game being adapted into a TV series or feature film, it’s a normal reaction to laugh it off or dismiss it entirely, and for good reason. Movie and TV adaptations of video games have historically been huge flops, not only performing poorly in viewership, but also angering hundreds of thousands of video game fans by diverging from or butchering their source material.
In the brief history of movies that were doomed from the start when they were made to adapt a video game, Mortal Kombat (1995) and its 1997 sequel Annihilation are some of the first examples that come to mind. These movies, while still enjoyable in the same way that old campy action movies are enjoyable, suffered from the same problems as 1994’s Street Fighter–special effects technology back then couldn’t recreate the same over-the-top action of the games, and too many roles were given to non-martial artist actors.
The Mortal Kombat movies almost had it right by having more martial artists in its cast, especially with major roles like Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Shang Tsung. But when you’re making a movie about a fighting game, having even just one non-martial artist in a major role will bring the entire movie’s quality down. Roles like Raiden, Kitana, Shang Tsung, and Sonya Blade were given to actors and fashion models instead of capable stuntmen and stuntwomen.
More than two decades since the first Mortal Kombat movie was released, video game adaptations are nearing a sort of renaissance. Have movie adaptations of video games finally moved beyond the point where we shouldn’t dismiss them right away? Not quite, but it’s getting there. Detective Pikachu (2019) and Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) are far from the best that the world of cinema has to offer, but as video game movies, they’re pretty good. And with the trailer for the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie, the age of the blockbuster video game movie is closer than ever.
The cast of Mortal Kombat (2021) is full of martial artists and actors experienced in making action films. Lewis Tan, who plays the lead role of Cole Young (who might actually be Johnny Cage?) is known for his roles in martial arts-oriented series Into the Badlands, Wu Assassins, and Iron Fist. Liu Kang is played by Ludi Lin (from 2017’s Power Rangers and Black Mirror’s “Striking Vipers”), Jax Briggs is played by Mehcad Brooks (who played Guardian in Supergirl), and Shang Tsung is played by Ng Chin Han (from Netflix’s Marco Polo). Mortal Kombat’s iconic duo, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are also being played by top-tier action actors Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Wolverine) and Joe Taslim (The Raid, The Night Comes For Us). To top it all off, the role of Raiden is played by Tadanobu Asano, whose long list of acting credits includes classic films like Gohatto, Ichi the Killer, and Zatoichi.
With an absolutely fantastic cast of action movie veterans, 2021’s Mortal Kombat is already a far cry from its 1990’s predecessors. Combine that with big-budget set design, CGI, and special effects, and it looks like the over-the-top, sometimes straight-up ridiculous action of the Mortal Kombat games will finally be recreated in film. At this point, we don’t even need to know much about the story (I mean, the games aren’t exactly known for their narratives) because the superpowered action we’ve been waiting to see is pretty much guaranteed.
Are you excited for this upcoming adaptation of Mortal Kombat? What are your theories on Cole Young and how he fits in the Mortal Kombat universe? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! And for more news and updates on video games making their way to our big and small screens, make sure to stay tuned to our website and Facebook page.
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