The "Mortal Kombat" video game franchise has become a global frenzy since debuting in 1992. Not only does it rank as arguably the best versus-combat game of all time, but also it's a massive pop culture phenomenon. With NetherRealm Studios revamping things via last year's "Mortal Kombat X," fans were also treated to a new run of comics, throwing back to the 1994 Malibu Comics run.
Apart from its cartoon, music albums, television series and a critically-acclaimed web series, what stands out most (outside the games) are the two '90s films from New Line Cinema, which are in desperate need of updating: "Mortal Kombat" and "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation." With the property now owned by Warner Bros. and geek culture on an upswing, CBR decided to look at 15 ways to reboot and bring "Mortal Kombat" to the big screen yet again!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for "Mortal Kombat" video games, movies and comics!
15 KEEP IT OFF EARTH
This is something the past movies smartly played on, which should be kept going for the reboot. However, with Warner Bros. now owning the "MK" property after Midway Games went bankrupt, let's hope that they don't follow the vision laid down for DC's heroes in Zack Snyder's "Justice League" universe. In fact, the incoming invasion and attack on Earth shtick isn't just limited to DC's filmverse, but was initially put into motion by Marvel Studios, their "Avengers"-centric stories and the imminent arrival of Thanos.
The "MK" universe is all about warriors boldly going to new worlds and realms, so even though waging war on Earth may be part of the villains' plans, let's focus on our heroes exploring and actually being the outsiders or invaders. It'd be a nice spin on things to differentiate the reboot from the average sci-fi film or comic book movie where our planet is usually the victim. Earth's warriors testing their might, along with heroes from other realms, against monstrous threats would be a great first wave of defense to safeguard the place we call home.
14 HAVE BADASS ARENAS
Once things are kept away from Earth, the major focus should be Outworld. It's the main "Mortal Kombat" realm, which the likes of Onaga (The Dragon King), Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung used in their power conquests. Outworld's forces have always been a trump card in controlling the tournament and also, who has dominion over all other realms (under the purvey of the shady Elder Gods).
Most stages are interactive and act as characters unto themselves, so it'd be nice to see these dynamic arenas, with their own personalities, impact on warriors. It would be similar to "Lord Of The Rings," where we saw our heroes often come into conflict with the locations they were in, such as the mines of Moria and its Balrog. The Living Forest, the Pit and Goro's lair are some fan favorites, while "MKX" has the Kove (a pirate dock) and the Marketplace. There are several other temples and palaces (such as Sub-Zero and the Lin Kuei's) to battle, and if anything happens on Earth, we can jump back to the subway and bridge stages from "MK: Ultimate."
Animalities were one of the biggest draws of the old-school "Mortal Kombat" games. In the "Annihilation" movie, Nightwolf worked with Liu Kang on mastering his, a dragon, and this is something that can be improved upon for the reboot. After all, it plays up the mysticism, spiritual and supernatural aspects of the franchise. There's no reason to not include it, even if for just elite fighters or omega-level champions. In a time where geeks are treated to a plethora of werewolf and vampire stories, animalities fit right in.
We've already got creatures such as Reptile, Motaro, Goro, Kintaro and D'vorah, so evening up the odds with some ani-morphing shouldn't be an issue. "Annihilation" didn't execute this beast mode well, which is forgivable given the technology back in the '90s, but with the SFX and CGI advancements we've got now (as per Andy Serkis as Caesar), this is something the reboot can risk and get right. "MK" is about monsters and animals, just as much as it is about martial arts, and animalities would make for epic fan service.
12 REDEEM THE PAST ROSTER
In the previous movies, there were quite a few characters that just got plugged in to fill the roster and never really felt like they served a purpose, like advancing the plot. It's hard to not call them prominent because let's face it, in such a beloved game, every character is important. Reptile was shoehorned into the first film just for a Liu Kang beatdown, but he ended up being so crucial in the franchise, especially later on with Onaga's revival in the games.
Nightwolf helped Liu Kang, but he quickly disappeared in the first movie, while Shinnok was merely a plot accessory to Shao Kahn's sinister plan in the sequel. Still, it felt like they were there to make up screen time, just as when the ball was dropped with the likes of Sindel, Rain and Ermac. Motaro and Sheeva were also treated as peripheral figures in the 1997 movie, which just wanted to expand its cast without finding them relevant roles. It ended up being more filler than anything else, so hopefully, some of them can return and be done justice.
11 DON'T FOLLOW THE ORDER OF THE GAMES
"MK" continuity isn't the easiest to adapt. There's a lot of backstory, not just with characters and clans, but also with the various realms. A proper animated series or comics may well be the route if you wanted this done to a tee, but if you're doing films, then you have to cut and condense. This would be even tougher if you follow the order of the original games, which culminated in big throwdowns such as "Trilogy" and "Armageddon" before the reboot in 2011.
The early chapters dealt with Shang Tsung, a shape-shifting sorcerer, and then we got into Shao Kahn, the ruler of Outworld, but soon things ran amok with Onaga and Blaze as big baddies, all of which just begged for retcon after retcon. These games were meant to constitute a huge novel built on villains and their schemes, so rather than starting small with a few fighters and just growing, maybe pick a proper starting point such as "Ultimate," which has a thick enough roster with a lot of key characters, or "Deadly Alliance" for antagonists, which focused on cult faves, Quan Chi and Shinnok.
10 EPIC ACTION SEQUENCES
"MK" prides itself on the art of combat. Martial arts play a big role, but so do the special powers of the fighters. From a comics perspective, it's similar to metahumans in the way they're powered up. So when these combatants are fighting hand to hand, and to the death, the reboot should put fighters, and of course, cyborg ninjas, on display similarly to capes and heroes battling gods and monsters as seen in Marvel and DC's films (such as the Doomsday finale in "Batman v Superman").
If you look at the story mode and affiliated scenes from games such as "MKX," there are huge action sequences involving helicopters, war-like raids and ambushes, and overall, a lot of army and group battles. Sure, we want well-choreographed fights, but MK needs some epic scenes and overall warfare to truly make it a spectacle. It isn't just about fighters, but it's about realms being overthrown and a massive invasion plot, so there's room for something like what Joss Whedon did with the Chitauri, or Zack Snyder with the Kryptonians.
9 HIRE AN ESTABLISHED ACTION DIRECTOR
Video game adaptations haven't been the best when it comes to film. The "Resident Evil" franchise doesn't seem to die but ones like "Max Payne," "Hitman" and "Doom" fell totally flat. We're not sure if film studios always take these adaptations seriously, but we do know that there's a lot of potential and more so, a lot of source material and history to pull from in terms of nailing the script. This reboot could break down many doors and stereotypes with someone like Tim Miller ("Deadpool"), meaning someone who truly appreciates action scenes, in the director's chair.
Chad Stahelski directed on both "John Wick" movies and he's another candidate who would leave fans in good hands, as he was a stuntman for Brandon Lee on "The Crow's" tragic production. David Leitch, who also worked on "John Wick," is another stuntman who we'd love to see take reins after "Deadpool 2." Established and respected directors who understand the nuances of the genre go a long way in ensuring the momentum of films like this. They can add depth and clout to "Mortal Kombat" as something that's not just a fly-by-night flick for gamers.
8 A VILLAINOUS SPREAD
When it comes to the major "Mortal Kombat" villains, there are several to choose from. Shinnok, a meddling and very corrupt Elder God, is usually found in cahoots with the necromancer Quan Chi, especially in the later games. Then there's Shang Tsung, who was found serving Shao Kahn in the earlier games, while secretly trying to usurp him. Let's hope "MK" doesn't make the same mistakes of past comic book movies (such as "Batman and Robin") and cram in too many villains all at once. Space them out so they can be properly developed.
If they're used in the pairings mentioned above, that's fine because their schemes usually rely on each other. That said, "Mortal Kombat" can be done over the course of a couple films with each movie taking you closer to a bigger boss, like when progressing in video game levels, so there's more than enough room to use the aforementioned villains in two movies before jumping into a third focusing on the likes of Blaze (a fire elemental meant to devour existence), Kotal Kahn, the new Emperor of Outworld, and Onaga, a former Emperor himself. The Thanos formula from Marvel Studios could definitely work here in terms of a gradual build.
7 POWER UP EARTH'S SPECIAL FORCES
Earth's special forces, whether as an army or individually, need to be believable when running up against gods and monsters. They need to be equipped so that they don't get overpowered easily. Because when you look at the likes of Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage and their daughter, Cassie Cage, against these ethereal and alien beings, it just doesn't seem feasible. "MKX" got it right as it showed Jax and his daughter, Jacqui, powered up with technology that didn't make them who they are, but rather simply enhanced their abilities.
The mystical aspect of the warrior was also well-kept with Kung Jin (descendant of Kung Lao), as well as with Scorpion's understudy, Takeda (also the son of the blind ninja, Kenshi). The movie should blend this contemporary update in for Earth's warriors because running into the heat of battle with just guns, drones and knives seems a bit lacking. Characters like Stryker could also do with such an upgrade because grenades won't do much against enemies who can teleport, shape-shift, absorb your powers or go invisible. This would also hype up the science and technology aspects of the film a lot.
6 USE A FRANCHISE-LOYAL CREATIVE CORE
Co-creator, John Tobias may not be in the mix anymore, but the other half of that duo, Ed Boon, is navigating the franchise's trajectory pretty well. He had a hands-on approach in 2008's "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe," the reboot three years later, and is still steering the ship at NetherRealm studios. This also includes being a key architect in the "Injustice" video games, so "Mortal Kombat" fans are hoping he can take some time off and help build the vision for the next movie.
Shawn Kittelsen wrote the "MKX" comics for DC and he's another person who would be a huge asset, as he understands how to bridge the gap between the mythos of old and that of the present. Dedicated folks like these are the chief engineers that should be part of the reboot because they truly understand the essence and lore of the franchise. They can play a similar role like Geoff Johns does for DC Comics in terms of their movies and television series. If actors or other creatives come on board with the passion that Ryan Reynolds had for "Deadpool," that would also be a huge boost.
5 MAKE IT RATED-R
"Mortal Kombat" has never been a kid-friendly franchise. The fatalities, brutalities, x-ray beatdowns, the guts, gore and, of course, skimpy outfits, aren't for the feint of heart, nor are they for the young. The movie shouldn't be watered down either. It needs to be rated-R, which helped movies like "Deadpool" and "Logan," as it allowed the characters and story to flourish as they were meant to. Such a rating could make the reboot unadulterated, unrestricted and allow it to cut loose just like the source material.
The old movies, while they are cult classics, can be seen as cheesy, campy and diluted, leaving you with a sense of what if. The potential of "Mortal Komat" would be diminished with a PG-13 rating because it stifles the over-the-top and excessive violence the game hinges on. "John Wick" also showed why we need our action scenes to be unhinged, brutal and truly liberated, and this flick in itself did feel like a first-person shooter. That's what MK evokes and which should unfold on-screen: pure, unabashed and gruesome violence.
4 MAKE IT A TRILOGY
Not every "Mortal Kombat" movie needs to be about the actual tournament itself. The reboot doesn't have to rush the tournament in the first film and could be carved out as a trilogy. It could start with the creatives building realms and developing characters in each territory. A similar approach to "Batman Begins" can be adopted in terms of doing "MK" in an origins style, where we set the chess pieces up and gravitate to the tournament by the second or third film (where Earth is finally invaded).
It's worth mentioning that the tournament itself isn't the crux of modern "MK" stories. Instead, they focus on the rivalries, factions, treasure hunts, amulets, and mystical deities thirsting for power and lusting for control. We're not saying that the tournament should be secondary, but it doesn't have to be at the forefront. It can complement all the machinations of everyone aspiring to rule, because as "MKX" and "Armageddon" showed, "Mortal Kombat" is not a series of fights, but rather a mentality and a philosophy in the art of war.
3 HAVE PREQUELS & SPINOFFS
The "Mortal Kombat" reboot can take the route of going the Marvel Studios way, with origins stories coming first, later followed by ensemble flicks. Or they can go the DC way, which is in reverse. Either way, if MK decided to jump into the fray of the tournament or the bigger war at hand, there's no reason why it can't have spinoffs or better yet, prequels stories to accompany it. This frees up the main movie to deal with the main battle at hand between Outworld and Earth.
Imagine seeing origins with the likes of Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Kitana and Mileena; or spinoffs with how the cyber-ninjas (Cyrax, Sektor) were made. We can get these key characters down cold and also, deal with their rivalries so they don't bog down the bigger picture when everyone's lumped in together. Some characters have immense heritage, so they can even be done via Netflix, online webisodes or television, to create space in the main narrative. Such accessory films and solo tales should also stay true to the essence of the core movies.
2 CONTROL THE ROSTER
It's important not to spread the roster too thin. Make sure characters have a purpose, even if they're there for a short time. We saw this problem with FOX's "X-Men" films, which had characters in for the heck of it, and even left big names out of the final cuts. "Mortal Kombat" should streamline who gets to appear when they make a reboot because big characters were wasted in the old films, and if they're brought back, it should be done with intent.
After all, there are a lot of core characters who will have to be included no matter what, so spots are limited if we're to keep things as substance over style, and ensure we still have thorough character development. Focus on those who are pertinent to the entire "MK" narrative, and not just a few games. Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Kitana are examples. For the modern narrative, look at Kenshi and the new generation from "MKX," and according to the plot, pick wisely from the villain pool, as we don't need characters like Goro, Kintaro and Motaro in one film just to be lackeys. When choosing our fighters, let's choose wisely.
1 THE MKX STORYLINE
From "MKX's" story-mode scenes, you could tell that the scope and grandeur of things was meant for the big screen. They felt cinematic and did a great job of evolving the old lore, while incorporating a new generation of fighters for modern audiences. "MKX's" overall writing was clever and felt organic, extending the "Mortal Kombat" universe in a way that still made villains of old like Shinnok and Quan Chi very pertinent, as they tried to conquer Earth again.
This plot would also allow retention of classic characters such as Kung Lao, Goro and Johhny Cage, and can easily be subverted to bring in older elements such as Shao Kahn and Shang Tsung. In fact, just like Onaga, the reboot can have these characters as legends of the past, mystical fables or as fodder for resurrection at some point. Whether it's done in flashbacks or as part of the core narrative, the classic heroes and villains will have a place. Again, prequels, origin stories and spinoffs can be beneficial on this note, but when all's said and done, the fresh new spin of "MKX" is the ideal and definitive recipe to appease newbies and loyalists.
Thoughts on our picks? Let us know in the comments what you'd like to see in a Mortal Kombat reboot!