An illustration of the new Mortal Kombat movie cover. (Illustration by Lexey Gonzalez, Wichita State University)

‘Mortal Kombat’ Could Be the Video Game Movie Comeback of the Year

After decades of silence, the video game series has released an exciting and violent preview for an upcoming action film.

Movie trailers are a dime a dozen these days. The era of sitting in a dark theater eagerly waiting for a sneak peek of Hollywood’s newest blockbusters is gone. It seems like the age of the internet has sapped much of the luster from trailers, making it just a little too easy to hop on YouTube and search for a curated list of new movie previews. With accessibility at an all-time high, how does a movie studio grab and maintain the ever-fleeting attention span of the internet? Simply by using the color red to signal viewers’ attention, also known as a Red Band trailer.

Most people are familiar, at least subconsciously, with the following statement:


This is usually displayed in white lettering against a green background at the beginning of nearly every movie trailer in America. Every now and then, however, the same words are displayed against a red backdrop, letting the audience know they’re in for an uncensored movie trailer experience.

When the preview for the new “Mortal Kombat” movie dropped on Feb. 18, this is exactly what audiences saw. From the moment the trailer starts, the bright red disclaimer lets everyone know all the action and violence associated with the acclaimed franchise will be on full display. Sure enough, the two-minute and 30-second trailer pulls no punches by showcasing impressive choreography with deadly displays of frostbite, amputations and stabbings.

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The trailer opens with shots of Jax, prior to losing his arms, as he makes his way through a series of suspiciously icy rooms. Sonya provides voice-over narration, detailing their search for a wanted fugitive in Brazil. Out of nowhere, a masked figure attacks Jax. Jax tries to shoot his assailant only to have his bullet and assault rifle frozen mid-shot. The camera then switches to a close-up angle to reveal a familiar blue-clad ninja.

“When we got there, he tore through our unit in seconds.”

Indeed he did; after destroying Jax’s gun, Sub-Zero proceeds to freeze and shatter both of his arms. This amazing display of brutality should provide hope for longtime fans of the series who have been waiting for a modern film adaptation that doesn’t shy away from what makes the franchise great. While some might complain that Jax originally lost his arms to someone else in the games, a character named Ermac, the sequence still looks impressive and is a great way of introducing one of the franchise’s most iconic characters. Nothing says Sub-Zero quite like a frozen limb amputation.

The trailer then introduces a new character to the series: Cole, who was apparently born with the Mortal Kombat dragon symbol on his chest. He refers to it as a birthmark but is corrected by Jax, who tells him that it means he’s been chosen. Chosen for what, exactly?

Well, for individuals unfamiliar with the series, the entirety of its plot and gameplay revolves around a tournament between “realms” or different dimensions. Once a realm has won 10 tournaments in a row, it is allowed to take over another realm. It may sound outlandish, but keep in mind that the story was made for an early ‘90s arcade game.

As Sonya explains the details of the tournament, various shots of iconic characters flash across the screen before settling on a longer sequence, showing a man picking up a kunai before facing multiple assailants. This should immediately identify the man for most fans of the series as Hanzo Hasashi, more commonly referred to as Scorpion. Played by the brilliant Hiroyuki Sanada, Scorpion is a ninja assassin who is killed alongside his entire clan and family, only to be resurrected as an immortal spectre hungry for revenge.

The trailer seems to show footage of Scorpion both before and after his death, indicating that the film will depict his tragic origin story and subsequent rebirth. Scorpion fans are certainly in for a treat as he brutally dispatches a group of more than five attackers in a gloriously violent fashion.

Whether the film turns out to be good or not, there is no doubt that the action and fight choreography will be top-notch. Scorpion’s movements accurately reflect the character’s expertise as he skillfully weaves his kunai through the flesh of his attackers like a masterful chef filleting a salmon.

After Scorpion’s master class in killing is over, the trailer gives some of the other characters a chance to introduce themselves, offering glimpses of Kano, Lui-Kang, Kung-Lao, Raiden and the infamous four-armed behemoth known as Goro. The characters all appear to accurately reflect their virtual counterparts, with Goro’s extra arms posing a challenge to adapt to live-action. The extremely short shot of him jumping through the air looks terrifying, evoking the same emotions many players felt when fighting him in the old Mortal Kombat games.

The trailer finally reaches a climax with a showdown between Scorpion and Sub-Zero, the original battle between fire and ice. That’s right — before “Game of Thrones” tore everyone’s heart out, Sub-Zero and Scorpion had been doing it for years.

Again, the fight choreography looks amazing. The two bitter rivals display impressive hand-to-hand combat skills in beautiful costumes that look straight out of the game. If this film turns out to be a dud, it certainly won’t be because of the fight scenes. At one point, Sub-Zero slashes Scorpion, freezes his blood and stabs him with it before throwing him through a wall of ice. That sequence alone should sell even the most skeptical Mortal Kombat fans.

With the trailer garnering over 2 million views on YouTube in one day, there’s no denying that the nearly 30-year-old franchise still has mass appeal. The film is set to release both in theaters and on HBO Max on April 16, making it the first live-action film in the series since the 1997 disaster that was “Mortal Kombat Annihilation” — a film so bad it killed any sequel chances for almost three decades. So now, in the year 2021, fans have been offered a glimpse of the brutal world that is “Mortal Kombat.”

Justin Spencer, University of Texas at San Antonio

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Justin Spencer

University of Texas at San Antonio

Justin Spencer is an Air Force veteran who after six years of service attended UTSA. He currently works as a warehouse manager and customer service representative for Pureline Nutrition, a Texas-based supplement company.

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