Earlier today, Warner Bros. graciously invited fans of video games, martial arts, and unspeakable gore and bloodshed to a little 4/20 treat: the first seven minutes of Mortal Kombat. If you are worried that the latest live-action adaptation would take the PG-13 route, you’re in luck. Within six minutes, some henchman gets stabbed in the skull with a sword. Yes, if these first few minutes of Warner Bros. tentpole release are any indication, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and the rest of the gang of fighters to the death are ready to fight, um, to the death. And what a bloody death this is.
What you might not be expecting, and might’ve been dreading, is that this opening scene is an origin story for the characters Scorpion and Subzero, chronicling the beginning of their long-running feud, which is presumably over who looks better in a colorful karate gi. Director Simon McQuoid treats fans to an opening scene that shows Subzero killing Scorpion’s family, including freezing Scorpion’s child into an ice cube.
Mortal Kombat has an off-and-on relationship with movies. In 1995, director Paul W.S. Anderson brought the first adaptation to theaters at the height of the game’s controversy. This PG-13, child-friendly version of the intensely violent game was a hit, bringing in more than $120 million worldwide and blowing the minds of 8-year-olds everywhere. Its sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, though, was the victim of a box office fatality, earning just over $51 million. A reboot of the series languished in development over the next 15 or so years, when in 2011, a well-received web series, Mortal Kombat: Legacy, began a two-season run.
Warner Bros. positioned Mortal Kombat as this month’s major release, launching it on HBO Max and theaters this Friday. The studio’s putting the same force behind the film as they did their previous big-budget smash-em-ups Godzilla Vs. Kong and Tom & Jerry, which should really be called “Tom vs. Jerry” to fit the trend if we’re being honest. The real question now is whether Scorpion and Subzero will join the Droogs, the Iron Giant, and Scooby-Doo in Space Jam: A New Legacy.