It’s no surprise that Mortal Kombat has been such a delight for moviegoers — particularly those staying at home with some cool refreshing HBO Max being piped directly into their living rooms. Not only is the name shared with a piece of nostalgic cheese that people have much affection for, it’s a unique kocktail of dumb B-movie supernatural fantasy, almost offensive Orientalist nonsense, and bloody, brutal fighting action.
Rather than aspire to cinematic high art – a goal critics would surely have mocked no matter what – the 2021 reboot hits all the marks it needed to bring smiles. It also taps into the dense, sprawling mythology of the franchise better than the 1995 classic and its miserable sequel 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Part of the thrill was anticipating which crazy kharacter would appear.
Of course, for reasons of budget and time, placing a bet on any one kharacter appearing was a bit of a fool’s game, but it was still a fun game to play. Out of over a hundred characters from over a dozen games, here are just eight fighters that would have been wild to see, what their sequel prospects are, and who should play them.
8. Shao Kahn
The movie pretty much shows us that Shao Kahn exists in their universe, via a statue in Raiden’s temple, so we were kind of hoping the immortal konqueror would show up at the last minute (or in an after kredits stinger) to clown on Shang Tsung. That didn’t happen, but still, the movie guarantees it’s a matter of when not if that he shows up.
Who should play him? As a film franchise, Mortal Kombat is going to be recruiting some absolute units to bring the crotch punches, bicycle kicks, and magic powers, so why not make Shao Kahn… the biggest? For that, I suggest Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, the Icelandic strongman widely recognized for his role as The Mountain in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
The existence of Mileena pretty much implies the existence of Kitana, as the former is a mutant hybrid copy of the latter. A nearly immortal Edenian princess, Kitana is usually the love interest to Liu Kang and a “fan” favorite. It’s reasonable to assume she was cut to ensure the movie wasn’t 30 minutes longer.
Who should play her? For this one, I nominate Juju Chan, the American actress and model who’s been dubbed the “female Bruce Lee” by martial arts fans. She had a recurring role on Netflix’s Wu Assassins and recently starred opposite Nicolas Cage and Frank Grillo in 2020’s Jiu-Jitsu.
The existence of Mileena should also be followed by the appearance of Baraka, one of the iconic antagonists whose retractable arm blades and total monster boy schtick has made him infamous. We can imagine that he’s a shoo-in for a second movie, for where Shao Kahn goes, Baraka usually follows.
Who should play him? If there’s one guy I absolutely insist on playing Baraka, it’s Ernie Reyes, Jr, the Filipino-American martial artist who was last seen going savage as El Tigre in the infamous Uncharted: Live Action Fan Film opposite Nathan Fillion.
As of late, one of my favorite characters is Sindel, who most recently came back from the dead (again) in Mortal Kombat 11’s excellent Aftermath DLC. Queen of Edenia, mother of Kitana and enemy of Shao Kahn, Sindel was one of the few good things about the deservedly maligned sequel to the original Mortal Kombat movie, 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
Who should play her? Sindel is a rather inscrutable kharacter, sometimes heroic and tragic, sometimes sadistic and villainous. The best actress to manage that duality is Kelly Hu, a legend of over 100 credits and most recognized from films like X-2: X-Men United and The Scorpion King.
It’s when Shang Tsung (Chin Han) started stealing souls, that fans knew Ermac would be fair game. Made up of thousands of souls, Ermac represents the many lives that have been lost through the violent wars of Outworld. He’s a real horror show, and a perfect stand-in for Sub-Zero before the inevitable kreation of Noob Saibot, the wraith assassin.
Who should play him? For Ermac, I say why not get an absolute legend like Daniel Wu, best known for the post-apocalyptic martial arts drama Into the Badlands. Wu is in his 40s now, so why not gift him with a role that’s 50% kicking ass and 50% spook powers.
3. Noob Saibot
I wasn’t really keeping track of the time while watching Mortal Kombat, so when Sub-Zero’s korpse gets absorbed by a smoky substance – much like how flames consumed Hanzo in the prologue – I was convinced we’d get a sequel baiting appearance from the aforementioned Noob Saibot, at least as a post-credits stinger. Alas, that did not happen, but surely the wraith form of Bi-Han could appear in a sequel.
Who should play him? Should Saibot appear, he should be played by Joe Taslim, but more intense, as he’s basically just Bi-Han only creepier and freakier. And it’d be great news for Taslim, as it’s an additional picture to his filming schedule.
Okay, I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t expecting this guy to show up. He appears on Sonya’s “konspiracy board” of research notes regarding the Mortal Kombat tournament, so that felt more like an easter egg. Still, I love this guy, a Native American warrior who plays a pivotal role in many of the twists and turns of the Mortal Kombat saga.
Who should play him? Get the criminally underused Alex Meraz to play Nightwolf. The “Chica-Indio” actor is probably best known for his role as the werewolf Paul Lahote in the Twilight films, but I’ll bet he’s chomping at the bit for a cool role like this.
1. Johnny Cage
It was incredibly astonishing that a series mainstay like Johnny Cage was left off the movie’s final roster. But it’s with good reason: the filmmakers felt that the comic energy that Cage would bring would be redundant alongside Josh Lawson’s Kano, who doubled as an antagonistic foil to the rest of Earthrealm’s champions. That’s cool though, as Cage’s arc as narcissistic glory hound to reluctant hero would have been lost in the shuffle.
Who should play him? A future appearance by Cage is suggested before the kredits roll, and my vote is to get Scott Adkins, the versatile martial artist and actor from Triple Threat and Accident Man.
Who’d you like to appear in the next Mortal Kombat movie?