For decades fans of pop culture have been vexed and perplexed by Hollywood's knack for radically altering the popular properties they license for the big screen. Mortal Kombat has been no exception: heavily promoting a character invented for the film. Writer Greg Russo discussed the unlikely star of the new movie in a recent interview. Full story:
Speaking with pop culture and lifestyle site Inverse: screenwriter Greg Russo explained an original creation was already part of the project when he inherited a previous script in 2016. "It was something the studio wanted", he explains.
Rumors of a new lead protagonist began circulating in 2018, and despite aggressive rebukes from James Wan and Ed Boon, the character only appeared to undergo a slight name and style change before materializing in the first featured preview. This identification came sixteen months after Lewis Tan publicly joined the cast.
Russo revealed one of the most substantive changes he made was connecting the character more deeply with the world of the series. "... it had no tie to the mythology of Mortal Kombat. I thought, if we’re going to do it, I want to make sure we do it right and that this character fits into the mythology in an organic way."
"Doing it right" was a mantra James Wan shared in interviews around the time Russo joined as screenwriter. As explained by producer Todd Garner, the result is a character who "sees the eyes of anyone who's never played the game". He'll offer new viewers a point of view as he discovers the world of Mortal Kombat, and as revealed in the official synopsis, his hidden heritage.
In “Mortal Kombat,” MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld's Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family's safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana—the immense power from within his soul—in time to save not only his family, but to stop Outworld once and for all?
Similar to reasoning offered by the director, Russo cites the series' expanding roster as justification for the introduction, but he's self-aware about the pitfalls, also noting: "I’ve seen movie franchises where they bring in a new character and that character is the poster child of the movie, and I felt that was wrong". He also assures classic characters won't be under represented: "They're going to do their cool shit and no one is going to feel they’re in a corner doing nothing."
Mortal Kombat has enjoyed strong box office in limited international markets and will soon officially be in wide release and streaming to HBO Max on April 23rd. Prepare yourself with the latest behind-the-scenes featurette and official red band trailer.