Mortal Kombat Explained: What You Need To Know Before The Movie (2023)

The Mortal Kombat reboot is bringing the popular video game franchise back to the big screen, but for those who aren’t as familiar with the games, there’s a lot to catch up on. Early reviews have praised the new film’s loyalty to the source material, but they’ve also said that longtime fans are better equipped to enjoy the film than total newcomers. There’s a lot to know about the world of Mortal Kombat going into the new movie, and we’ve got you covered with all the essentials.

Mortal Kombat began in 1992 as an arcade fighting game developed by Midway Games. An instant hit upon release, MK gained particular notoriety for its immense levels of blood and gore, and for the brutal Fatality finishing moves players could execute on their opponents. The game spawned numerous sequels, spinoffs, and two live-action films in the '90s, and it’s expanded significantly in the three decades since the first game’s release.

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A new generation of fans will be able to hop onboard the MK franchise with the release of the new movie. However, there’s a lot to learn about the lore and history of the series that won’t be covered directly in the film. Here’s everything you need to know about Mortal Kombat to get ready to watch and fully enjoy the new movie.

Mortal Kombat's Key Characters Explained

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The main conflict of Mortal Kombat is between the forces of Outworld – the bad guys – and those of Earth, or Earthrealm – the good guys. That conflict is often battled out at the titular Mortal Kombat tournament. Outworld is ruled by Emperor Shao Kahn, but the tournament itself is usually run by his head sorcerer Shang Tsung (played by Chin Han in the reboot). Accordingly, Earthrealm’s warriors are led by the Thunder God Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), who is also the divine protector of Earth.

Earthrealm’s main crew in the reboot consists of Shaolin monks Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) – who possess the powers of fire and throwing a sharp hat, respectively – special forces operatives Jax Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), the laser-eyed Kano (Josh Lawson), who’s a villain in the games, and series newcomer Cole Young (Lewis Tan). Of all those fighters, Liu Kang and Sonya are the most important to the overall story of the franchise, with Liu Kang serving as the main protagonist for many of the games.

Outworld’s champions include the vicious Mileena (Sisi Stringer), the cybernetic warrior Kabal (Daniel Nelson), and the hammer-wielding Reiko (Nathan Jones). Outworld’s four-armed warrior Goro, a multi-time champion of the tournament, will also appear in the film, voiced by Angus Sampson. Shao Kahn himself isn’t slated to appear in the reboot, though the trailers have shown a statue of the Emperor presiding over the tournament grounds.

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The other two major characters to know are rival warriors Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). In the games, Sub-Zero kills Scorpion in a clan feud, only for Scorpion to come back from the dead as a fire-wielding specter out for revenge. The reboot is changing that backstory up a little bit, but the core beats are the same. Put simply, Scorpion is the yellow one with the big chain, and Sub-Zero is the blue one shooting ice out of his hands.

Mortal Kombat Tournament & Story Explained

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As previously mentioned, the story of Mortal Kombat revolves around the titular tournament, where representatives from Earth and Outworld battle for dominance. The tournament itself was created by the Elder Gods as a way of maintaining order among the various realms. Essentially, one realm cannot invade and conquer another without first earning ten straight victories in Mortal Kombat against the realm in question. Tournaments are set apart by significant periods of time, usually generations. As the primary antagonistic force in the franchise, Outworld is usually the realm attempting to invade and conquer by winning Mortal Kombat. Prior to Shao Kahn’s attempted conquest of Earthrealm, he already successfully conquered several other realms.

Mortal Kombat's World: Netherrealm, Earthrealm & Outworld Explained

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For simplicity’s sake, the realms of Mortal Kombat can be thought of as parts of a multiverse, which can be traveled between via magic. There are many realms in the lore of the games, but only three are of particular importance for the reboot – Earthrealm, Outworld, and the Netherrealm. The first two are pretty self-explanatory. Earthrealm is, well, Earth. Outworld is a sprawling fantasy-style wasteland, ruled by Shao Kahn’s evil regime, which has merged the other realms it has conquered into itself.

The Netherrealm is Mortal Kombat’s version of an underworld, similar to common depictions of Hell. It’s a dark, fiery wasteland where the souls of the dead and evil are tortured; where monsters and demons roam. Netherrealm becomes increasingly important in the later games of the franchise – especially in relation to the villains Shinnok and Quan Chi – but its main role in the reboot has to do with Scorpion and Sub-Zero. In the games, both warriors end up in the Netherrealm at one point or another, only to be resurrected by various dark forces to do their bidding. A variant of that storyline is central to the MK reboot, with both Hanzo and Bi-Han being brought back from the dead to continue their feud.

Related:Every Sub-Zero Special Move Confirmed In Mortal Kombat's Reboot

Fatalities: Mortal Kombat's Finishing Moves Explained

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Fatalities, a distinctive aspect of the MK universe, are the calling cards of the Mortal Kombat franchise – brutal, gruesome finishing moves performed on defeated opponents. In the games, once one player wins two rounds against their opponent, the announcer will demand they “finish” them with a Fatality. These moves were pretty simple in the original MK – burning someone alive with a fire blast or punching off their head – but they have become more absurd and complicated over the years. The Mortal Kombat reboot has already teased a number of classic fatalities, so get ready for some bloody finishers at the end of the movie’s various fights.

Do You Need To Play MK Games To Understand The Movie?

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Will you get more of Mortal Kombat’s Easter eggs and references if you’ve played the games? Yes. Do you need to have played them to understand the movie? No. For all its lore and its extensive cast, the story of Mortal Kombat is pretty simple. There’s a tournament, people fight in it, and many of them die in spectacular fashion. You might not grasp every catchphrase or signature move if you’re a newcomer to the franchise, but because the story is being rebooted, experience with the video games isn’t necessary. Of course, the games are still lots of fun if you’re interested, and the latest entry, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, is a great place to start.

Do You Need To Watch Past MK Movies To Understand Mortal Kombat 2021?

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As with the games, while knowledge of past MK films – particular the 1995 live-action movie – won’t hurt going into the reboot, it definitely isn’t necessary. In fact, both the 1995 film and the 2021 film tell basically the same story with most of the same characters. 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is generally thought of as one of the worst video game movies ever, so it’s certainly not required viewing for the reboot. For those interested in watching some past MK content before diving into the new movie, the animated feature Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge might be the best choice. It’s a highly regarded, well-executed version of the Scorpion/Sub-Zero story that can quickly bring you up to speed on the history of the characters. However, it’s still not necessary to watch before seeing the reboot.And thereyou have it – everything you need to know about Mortal Kombat before watching the new movie.

Next:Why Scorpion Appears To Cole Young In Mortal Kombat's Trailer

  • Mortal Kombat - 2021 Release Date:2021-04-23
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