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Warner Bros’ Mortal Kombat is a film that could be described as many things. Some may say it’s a remake of a classic video game adaptation, with theme music so iconic you have to use it no matter what you’re doing in the cinematic realm. Others would be right in calling it a brutally beautiful action spectacle ready to entertain the masses. But both of those branching pathways meet up at one, common goal that any studio would be crazy not to aim for: a potential cinematic franchise.
That aim looks like it’s already being worked towards by director Simon McQuoid and his Mortal Kombat team, as a pretty huge indicator of where the sequel could go has already been teased within the trailer that’s been released. Before we go too far, take some time to revel in Mortal Kombat’s greatness, as shown off in the film’s first trailer. After that, we’ll get into just why we’re thinking this universe has tipped its hand just a little bit.
Ok, so we have that trailer refresh out of the way, but there’s one more caveat we’re going to put out there. While this is truly speculation, based on Mortal Kombat’s past history, there may be material that some would consider spoilers. So if you don’t want to know why this big tease in the first big look at Mortal Kombat is so important, you can turn around and read what we’re about to discuss after the film premieres on April 16. Though if that’s how you’re playing the game, then might we suggest getting in on the HBO Max deal for a six-month subscription (opens in new tab) at a reduced rate.
The Big Tease In Mortal Kombat’s Trailer
During the events of the Mortal Kombat trailer, there is a huge statue that happens to show up in a particularly interesting shot. A massive statue of a masked hulking figure, with a sword, is seen rather prominently towards the end of the reel. Now, this could just be the excitement talking, but it looks like that statue is none other than the infamous Mortal Kombat god Shao Kahn.
A pretty big deal in the Mortal Kombat universe, Kahn has been a fixture throughout the franchise for quite some time. But as we’ve seen as far back as director Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mortal Kombat adaptation from 1995, the teasing of Shao Kahn’s place in the Midway game franchise is a bit of a tradition. Which makes total sense when you consider the overarching mythology surrounding this legendary character in this long-running series.
Wait, Who’s Shao Kahn?
First appearing in 1993’s Mortal Kombat II, Shao Kahn is, basically, the god behind the guy. The ruler of the Outworld that the Mortal Kombat tournament takes place in, there’s a rich history that saw Kahn make many enemies throughout his conquest of that mythical realm. Ultimately, his ambitions lie in the conquest of all realms, including that of Earth. But what’s more, Shao Kahn has some personal ties to other Mortal Kombat fighters we’ve already glimpsed.
One such fighter is Mileena (Sisi Stringer), who, according to Mortal Kombat lore, is the evil clone of Shao Kahn’s daughter, Kitana. Whether the film canon will follow that path or not is another story, but the connection between the characters is just one of many ways that Kahn could find his way into a future entry of the film franchise. Which, merely by hinting at his presence in the Mortal Kombat trailer, feels like a possibility those in charge of the franchise are ready to dive into.
What Does Shao Kahn Mean For A Mortal Kombat 2?
Traditionally, Shao Kahn is the deeper, more serious threat in the Mortal Kombat universe that succeeds Shang Tsung (Chin Han) after his bid to win the titular tournament fails miserably. Going back to video game lore, Kahn has had one thing on his mind throughout the entire gaming franchise, reboot and all: conquering the Earthrealm. It was such a huge motivation that Mortal Kombat 3 saw him actually succeed; and the latest Mortal Kombat movie seems to aim towards that same sort of spin.
While we’re probably not going to see Shao Kahn fighting in Simon McQuoid’s big Mortal Kombat tale, the importance of Kahn is already on display just by having a statue alone. Through the journey of Cole Young (Lewis Tan) into the tournament to save the Earthrealm, we’ll more than likely get the basic foundation of why Shao Kahn is such a big deal. But as we’ve seen in the past, Mortal Kombat movies love to save the meat and potatoes of Kahn’s presence as a carrot to lure audience into the next installment.
How The Original Mortal Kombat Movies Used Shao Kahn
Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mortal Kombat absolutely understood how to tease, and eventually deploy, Shao Kahn into the film franchise. Audiences got to see Liu Kang (Robin Shou) defeat Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) in order to avenge his brother, and a hero’s welcome awaited him and his Kombatant friends. Though the celebration was short-lived thanks to Shao Kahn, who at this point was referred to as “The Emperor.” Once you saw that masked figure declaring he came for everyone’s souls though, you knew exactly who was being teased for the sequel.
And fair being fair, Shao Kahn was in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation; though his methods and his goals were less than fair. Basically following Mortal Kombat 3’s storyline, Kahn tried to merge the Earthrealm with Outworld; which is a big no-no in accordance with the rules. But when has that stopped an all-powerful god who just wants his queen to come back to him… as well as the right to claim all of the souls on Earth?
Looking back at the history of the Mortal Kombat series, as well as the fact that the latest film is seeking to mine that rich story for some interesting twists and turns, seeing Shao Kahn appear in the trailer is a pretty exciting sign. While this new incarnation is looking to be an R-rated crowd pleaser, it looks like it’s ready to do so alongside the lore that the games that inspired it care so much to craft. Prepare to place your bets, choose your fighter and test your might when Mortal Kombat hits theaters and HBO Max on April 16.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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