Mortal Kombat Creator Sheds Some Light On Johnny Cage, And I'm Still Wondering Why He Isn't In The New Movie

Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat 11

The upcoming Mortal Kombat movie has been making headlines lately for it’s record-breaking red band trailer, iconic music and badass cast of characters. However, one of the franchise’s biggest stars won’t be in director Simon McQuoid’s reboot. A recent Twitter thread from a co-creator of the franchise now has me wondering why the heck he isn’t in the new movie.

In a ten-part Twitter thread Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias shed some light on why certain characters from the original games were suddenly killed off, not playable or completely absent from early games in the franchise. He was originally prompted by a tweet questioning the specific lore around Johnny Cage being killed off:

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After another fan suggested that the whole situation amounted to a casting dispute between the development studio, Midway, and Daniel Pesina, who played Johnny Cage in the first two games, John Tobias revealed the real reason that a number of the original characters were absent from certain games:

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Tobias then went on to explain in a series of tweets that he, alongside fellow co-creator Ed Boone, had tested out which characters were the most popular by a secret console command installed on every Mortal Kombat machine:

Ed and I wanted to add as many new characters to the MK2 roster as possible. This meant that we were going to have to leave a couple behind. How to make that choice? We added character select audits so we could see how many times each character was chosen. Ed also added a secret button tap sequence that let us walk up to any coin-op game in any arcade, tap in the button sequence and access the audit menu from the attract mode...

It was through these audits that they decided to cut fighters such as Kano and Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat 2. They used the same reasoning for cutting Johnny Cage in the following game. According to their audits, he was one of the least popular fighters, which led to his character being killed off for Mortal Kombat 3.

The outcry from players missing Kano and Sonya in MK2 fueled their return in MK3. Johnny Cage (despite rumor and nonsense) was cut because he was the least selected character in MK2; as were, believe it or not, Raiden and Baraka…Kitana, Mileena, and Scorpion were not cut from MK3. They were held back in anticipation of our Ultimate MK3 release a few months later. UMK3 was a free upgrade for arcade operators to quell issues around MK3’s home release by keeping the arcade game fresh for players

Although some of the main characters from the original game were cut in Mortal Kombat 3, they were eventually brought back for the franchise’s first home release game, Mortal Kombat Trilogy:

MK Trilogy was our first direct to home MK release, and while it was really an extension of UMK3, it was free from the memory limitations that had dogged us in our coin-op games. So, we used the opportunity to bring back Johnny Cage and Raiden, etc...

Even though Johnny Cage was brought back, it left a permanent mark on the deeply complicated Mortal Kombat lore, which makes sense. Once you start bringing back characters from the dead and introducing different timelines, things can get pretty hectic.

So now, I can’t help but wonder why the high-kicking Hollywood star is missing in the shiny new reboot? Surely the Mortal Kombat lore is a ripe playground for sequels and spinoffs, but why kick off a potential franchise without one of the most popular original fighters?

The outcry and rumors from fans way back in the ‘90s show just how attached fans were to their favorite characters. While Johnny Cage may have been the least selected character for Mortal Kombat 2, his death was a major event in terms of the lore. Plus, that was nearly 26 years ago. Now, Johnny Cage is arguably the most recognizable fighter from the franchise, alongside Sub-Zero and Scorpion. In fact, every original character is featured in the upcoming reboot except for Johnny Cage. What gives?

Don’t get me wrong I’m absolutely hyped for the upcoming movie. From the beautiful brutality they showed off in the trailer to teasing secret characters, Mortal Kombat looks awesome for fans of the franchise. But for some reason, I just can’t shake the fact that Johnny Cage won’t be there.

A producer on the reboot has already explained that Johnny Cage would have just been too large of a character to introduce in the first film, and I can’t help but to disagree. Give me all of that cocky, pompous and campy fun, man. That’s how people got hooked on the franchise in the first place. I mean, the fatalities are important but so are the characters!

That being said, I think the casting would have to be absolutely nails. You can’t just throw whoever into the role of Johnny Cage. You’d need some serious charisma, charm and martial arts capabilities to pull it off. Keanu Reeve’s comes to mind, but he might be a little too old for the part.

Either way, there’s a reason that Johnny Cage has been featured in every single Mortal Kombat game in some capacity. Even if he was killed off for being the least popular character way back in the day, he’s gone on to become a face of the franchise. I’m certainly sad that we won’t be seeing some smack-talk and signature Cage high-kicks in the upcoming film, but at least there are still some fan favorites involved.

Mortal Kombat is scheduled to release in theaters and on HBO Max April 23, 2020. Based on the trailers, it looks like fans of the franchise can look forward to some impressive martial arts and brutal fatalities. I’m still optimistic that the reboot will be able to pull off the signature camp of the series, I’m just interested to see how they do it without the iconic Johnny Cage.

What do you think? Am I off base and it’s okay for Johnny Cage to be left out of the reboot, or is it a huge mistake to leave him out of the movie? Let me know in the poll below.

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Braden Roberts

Into tracksuits by Paulie Walnuts, the Criterion Channel and Robert Eggers.