The brutal endings of Mortal Kombat set up a sequel
“We’re collecting all the heroes.”
You’ve seen the fatalities. Now, what’s next? With Mortal Kombat in theaters and streaming on HBO Max, the future for Mortal Kombat on the big screen is wide open with possibilities. But if you paid close attention, especially to who lives and dies, you’ll already have an inkling of where Mortal Kombat could go in a sequel — and who else is koming into the frame.
Inverse spoke to screenwriter Greg Russo and actors Lewis Tan (“Cole Young”), Mechad Brooks (“Jax”), Jessica McNamee (“Sonya Blade”), Josh Lawson (“Kano”), and Joe Taslim (“Sub-Zero”). Here’s what we know about the final scenes of Mortal Kombat — and everything the movie’s ending tells us about a sequel.
Warning: Spoilers for Mortal Kombat ahead!
The ending of Mortal Kombat, explained
At the end of Mortal Kombat, Cole Young (Tan) unlocks his arcana and learns his true heritage — he is a descendant of Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada). As Hasashi blood courses through Young’s veins, Scorpion returns from the Netherrealm and successfully defeats his sworn rival Sub-Zero (Taslim) in what must be one of the most brutal cage fights in cinematic history.
While the forces of Earthrealm defeat Shao Tsung (Chin Han), the heroes are left to fill a crucial gap in their ranks after the loss of Kung Lao (Max Haung) and the betrayal of Kano (Lawson). The tournament is yet to take place, and Earth needs every hand (and foot) it can get.
So the heroes essentially dispatch Cole to Hollywood to recruit a certain A-list action star: Johnny Cage. A poster of Cage’s latest vehicle, Citizen Cage, hangs in Cole’s gym on the wall.
Uncaging Johnny Cage
We already know why Johnny Cage was kept out of this movie. But the stars of Mortal Kombat tease what might happen should their battalion add Cage to its ranks.
“We’re collecting all the heroes,” Mechad Brooks tells Inverse. Brooks plays the beefy, bionic-armed Jax.
“Johnny Cage is part of that ethos. I don’t think one character is any more important than another character. They all bring something to the table,” he says.
Johnny Cage would be an asset to a Mortal Kombat sequel “if we’re blessed and lucky to have one,” Brooks says.
“Our strength is our diversity,” he says. “We have so many characters from all over the world and actors around the world. Our Japanese thunder god is played by a Japanese person. Normalizing the diversity of heroes is good for our society, and adding Johnny Cage to the mix is going to be a good thing.”
“This is a really special and unique project and I think that there’s a lot of characters we can add for the sequel. For the trilogy,” Lewis Tan, who stars as Cole Young, tells Inverse. “There’s a whole universe we can build and hopefully that universe can look like what the world looks,” he says.
Ultimately, screenwriter Greg Russo reveals that Mortal Kombat had enough characters to include in this first film, that Cage was forced to sit on the bench — for now.
“If we got the chance to make more movies, we wanted to leave ourselves some big characters,” Russo tells Inverse. “We didn’t want to blow the whole load in movie one. There are characters people love we now have saved to introduce down the road.”
So, is Johnny Cage in the sequel?
“If I’m writing the movie, absolutely,” Russo says.
From Sub-Zero to Noob Saibot
Mortal Kombat buffs know Sub-Zero isn’t ever actually dead. In the game’s lore, Sub-Zero is killed by Scorpion, yet later returns as a shadowy ninja called Noob Saibot. Sub-Zero’s younger brother subsequently takes on the “Sub-Zero” mantle for himself, beginning with Mortal Kombat II and retold in the 2011 reboot game, also titled Mortal Kombat.
Joe Taslim, the star of HBO Max’s Warrior and 2012 cult action movie The Raid: Redemption, tells Inverse that he’s more than familiar with Sub-Zero’s transformation into Noob Saibot. His costume in the movie, which is dark blue and black, is an intentional foreshadowing of Sub-Zero’s evolution into Noob Saibot in the sequel.
“I studied this character before he’s Sub-Zero, and after he’s Sub-Zero,” Taslim tells Inverse.
The actor adds that costume designer Cappi Ireland chose to design Taslim’s Sub-Zero costume a darker shade of blue than fans might expect. In the video games, his costumes tend to be a very bright shade of blue.
“Our costume designer designed the costume a bit more dark. It’s not just pastel blue. You see the darkness,” Taslim explains.
“The costume tells a story [that] the darkness is eating him.”
The final fight in Mortal Kombat between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is the latter’s “origin” into Noob Saibot, Taslim says.
“He is becoming Noob Saibot, [it’s] pretty obvious in the final fight,” he says. “I feel we have to continue the story, I believe what we did in the movie is gonna go to that direction that all the fans love.”
Finally, Kano (Josh Lawson) is defeated by Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) in a predictably brutal fashion. Yet both Lawson and McNamee believe this death is not the final end for Kano. In fact, they say his story has just begun.
“I can tell you that me and my agents think it’s very possible he can come back,” Lawson tells Inverse.
“To me, this looks like the beginning of what Kano eventually becomes [in the games]. I would be disappointed and surprised if we didn’t get to watch Kano evolve into what fans really know him to become,” he says.
McNamee points out to Inverse that her own character’s story is deeply tied with Kano. And neither of them are quite done.
“In terms of my character, Kano is an antagonist for my storyline,” McNamee tells Inverse.
“He really feeds a lot of my story continuing in the universe. I daresay there’s a fairly high chance that won’t be the last we see of him.” Or, perhaps, of her.
Mortal Kombat is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.