After just over a year in quarantine, with news cycles consumed by a global pandemic and nationwide protests for racial justice, more than a few people yelled “Finish him!” to bid farewell to 2020. Now, as we enter spring 2021 and return to some semblance of normalcy, “Mortal Kombat” is indeed one of the first major movies fans can see in theaters again (though it will be streaming on HBO Max as well).
Of course, ‘Mortal Kombat’ star Mehcad Brooks hopes that historians will come to refer to last summer as “a summer of change.” And with the expanding of the conversation surrounding human equity during that time, Brooks feels that “Mortal Kombat” is coming at just the right moment.
“For me it’s like, there’s certain times when it’s perfect for a movie to come out. And I think this is a perfect time for ‘Mortal Kombat’ to come out. We need this,” Brooks tells TheWrap. According to the actor, who plays Jax in the film, ‘Mortal Kombat’ will accomplish a handful of things for audiences.
“We need to get our anger out. There’s a lot of fatalities in there so people are gonna get their anger out. We need to see multi-racial and multi-national cooperation with people. I think we need to have this celebratory, adventurous, feel-good time. And that’s what it is. That’s just what it is!”
Based on the video game released in 1992, “Mortal Kombat” tells the story of MMA fighter Cole Young, as he figures out the meaning behind a mark he was born with, and his place as one of Earth’s champions in the ancient tournament known as Mortal Kombat.
Among those champions is Brooks’ character, Major Jackson Briggs — better known as Jax. He loses both his arms in an encounter with Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), the cryomancer ninja, who freezes Jax’s arms before ripping them clean off (the gore in ‘Mortal Kombat’ is not for the faint of heart, but for what it’s worth, it’s exceedingly well done when it comes to the visuals).
It’s Jax who tells Cole what his birthmark really means — that he’s been chosen to compete in the tournament.
Of course, not all of Earth’s greatest champions are going to come from the same place. But for Brooks, that’s the beautiful thing about the story. “There’s a group of people that don’t really care about their culture and their race, and they’re just working together to preserve Earth and save Earth. And we need that right now.”
Admittedly, the ‘Mortal Kombat’ of 1995 didn’t hold up in this area. “You know, if you look back at the old ‘Mortal Kombat,’ I think [Lord] Raiden was a white guy. But he’s the Japanese thunder god. How? Come on, stop. Timeout. Stop. Stop it. Japanese thunder god’s not white. Not from Amsterdam,” Brooks says.
In the latest iteration, ensuring a truly diverse cast was a priority. And, according to Brooks, it led to some pretty great conversations on set. “You know, I feel like all the conversations that we had around diversity, just candid as a cast, they were really aspirational and hopeful and beautiful,” Brooks adds. “And letting us know that we’re moving into hopefully a different era in Hollywood where we aren’t re-racializing the characters.”
And, by Brooks’ measure, the film succeeds on that front. “We’ve seen plenty of examples where that hasn’t gone that way, and WE were all really happy that [our] ‘Mortal Kombat’ was true to the aesthetic and the canon of the characters.”
In fact, by Brooks’ measure, the film succeeds on all accounts. “Just as a ‘Mortal Kombat’ fan, it’s the greatest video game adaptation of all time. Hands down,” Brooks says confidently. “It’s a big claim, and I stand by it.”
You can watch our full conversation with “Mortal Kombat” star Mehcad Brooks above.