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6 ways Mortal Kombat’s ending sets up the sequel

If Mortal Kombat is a hit, we’re definitely getting Mortal Kombat 2

A still of Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat (2021) with the word “spoilers” overlaid Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment/Illustration by James Bareham
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Mortal Kombat, like any good modern-day Hollywood blockbuster, leaves the door wide open for a sequel (or multiple sequels). The new movie only scratches the surface of the Mortal Kombat mythology and pulls selectively from the fighting game’s massive, ever-increasing roster.

While the film’s director, Simon McQuoid, said he “really didn’t talk about sequels at all” during the making of Mortal Kombat, he admitted that there are some “joiner” bits that set up Mortal Kombat 2. Mortal Kombat screenwriter Greg Russo also told Polygon that he approached the series as a trilogy. “We’re always setting our roadmap,” Russo said. “As a writer, my goal is to always be looking ahead, too.”

If you’ve seen Mortal Kombat — it’s out now on HBO Max and in theaters starting April 23 — then you probably already know what’s coming in a potential sequel. If you haven’t, and you don’t mind a bunch of Mortal Kombat spoilers, here’s everything that the movie lays the groundwork for in part two (and part three).

[Warning: Spoilers for Mortal Kombat follow.]

Sub-Zero emerges from a portal in Mortal Kombat (2021) Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Cole Young sets off to find Johnny Cage

While Johnny Cage didn’t appear in the film outside of a movie poster, he’s all but guaranteed to show up in Mortal Kombat 2. At the end of Mortal Kombat, at the behest of Raiden, Cole Young has a new purpose: Find more warriors in the battle against Outworld.

Mortal Kombat producer Todd Garner calls Cage his “big carrot for the sequel.” Garner said in an interview with Polygon last month that Cole Young stood in for Johnny Cage in the movie as part of the filmmakers’ effort to have a diverse cast, instead of another white guy hero. But with Cole established and a need for a much bigger group of Earthrealm defenders, Cage is easily a lock for the Mortal Kombat sequel.

Sub-Zero will return as Noob Saibot

Yes, Noob Saibot. At the end of the film, Sub-Zero is still alive, but charred to a crisp by Scorpion. Sub-Zero (aka Bi-Han) appears to barely survive his battle with Scorpion and Cole, and thanks to Shang Tsung’s teleportation tricks, he will live to fight another day, possibly as the being known as Noob Saibot (though it seems highly unlikely that name would be said on screen, given how ridiculous it is).

Screenwriter Greg Russo says that Noob Saibot is “a big part” of his planned MK trilogy.

“I knew, introducing Bi-Han in this movie, that eventually his destiny would be becoming that character,” Russo told Polygon in an interview. “And so I wanted to see his death in this film. And ultimately, I wanted the movie to end with him being portaled out of Earthrealm, to where he’s going to become the next iteration of himself. And that was all written, that was scripted. That Bi-Han goes into the black portal because we know where he’s going. The blackness of the portal is just great for the Noob Saibot character. He literally goes into the smoky blackness.”

Goro lives?

Goro jumps into the air and screams in Mortal Kombat 2021 Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Sub-Zero isn’t the only warrior among Shang Tsung’s ranks to be pulled into that smoky blackness. Goro, despite being disemboweled and reduced to three hands, seems likely to return in a Mortal Kombat sequel as well. Viewers didn’t get to see Goro tear anyone in half, and that just doesn’t seem right.

There’s Shinnok, Kitana, and everyone else

Mortal Kombat is full of nods to the games’ lore, offering teases of fighters like the Great Kung Lao, Nightwolf, Shao Khan, and many others. Two conspicuous props at Raiden’s temple (Shinnok’s amulet and Kitana’s blade fan) hint at expanding the lore of Outworld and the land of Edenia, where Kitana, Sindel, Jade, and other Mortal Kombat characters originate.

“We’re so packed in this story with Earthrealm and Outworld to start bringing in the Sindels and Kitanas, and it just — it would have been overload,” screenwriter Greg Russo said of Mortal Kombat’s roster decisions. “It would have been [Mortal Kombat: Annihilation], where it was just every character they could think of.”

Now that the roster’s been thinned a bit, and Shang Tsung is promising armies, there’s room for more fan-favorite characters in a sequel.

Kano’s got a fucked-up face

Kano from Mortal Kombat (2021) Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Mortal Kombat’s comic relief, Kano, meets a gruesome end in a scrap with Sonya. But the Kano that players know from the Mortal Kombat video games is a man with half a cybernetic face — given Kano’s Reptile-inflicted wound and garden gnome ocular injection, we’re pretty sure that most of the Aussie mercenary’s face won’t return for a sequel. But in the world of Mortal Kombat, no one’s ever truly dead.

“Even Shang Tsung, at the end of the film, says something to the effect of ‘death is just an illusion,’” Kano actor Josh Lawson told me in an interview. “Hopefully, the point would be that when they come back, they come back bigger, badder, harder. That’s what I’m looking forward to, given the chance of a sequel. I would love to see Kano 2.0, because you know, the Kano that we all know and love with the metal plate, I feel like this is really setting that up.”

Oh yeah, the whole tournament thing still needs to happen

The main players in Mortal Kombat talk about the importance of the upcoming tournament, which could have serious implications for Earthrealm. Shang Tsung’s plan to kill off the competition simply delays the tournament, which actually doesn’t seem to have been addressed in a formal way. Director Simon McQuoid said there was intent behind the decision to not showcase the tournament in the film.

“If you look at the evolution of where Mortal Kombat has gone [from the original games and movies] … the tournament aspect was obviously key,” McQuoid said, but noted that it’s “become less so” as the series has evolved. “We weren’t just taking from the first five years, we were taking from the whole [franchise]. Also, we just didn’t want to just do the original movie again.

“If you do a tournament movie script structure, it really drives and informs how that film turns out. We didn’t want to do what the first film had already done — we wanted to address and pay service to the evolution. But also, we didn’t want to be hamstrung by the structure script-wise, of a tournament movie, but we knew we had to [have that] ingredient be part of it. So we wanted to use it, but then subvert it.”

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