The following contains spoilers for the “Mortal Kombat” movie. Stop reading if you haven’t seen the reboot in theaters and on HBO Max.
He got Caged.
There’s big-time Hollywood irony that Johnny Cage, the catchphrase spewing, action movie star of the “Mortal Kombat” video game and movie franchise, failed to make an appearance in the long-anticipated movie reboot that opened this weekend.
The fan-favorite character would chuckle knowing he was held back partially because he’s such a big personality and the potential movie franchise has sought to establish an ensemble cast centered around once-struggling MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan).
“Johnny’s character is his own gravitational field,” says director Simon McQuoid. “There was a lot of work to get the fundamentals and the world right in this movie. Johnny’s just such a big personality and character that it might’ve thrown that off.”
Whatever disappointment there was with fans not seeing Johnny Cage in the movie, there’s hope for the future.
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The final “Mortal Kombat” scene features world-savior Cole Young returning to the boxing gym where he’d taken beatings for $200 a fight and announcing he was heading off to Hollywood.
As he exits, he passes a poster featuring the Hollywood action star Johnny Cage in a “Citizen Cage” movie poster, the oversized “CAGE” belt buckle the defining attribute. With Young’s mandate from Lord Raiden to assemble new champions, the message is clear.
“We’re exploring Johnny Cage’s involvement in a sequel,” Tan tells USA TODAY. “It’s a great idea. We know the fans are crazy for it.”
Casper Van Dien as Johnny Cage in "Mortal Kombat: Legacy." He's one of many actors to step in as Johnny Cage. And he is ready to serve again if called upon. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
It is welcome news for fans, including actor Casper Van Dien, who played Johnny Cage in the 2013 “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” TV series.
“They really do need Johnny Cage, but maybe I’m slightly biased,” says Van Dien, adding that the brash character has “personality, maybe even a personality disorder. But when I was a kid playing ‘Mortal Kombat,’ I’d put my quarters in and play as Johnny Cage.”
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The film’s movie poster cuts off at the torso, so it remains a mystery who would play Cage. But Van Dien, 52, says he’s ready to rock if called. “It would be a blast to be Johnny Cage again.”
“I am training in the mornings, doing my kicks and punches. But by the time any next movie comes out I might have to be Old Man Cage,” says Van Dien. “Even if they got a younger guy, I’d love to see it.”
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is heading to Hollywood. Not to be a star, but find a star – Johnny Cage. (Photo: Mark Rogers/Warner Bros.)
Not to get too far ahead as Warner Bros. gauges fan interest in the first “Mortal Kombat.” McQuoid insists there have been no official sequel discussions and has “no clue” what any follow-up would include.
“‘Mortal Kombat’ is a rich treasure trove of characters. There’s a lot to work with,” McQuoid says. “But we have built a set of rails with a joiner piece. So we can click something onto it if we need to.”
Real tears for Sub-Zero
Old foes, new faces. (L-R) Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) face off in the finale of "Mortal Kombat." Despite the ice, it got hot. (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
The final “Mortal Kombat” battle scene featured villainous Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) facing his once-killed foe Hanzo Hasashi, now reborn as Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada). “I’ve come from hell to kill you,” Scorpion announces.
As if this epic Sub-Zero v. Scorpion rematch were not enough, Cole Young (Tan) joins Scorpion in the battle against the ice-controlling assassin, Sub-Zero.
Sub-Zero stabs Scorpion, grabs his blood, instantly freezes it, and then stabs him again with his own blood. (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
Even set in a frozen cage match settings, Tan says the three-person fight, with its challenging choreography, was made all the more difficult due to the on-set heat. Each cast member, performing their own fight sequences, was boiling due to extreme exertion and those bulky uniforms.
“It’s very hot and you can’t just take those outfits off,” says Tan. “When I say we were sweating, we were sweating during like, 8 hours straight of full-on exertion. We had ice packs, fans, electrolytes. It was extremely difficult.”
Onscreen the battle turns against Sub-Zero, who eventually succumbs to the two fighters. Taslim was so into his character for the finale that the actor struggled mentally as the once invincible baddie Sub-Zero faltered.
“He lost everything, he’s catching his breath, crawling. I was devastated, but I needed to play this character to the end of the journey,” says Taslim. “He knew he’s going to die. That’s the hardest part. So when he is crawling, I lost a lot of energy during that part. I broke down after take four, devastated for real. I just couldn’t stand up. I think I just crossed the line.”
In the final blow, Scorpion unleashes his hellfire onto Sub-Zero. Taslim had to go through hours of prosthetic makeup for the fake body burns before filming his final moments. The sight of horrifically burnt Sub-Zero was made all the more disturbing on the set since Taslim was such a popular guy.
Sub-Zero avoid a Scorpion thrown shot in "Mortal Kombat." (Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Matilda Kimber, the 13-year-old actress who plays Emily (and a Sub-Zero ice victim) adamantly refused to look at her beloved co-star in this condition.
“We were good friends on set, so she couldn’t see it. She didn’t want to. She was almost crying. I told her, it’s only makeup, but still she would not look,” says Taslim. “It was very uncomfortable for everyone.”
Sub-Zero was dead. But there’s always the chance that he could return for a sequel, perhaps as the character’s next incarnation Noob Saibot.
“There’s always possibility that we can continue the journey. I hope that comes true,” says Taslim.
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