Simon McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat does what any self-respecting reboot should do, and distances itself as far away from the previous version as possible. Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 original isn’t a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a wonderfully cheesy and highly entertaining one, and has endured for over a quarter of a century as a cult classic.
Not only that, but it was the first video game adaptation to strike it big at the box office after earning $122 million on an $18 million budget, as well as setting the template for Anderson’s career ever since. Looking back, it’s a hugely important entry in the pantheon of console-to-screen translations, but 2021’s Jax has aired his issues with one pivotal piece of casting.
In 2021’s Mortal Kombat, the role of Raiden is played by Tadanobu Asano, a Japanese actor best known Stateside for his roles in big budget blockbusters including the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor trilogy, Battleship, 47 Ronin and Roland Emmerich’s World War II epic Midway, although he’s starred in well over 100 films throughout his career.
In Anderson’s martial arts actioner, meanwhile, the thunder god is inhabited by Christopher Lambert, who was replaced by James Remar for sequel Annihilation. In a new interview, Mehcad Brooks outlined the differences between the Mortal Kombat movies, and singled out the absence of any whitewashing as one of the most significant changes.
“Not to take anything away from them, but the Japanese thunder god in the ‘90s was a guy named Christopher Lambert. He’s not Japanese. He’s a fantastic actor, but what we’ve done in Hollywood for way too long is help America launder its own bigotry.”
In keeping with the console series, the ensemble cast of the Mortal Kombat reboot is suitably diverse and eclectic, something that the creative team strove for in their desire to make the latest stab at bringing the iconic property into live-action as authentic as possible. And they certainly succeeded on that note.