By customizing a sprawling video game franchise with eight banks of characters, the author of Mortal Kombat would always make cuts – and not just the severed limb variety.
Screenwriter Greg Russo told Polygon ahead of its release that the balancing act between orchestrating a functioning blockbuster and pouring every imaginable Easter egg into the film was a bloodbath that killed his darlings. Johnny Cage had no place with a smart Kano. Kitana, Russo’s personal favorite combatant, was also a no-go (“it didn’t make sense to bring in the Eden characters”). And one sequence that was closest to reality but got the chopping block was a tribute to Mortal Kombat’s dopiest joke: “Toasty!”
First appearance in Mortal Kombat 2, “Toasty!” was the brainchild of designer Dan Forden, whose face appeared in the lower right corner to trill the line when a player delivered a well-timed uppercut. The gag continued to appear in subsequent sequels and received remixed reference treatment as the game’s graphics and graphic violence evolved. Mortal Kombat burned “Toasty!” in enough brains that it was appropriated by fans in other media; Skrillex even dropped Forden’s Soundbite on its MK-appreciative tune “Reptile”.
“I worked really hard to get the line ‘Toasty! ‘in there,’ said Russo. And according to the author, they did – but cut the scene during the post-production process. “It had a point in the story that didn’t feel scared, like it worked, but it did [was edited out]. Liu Kang said it after someone was gutted. “
Mortal Kombat ends with a clear sequel, and Russo admits that most of what he couldn’t put in could find its way Mortal Kombat 2 or 3when there is demand for the sequels. But despite all of the cutting out of in-jokes and character references, the author still landed a few deep cuts. Sonya’s address in the movie (806 W. Washington Blvd) is an old address for the NetherRealm Studios developer of Mortal Kombat. Various cave paintings and thread plate cutouts appeal to everyone from Kotal Kahn to Nightwolf and Shao Khan. And Liu Kang’s triple iteration of Kano is a clue of the games’ weak AI – but the imperfections are part of the beauty.
There’s one thing Russo will likely never consider in this series of films: Babalities. The infantilizing finishing moves were never on the table, but the writer says fans can dream. “If you watch the opening film, there was a baby … so maybe there was a babality. “