I hope that the post-credit scene of Mortal Kombat 1 doesn't lead anywhere
The narrative of Mortal Kombat 1 is splendid, up until the third act. Many of the quieter moments between often underestimated characters are sideline...
The narrative of Mortal Kombat 1 is splendid, up until the third act. Many of the quieter moments between often underestimated characters are sidelined in favor of yet another reality-threatening peril, ultimately resolved through a grand showdown involving our familiar protagonists, which had already become wearisome two games prior. In a time when so much of the new realm of the Fire God Liu Kang feels fresh, thanks to the complete reset that retold origin stories in a more intimate light, this sudden shift to such high stakes feels peculiar. However, the sequel offered hope, planting the seeds for a smaller-scale story that was meant to follow... until the post-credit scene.
Spoilers for Mortal Kombat 1's story.
Not every loose end is tied up when we defeat Shang Tsung and Quan-Chi, preventing the unraveling of Liu Kang's new timeline. Scorpion and Smoke have departed from the Lin Kuei to establish the Shirai Ryu after being betrayed by Sub-Zero. The Lin Kuei clan has forsaken its vow to protect Earthrealm and instead succumbed to an immoral and self-serving desire for power.
After the dust has settled, our group of heroes, consisting of Kenshi, Johnny Cage, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, and Raiden, go their separate ways. Liu Kang states that he must aid Scorpion and Smoke with their new clan. The future of MK2 appears to be clear: a grounded story focusing on the conflict between brothers, rather than a multiversal collapse.
Then the credits fade away, revealing Havik and a group of villains from the multiverse, standing amidst the pile of corpses left behind at the end of the story. They express sorrow over how quickly everything has concluded. In what feels like a slapstick superhero parody, the camera zooms in on his face as he declares his desire for more, a bloodlust that extends across realities.
I am not certain whether this is a poor joke or a sincere setup for the future of the series. Superficially, it promises to embrace the potential of infinite possibilities that arise from endless universes. However, the true reality of such infinity is that stakes cease to exist.
Everything that can happen can be utilized by developer NetherRealm. This renders the story little more than a sandbox of insignificance, where a multitude of action figures are thrown together. Your favorite character may die, only to reappear shortly after having traversed through a portal. And if Liu Kang's universe crumbles, we can simply leap into another and witness what unfolds there. Investing oneself in infinity is challenging because it possesses boundless scope, meaning nothing is permanent, and there is always an easy way to circumvent controversial decisions. Does Scorpion die? Just bring in another one.
The prospect of unraveling the intricate details of a universe familiar to us and getting to know its characters on an intimate level is far more enticing. Understanding their motives, their flaws, and where they find meaning anchors stories based on unfathomable magic, where gods clash with wizards of unimaginable power. Instead of stretching everything to the point of breaking, the most captivating aspects of MK1 are not the sudden reappearance of the old Raiden or the emergence of a female version of Scorpion only to perish minutes later. It is much more intriguing to witness Kenshi and Johnny Cage battling over a family heirloom.
Cage purchased an antique sword for three million dollars, and his ego and greed are too immense to grasp Kenshi's predicament. It holds significance for his lineage, and he needs the sword to rally his people and break free from the Yakuza's grip. However, an aging movie star who views it merely as a piece of jewelry can never comprehend the true seriousness of the situation. This sword reflects both of their character arcs. Cage is repeatedly thrust into situations where selfish paths present themselves, where the allure of power and fame dangles before him, forcing him to confront himself. He chooses selflessness.
This selflessness paves a new path that culminates in Cage handing over the sword of Kenshi's family. Meanwhile, Kenshi learns to open up and have more trust, rather than shutting off his emotions and stoically concealing the truth. Their story concludes with the two becoming close friends, with Kenshi guided by the spirits of his ancestors and Cage becoming the hero he was always meant to be. Their subplot holds far more significance to me than yet another finale with "good Mortal Kombat heroes, but evil" narrative.
The Lin Kuei offers similar potential. In this new timeline, Scorpion is Sub-Zero's brother, but the two clash as always. Sub-Zero has forsaken their father's goals for their clan and seeks nothing but power. He chooses the selfish path, while Cage has chosen selflessness, and we have yet to see the consequences. Scorpion and Smoke have been shown rarely in the story, and there has been little time to explore their relationship as the wheels of the multiverse were set in motion. However, in the brief glimpses we have received, I have fallen in love with the pair.
While Sub-Zero rejects Smoke due to his adoption, Scorpion extends a hand to him. There is more brotherly love between the two, despite not being blood-related. It is a story that would undoubtedly be heart-wrenching, as Scorpion is likely unable to reconcile with his now lost brother. However, leakers claim that Havik's bloodthirsty rampage will take place in a future DLC, amplifying all the negative aspects of MK1's story. Hopefully, it ends there, and NetherRealm finally sets aside the multiverse and time travel aspects for good.