By virtue of adapting a sprawling video game franchise with eight benches worth of characters, the writer of Mortal Kombat was always going to make cuts — and not just of the severed limb variety.
Screenwriter Greg Russo told Polygon in the lead up to release that the balancing act between orchestrating a functional blockbuster and stuffing every Easter egg imaginable into the movie was a bloodbath process of killing his darlings. There was no room for Johnny Cage with a wise-cracking Kano around. Kitana, Russo’s personal favorite kombatant, was also a no-go (“it didn’t make sense to start bringing in the Edenian characters yet”). And one sequence that came the closest to reality but got the chopping block was a tribute to Mortal Kombat’s dopiest joke: “Toasty!”
First appearing in Mortal Kombat 2, “Toasty!” was the brainchild of designer Dan Forden, whose visage appeared in the lower-right hand corner to trill the line whenever a player delivered a well-timed uppercut. The gag continued to appear in subsequent sequels, earning remixed referential treatment as the game’s graphics and graphic violence evolved. Mortal Kombat burnt “Toasty!” into enough brains that it’s been appropriated by fans in other mediums; Skrillex even dropped Forden’s soundbite in his MK-appreciating tune, “Reptile.”
“I worked really hard to get the line ‘Toasty!’ in there,” Russo said. And according to the writer, they did — but cut the scene during the post-production process. “It had a spot in the story that didn’t feel cringe, like it worked, but it [was edited out]. Liu Kang said it, after somebody was eviscerated.”
Mortal Kombat ends with a clear sequel setup, and Russo acknowledges that most of what he wasn’t able to stuff in could make its way into Mortal Kombat 2 or 3, if there’s demand for the sequels. But for all the slicing out of in-jokes and character references, the writer still landed a few deep cuts. Sonya’s address in the movie (806 W. Washington Blvd), is an old address for Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm Studios. Various cave paintings and yarn-board clippings tease everyone from Kotal Kahn to Nightwolf and Shao Khan. And Liu Kang’s triple sweep of Kano is a reference to, well, the games’ flimsy AI — but the imperfections are part of the beauty.
There is one thing Russo will probably never consider for this run of movies: babalities. The infantilizing finishing moves were never on the table, but the writer says fans can dream. “If you watch the opening movie, there was a baby in there … so maybe there was a babality.”