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Forget Chun-Li, Why The Hell Isn’t Kitana In The Mortal Kombat Movie?

When yesterday’s trailer for the Mortal Kombat movie dropped, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually looked decent. “Pleasant” probably isn’t the right word to describe a trailer chock full of so many fatalities, but they’re just so compelling to watch. We saw skulls being shattered, necks being sliced, hearts being punched out of chests, and poor Jax even had his arms frozen and smashed off. In one scene, a door starts to bleed. That’s how violent this movie is.

In the aftermath of the trailer, one outlet published a tongue-in-cheek article asking why Chun-Li – the well-known Street Fighter character – was not featured in the trailer. Since some people seem to have missed it, that piece was a joke. I’m not sure it was a particularly funny one, but it was the same kind of low-tier trolling as telling a Star Wars mega fan that your favourite part is when Darth Vader fights the Klingons. You know, because they’re really from Battlestar Galactica? It was bait, basically. The ‘joke’, such as it is, comes from the angry reaction. Oh, and I know the writer apologised. That was also a joke, and if you believed it, I’m sorry, but I think you got baited twice.

Anyway, I’m sure the writer knew Chun-Li wasn’t really in Mortal Kombat, but it did get me thinking: where the hell is Kitana, anyway?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m edgy enough to prefer Mileena, and it was great to see her unsettling tongue slither out of her bloody jaws. I must confess I never got the whole Lady Dimitrescu thing, but I would probably let Mileena take a bite out of me. But Kitana isn’t some roster-padding fighter only known to nerds like me who comb through niche game lore. She’s a core part of Mortal Kombat, and one of the series’ most beloved characters. Making a Mortal Kombat movie without her would be like… well, it would be like making a Street Fighter movie without Chun-Li.

Much like Mileena, Kitana originally started out as a palette swap for the generic female ninja characters, but has grown in stature since then and is not only the definitive female lead of the franchise – she’s probably only behind Scorpion and Sub-Zero in terms of her overall cultural impact. In fact, when the most recent game in the series – Mortal Kombat 11 – was launched, Kitana was one of only a handful of characters to get two solo launch trailers.

The worst part is the movie seems like it would have done away with the most problematic elements of her character. She and her twin sister, Mileena – I told you I am not getting into nerd lore here, they’re twins and that’s all I’ll say – have leaned into the fetishised Dragon Lady trope to varying degrees over their numerous appearances. However, in the upcoming film, Mileena seems to have had these elements expunged, with Black Australian actress Sisi Stringer playing the jagged toothed villain with a more toned down design.

Most of the other, less fetishised Asian characters are still being played by Asian actors, so it seems to be a conscious choice with Mileena. In fact, most of the oversexualisation of particularly the earlier Mortal Kombat games does not appear to be present in the movie. Unfortunately, it seems like the price of that is cutting many of the female characters altogether, with Cassie Cage, Jade, Jacqui Briggs, and D’Vorah not making it into the trailer either.

I’ve already seen a few people speculating that Kitana’s being kept back for the sequel. Look, the trailer looked pretty impressive and there’s some solid actors on board, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Considering how notoriously terrible most video game movies are, cutting one of your best characters to keep her back for the sequel feels like ambition bordering on arrogance.

Another theory is that she’s being hidden so as not to spoil a twist in the movie, which I’d love to believe, but these days trailers do have a habit of essentially telling us the full story inside 90 seconds. I hope Kitana really is ready to burst onto the screen at a vital moment, but I’m not sure how much I believe it.

Let’s not judge a film by its trailer, but the movie does seem to have much higher production values than many video game adaptations. I’m looking forward to it, but I can’t shake the feeling that Kitana deserved to be coming along for the ride.

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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. In real life, she normally stays home. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey

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