Why Mortal Kombat's R Rating Is Necessary

When it comes to the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie, which is set to release later this week on Friday, April 23rd, in theaters and on HBO Max, there has been one major theme to the various interviews with the cast and crew so far: Authenticity. And when it comes to the Mortal Kombat franchise, nothing could be more authentic than extremely bloody fights and Fatalities – which essentially makes the R rating necessary for the title.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a universe where a PG-13 version of the movie would be received enthusiastically by audiences as well. After all, both the 1995 movie and its 1997 sequel were PG-13, and while the latter is much maligned, the former has largely withstood the test of time to be relatively popular still. Certainly, both of those movies had plenty of fighting and even characters dying, but were either of them truly authentic? Not particularly.

Sure, both had plenty of Mortal Kombat window dressing, and it’s always fun to hear anyone say the word “Outworld,” but you can’t really strive for authenticity by lifting characters like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Liu Kang out of their context. It just so happens that the context for the Mortal Kombat franchise is “extremely bloody battles to the death.” It’s the core conceit of the whole thing. Everything we’ve seen and heard about the upcoming reboot so far indicates that the aforementioned context remains.

Does that mean the reboot is necessarily a better film for it? You could argue that including a hefty serving of serious blood and guts alongside general violence isn’t a key to success for every film, but in this specific instance, it actually is. It’s the simplest way to ensure that fans of the franchise understand exactly what they are looking at the moment the movie starts up. It sets the expectation that what they are about to see is, in fact, going to be an authentic Mortal Kombat experience.

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At this point, I haven’t seen the movie for myself yet. So I can’t authoritatively say that the death and destruction within is exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for out of Mortal Kombat. It’s entirely possible that it includes all of that and still misses the mark. But director Simon McQuoid has said many different times, in different ways, that the team put a lot of thought and effort into getting the movie right up to the line of being an R-rated film without being unreleasable, and that gives me faith that it’ll have been done well. Without being able to confirm it for myself, the constant appeal to authenticity – the confirmed R rating included – goes a long way, and it likely will for many others.

As noted above, the Mortal Kombat reboot film is scheduled to release this Friday, April 23rd, on both HBO Max and in theaters. The cast includes Ludi Lin as Liu Kang, Mehcad Brooks as Jax, Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade, Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion, Josh Lawson as Kano, Tadanobu Asano as Raiden, Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero, Chin Han as Shang Tsung, Sisi Stringer as Mileena, and Lewis Tan as new character Cole Young. It wrapped filming in late 2019. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the film right here.