Spoiler warning: the following contains spoilers for the Mortal Kombat movie! Head to HBO Max in the US or an on-demand service in the UK to watch the bloody, brutal new take on the fighting series.
The fans were asking for it, and the creators delivered: Johnny Cage is heading to the Mortal Kombat movie universe.
The most conspicuous absence from the 2021 release, though, may not be a household name to some. That’s where we come in. After all, a poster-sized tease may promise much, but there’s a whole video game history beyond that just waiting to be mined. It not only helps us prepare for what to expect from the brash movie star, but also informs us on how the sequel could play out.
Below, we’ll preview the potential presence of Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat 2 – or even a potential spinoff movie – and what it all could mean moving forward. That also includes a closer look at what the series’ console (and arcade) entries can teach us about how Cage could slide into the ensemble of kombatants thirsty for blood.
Who is Johnny Cage?
An actor with a knack for proving he doesn’t always have to rely on special effects (think Tom Cruise with a nifty pair of shades), Johnny Cage is one of the most colorful personalities in a series littered with them. And we’re not just talking crimson here. Often outspoken and cocky, he’s one of Mortal Kombat’s most popular fighters and is a mainstay of the series, first appearing in the original game way back in 1992.
Brilliantly, the character was developed after a licensed fighting game featuring actor Jean-Claude Van Damme fell through. The design eventually morphed into what we now know as Johnny Cage.
Often falling on the side of good – but no stranger to butting heads with other alpha males in his vicinity – Johnny Cage is best characterized by his relationship with Special Forces soldier, Sonya Blade. In the reboot continuity of Mortal Kombat they even have a (time-traveling) daughter called Cassie.
As for his fighting style, it’s certainly… unconventional. One of Cage’s most eye-watering moves is a split-legged punch to the groin. He’s also usually found packing some brass knuckles to help even the odds against the motley crew of sorcerers and assassins that the franchise usually throws in Johnny’s path.
His Fatality, meanwhile, is pretty straightforward, at least compared to some of his spine-ripping peers: a swift uppercut that knocks his foe’s head clean off. Always one for a moment to shine in the spotlight, Cage mugs down the camera and smirks with his sunglasses on.
No news yet on which star actor will be playing star actor Johnny Cage – but he’s certainly going to be a major player in the sequel. Here’s why.
What does the Johnny Cage ending tease mean for Mortal Kombat 2?
First and foremost, expect another Mortal Kombat tournament. By the first movie’s ending, Raiden has tasked his champions with seeking out more fighters to defend Earthrealm in the upcoming competition – and Cole Young is specifically looking for Johnny Cage. But he might not be as receptive as the likes of Sonya Blade and Jax were.
That’s partly down to Johnny Cage’s video game backstory, one that has evolved throughout the years and makes him a surprisingly complex figure that belies his movie-star good looks. His initial appearance saw him tricked by Shang Tsung – who is still very much alive in the Mortal Kombat movie universe – to help in his nefarious plans. Cage, though, later teams up with Raiden and assists Earthrealm’s champions.
It’s a blueprint that could serve well for Mortal Kombat 2: Johnny Cage’s larger-than-life persona works as the perfect foil for a minor antagonist. That’s especially important given how Mortal Kombat killed off several big fighters during its runtime.
Also expect fireworks (or, Cage pulling out some ‘smooth moves’ that will invariably get him punched) between Cage and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee).
From an acting point-of-view, it’ll be interesting to see if Cage is positioned as the lead or co-lead alongside Lewis Tan’s Cole Young. Cage is a strong personality that craves the spotlight; it stands to reason that the Mortal Kombat movie gives it to him.
Mechad Brooks, who played Jax, told Inverse that Johnny Cage would be an asset to a Mortal Kombat sequel "if we’re blessed and lucky to have one."
"Our strength is our diversity," he said. "We have so many characters from all over the world and actors around the world. Our Japanese thunder god is played by a Japanese person. Normalizing the diversity of heroes is good for our society, and adding Johnny Cage to the mix is going to be a good thing."
So, why wasn’t the megastar in the first movie? Producer Todd Garner explained at a Mortal Kombat press conference (via ComicBook.com) that it was a matter of tone and inclusivity.
"[Mortal Kombat] has a very Asian feel to it," he explained. "And early on felt uncomfortable having a white male lead kind of lead that charge in the first movie. It just felt Hollywoodish to me." He also noted that holding Cage back for a sequel was also a big incentive, perhaps hinting that – yes – the world is going to know Johnny Cage’s name sooner rather than later.