The first trailer for 2021’s Mortal Kombat reboot reveals how Jax loses his arms and makes this iteration the third retcon of the story; in this reboot, perennial favorite Sub-Zero freezes and then shatters Jax’s arms in gruesome fashion. Fans of the Mortal Kombat games, comics, and film adaptions will remember that Jax’s arms have a long and rich history of being destroyed. Jax, a.k.a. Major Jackson Briggs, first appears in the Mortal Kombat II game with heavily muscled human arms. From Mortal Kombat 3 onwards, Jax opts for bionic arms, and there’s even a retcon in the MK 2011 timeline in which the demonic Ermac destroys Jax’s biological arms via telekinesis.
Movie and comic adaptations have also offered rather inconsistent takes on Jax’s arms. In 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, directed by John Leonetti, Jax (Lynn “Red” Williams) opts for a pair of bionic arms that function as overlays to supplement his biological arms. In this case, the bionic arms function as a crutch that Jax must finally cast aside in order to defeat Motaro. The 2011 web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy takes a much different approach, with Jax (Michael Jai White) losing his arms while saving Sonya Blade from an offscreen grenade explosion. As if these conflicting narratives weren’t confusing enough, the Mortal Kombat comics take yet another approach, with Baraka damaging Jax’s biological arms, thus necessitating cybernetic implants. McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat reboot looks to simplify the saga of Jax’s arms by making one more retcon, this time giving Sub-Zero the destructive honors.
In the Mortal Kombat 2021 trailer, Jax (Mehcad Brooks), true to his character’s roots, appears as a Special Forces Major pursuing a fugitive in Brazil. By way of voiceover, Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) explains these events occurred 7 years before the events of the film. Jax is depicted infiltrating an abandoned tenement, long stalactites of ice stretching from floor to ceiling to subtly imply the presence of a dangerous foe. Before Jax can react, Sub-Zero plugs Jax’s rifle with ice, then knocks it away. Sub-Zero then grips Jax by the wrists, freezes his arms into solid beams of ice, and shatters them. As Sonya explains, “The target had superhuman abilities.” Although this origin story means yet another retcon for Jax’s arms, doing so is a wise move on the director’s part.
By establishing such a spectacular origin story for Jax and framing Sub-Zero as a dangerous and mysterious superhuman foe, the Mortal Kombat reboot has set up a number of valuable narrative threads. First off, by surviving such a traumatic ordeal, Jax will no doubt emerge as a legitimate bad-ass who must overcome great adversity, thus complicating his character. From Batman to Sarah Connor to Luke Skywalker, movie heroes often suffer debilitating bodily damage in order to prove their inner resolve. In this regard, Sub-Zero’s attack on Jax may help establish Jax as a sympathetic character while also setting up the necessity of a compelling revenge plot against Sub-Zero.
Both Jax and Sub-Zero remain beloved staples of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Even the most avid fans would likely agree that when it comes to feature-length films, MK has a spotty track record. Though it’s certainly no masterpiece, the original 1995 Mortal Kombat film won over its share of fans. Even the most avid fans, however, have trouble supporting Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which is likely a major reason why there hasn’t been an MK film release in well over 20 years. That said, if the trailers provide any accurate indication, then McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat seems to be moving in a promising direction, and there’s a good chance that this reboot can redeem past mistakes.