Linden Ashby impressed fans with his Johnny Cage performance in Mortal Kombat, but declined to return to the role in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. When it comes to the upper echelon of characters to be found within the Mortal Kombat franchise, certain names are bound to always come up, such as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, and Liu Kang. Another very popular pick is Johnny Cage, a brash actor with a martial arts background that enters the Mortal Kombat tournament to prove he’s more than just a pretender.
Supremely cocky, Cage probably shouldn’t be likable, but he’s so witty and charming that it’s hard not to root for him. Plus, he backs up his boasts, able to kick Outworld villain butt with the best of his Mortal Kombat contemporaries. Ashby proved to be a great choice to bring Cage to life on the big screen, possessing great comic timing and that same effortless confidence fans expected of the character by that point.
While Mortal Kombat: Annihilation disappointed fans in pretty much every possible way, one big problem it had was the recasting of many characters from the first movie. Every actor had their own reasons for not participating, but with Ashby, the circumstances were very specific.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, for all its numerous flaws, at least made it clear early on what viewers were in for. The first thing most will notice is that multiple characters are no longer the same actors, including Johnny Cage, now played by Chris Conrad. Then, mere minutes into the sequel, Cage is very abruptly killed off by Shao Kahn with almost zero effort, and just like that, an extremely popular character is taken out of the mix. While Cage had also been killed off in the video games by that point, he had also been brought back in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, mostly due to fan demand.
The makers of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation should probably have taken that result to heart and skipped killing Johnny Cage entirely, but that’s sadly the route they went. It’s that creative decision that led to Linden Ashby declining to return to the role, for quite understandable reasons. He was offered the chance to return for the sequel, and was open to it, but upon reading the script, is said to have balked at the fact that he would get such a brief amount of screentime, and that Cage would go out in such an underwhelming fashion. In hindsight, he definitely made the right choice, as not having Mortal Kombat: Annihilation on one’s resume is a blessing.