Recently, I started looking at the failures of movie-based films, and while it is far from a failure, there is one character that Mortal Kombat movies get wrong every time. Kitana or Princess Kitana is introduced in the second game, making her one of the first female fighters in the series. She has a rich history of fighting for the people of Edenia while coming from possibly the most dysfunctional family in fighting games.
When Kitana was a baby, Shao Khan invaded Edenia and forced Kitana’s mother, Sindel, to marry him. Sindel takes her own life to protect her people, leaving her daughter behind. Shao Khan decides he can’t trust that Kitana won’t turn on him, so he clones her and raises her clone as her sister. Kitana later learns of the betrayal and turns her back on the man who raised her.
Kitana later aligns with the Earthrealm warriors and wants nothing more than to protect and restore her homeland. She gets into a relationship with Liu Kang, but her relationship is never treated as more important than her goals.
While the character of Kitana is fleshed out in the games, the movies largely ignore her backstory. The newest live-action movie goes as far as to only hint at her existence with her fan making a cameo. None of the characters mention they know her or have fought beside her. An easy fix for this, that would fit the new movie’s storyline, would be to have Kitana be a fallen warrior. We’ve seen that the special tattoos transfer in death, and this could be a simple explanation for how Mileena got hers.
Sure, Mileena is a prominent character in the newest movie, but her connection to Kitana is never explored, nor is anything else about her character. Despite Mileena’s larger role in the newest live-action movie, she hasn’t had a decent adaptation either. The only connection she’s even been given to Kitana in any of the movies is a throwaway line in Annihilation when Sonya asks if she’s Kitana before they fight. Mileena and Kitana have never interacted with each other in any of the movies, despite their connection with the game.
Although many fans love the first movie, it’s far from perfect. At the time of the original movie’s production, the story behind Mortal Kombat wasn’t as fleshed out as it is today, which meant that a lot of liberties had to be taken with the script. Kitana is introduced as the nameless emperor’s daughter who helps the heroes because she doesn’t agree with what happened to her realm. It’s also hinted that she will enter a relationship with Liu Kang, which is something that eventually happened in the games as well.
Her backstory is given a bigger role in the second Mortal Kombat film, Annihilation. In that, a brainwashed version of Kitana’s mother is introduced, along with a Jade who is simply evil for the sake of having another evil character. Near the end of the movie, Kitana has fought her mother and frees her from mind control. The movie is a mess that thankfully left little impact on the games.
Perhaps the worst portrayal of Kitana is in the animated movies, where she isn’t given much screen time, but she still enters a relationship with Liu Kang. Unfortunately, the pair seem thrown together in the animated movies. They have no chemistry, and it’s never explained why Kitana turns on the man she believes to be her father. The movie could have easily fixed this issue by having Kitana and Mileena come face to face, but Mileena doesn’t exist in this adaptation.
It’s expected that with a cast of characters as large as Mortal Kombat, some characters will not get the portrayal that they deserve. The character of Kitana has been present in most adaptations of the game, but all of those adaptations have struggled to do anything more than pair her with Liu Kang. Maybe fewer characters should be introduced in newer adaptations so that those introduced can have more time to shine. The original game only has seven playable characters and two boss characters. Maybe if they started with a smaller cast, they could tell a more powerful story.
Another great possibility would be to have a tv show, where they could break everything down into episodes. I believe that would be a great way to explore each of the characters as they did in the short-lived web series: Mortal Kombat Legacy. While that show has its flaws, it explored the characters in a way that no other media has done aside from the games. Hopefully, we get better portrayals of not only Kitana but other characters in the future.
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