One of my favorite video games as a kid was Mortal Kombat, a one-on-one arcade fighter which my mother would absolutely not allow me to play at home due to its violence and scantily clad female characters. Well, as a young boy those just happened to be my favorite things about the game, and you can think of me what you want after that admission. One of my favorite characters was Mileena, for absolutely no reason other than she was hot (I was shallow, get over it). It turned out that she actually was a really interesting character, though I didn’t know this until much later.
In the video games many realms compete in the Mortal Kombat tournament, including Earthrealm. The emperor of Outworld wants to take over the Earth and in order to do so must defeat the Earthrealm warriors in ten consecutive tournaments. For Mileena’s part in the story, she was a clone of the true princess Kitana and was made using the blood of a race known as the Tarkatan: a violent, bloodthirsty race with gaping mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth. Unfortunately Mileena inherited this physical characteristic and could never pass for Kitana without wearing a mask. She was a savage warrior and a very shrewd and ambitious woman but could never replace Kitana as she wanted.
The TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest featured Mileena in only one episode and gave her a very different backstory:
She was a hideous criminal (whether her looks were a deformity or if she was part of a monster race was unclear) whom Emperor Shao Kahn gave Kitana’s appearance and voice in order to infiltrate Kung Lao’s (the main protagonist of the series) circle of friends and kill him. While in Earthrealm she experiences for the first time the joys that a beautiful face can give her and, at the suggestion of a supposed ally, decides to delay fulfilling her mission in order to further enjoy her new freedom, at least until she can come up with a better plan. This supposed ally is actually working for another villain who is trying to get Mileena to fail because he will no longer be useful if she succeeds in eliminating Kung Lao.
Unfortunately for Mileena, she takes too long with her dalliance and her voice and appearance begin to return to her true form just as she finally decides to kill Kung Lao.
Before she can complete her intention, the true Kitana bursts in and reveals Mileena’s fraud. In a battle pitting Mileena’s trademark sai against Kitana’s famous tessen, Mileena is bested and is transported back to Outworld. A now humbled Mileena faces Shao Kahn who decides to spare her life in favor of a more lasting and sadistic punishment: She will retain Kitana’s face and body, to remind her of the beauty she so desperately tried to attain, and her true voice and teeth to remind her of the monster she really is. He callously throws the mask to her before she is banished from his sight.
Mileena makes a brief appearance in the second Mortal Kombat film, but her appearance is so brief and inconsequential it’s barely worth mentioning, especially since nothing is known of her character in this film. She shows up, fights, has one line of exactly two words, and is killed.
The only interesting thing about her here is that she was played by Dana Hee, who was the stunt double for Kitana’s actress.
One of the most recent retellings of Mileena’s story came with the spectacular fanmade series Mortal Kombat: Legacy:
In this series most of the characters are introduced but not much story is advanced so we get to see Mileena’s past but not much of her character in the present. Her backstory is fairly similar to the one in the video game, though it seems she was created so that Shao Kahn would have a loyal daughter, whereas in the games I got the impression she was supposed to be a replacement for Kitana. Another difference is the fact that her Tarkatan teeth appear and disappear while they are a permanent feature in the game.
Overall, I think my favorite Mileena incarnation is the TV one, in Mortal Kombat: Conquest. She was a bit more sympathetic than in the video games. Then again, in the video games she’s much more ambitious and intelligent which is always a plus. Still, I think I’ll go with MK: C as my favorite portrayal. Audie England played her very well and there was a bit more fleshing out of the character, I think. My second favorite would be the Mileena of Mortal Kombat: Legacy who has the more sympathetic characteristics as well as the strength and ferocity of the video game character. It’s just hard to get a feel for her character without really having any dialogue or storyline to go on.
To any Mortal Kombat fans out there, are there other incarnations of Mileena I missed? I’m not a huge follower of the metaseries, so there may very well be other films or series of which I am unaware.