MORTAL KOMBAT, the arcade fighting game that debuted back in 1992, was defined largely by stylishness, which combined 1990s action movie aesthetics with supernaturally powerful characters, and unflinching intensity. Players wouldn’t just knock somebody out; they could deploy in graphic “fatalities” that pushed the boundaries of arcade game violence.
The 1995 movie version of MORTAL KOMBAT and its sequel, 1997’s MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION were much safer PG-13 versions of the game's scenario. The first movie had no blood and no fatalities. But times change. The new MORTAL KOMBAT, in theaters on April 16, brings to life the action fans of the videogame have been clamoring for.
Following a virtual screening of the first 13 minutes of MORTAL KOMBAT, director Simon McQuoid and producer Todd Garner talked about how their approach is different from what was done in the past.
The movie opens in feudal Japan and seemingly establishes the rivalry between iconic videogame characters Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). The footage is violent, with Scorpion dispatching a ton of goons (and fashioning his distinctive weapon from common gardening materials), but it is also unexpectedly tender.
Sub-Zero's method of conjuring ice is incredibly cool. This first chapter of the movie ends with an appearance by another major MORTAL KOMBAT character, which sets up the weird world of the videogame in vivid detail. (Garner teased that the following scene involves a mixed martial arts beatdown and that "each fight has its own distinct personality.")
For his part, producer James Wan (who is hard at work on AQUAMAN 2), released a statement which reads, in part, “It’s been over 25 years since the first feature film came out, and fans have been pretty vocal asking for another big-screen entry. As a fan myself of the games and movies, I, too, wanted to see another theatrical version of this, and felt it was time again to revisit this IP that has been kept relevant in the game world but not as much in the feature world."
One of the keys to making the story relevant was making a movie that was more like the experience of playing the game. But how hard was it to walk the line between faithful videogame adaptation and something too bloody? “Nobody wanted to pull back, everybody wanted to do justice to MORTAL KOMBAT,” director McQuoid said. “What we had to be a bit careful of is you can get to NC-17 territory pretty quick. It’s different in a videogame when it’s not real human beings. It’s a different thing when you move this across to reality. You get rated differently. There are certain things in the game that would mean the film would be un-releasable. But everybody knew we had to do MORTAL KOMBAT justice.” McQuoid said they walked that line and promised that “there are fatalities,” but that if there were too many it would mess with the overall tone of the movie. “I thought the key ingredients could sit really well together.”
As far as the line-up of characters goes, McQuoid said, “We felt there was a need to go for the classic set as much as we could.” So while the film does introduce the world through the eyes of a new character, Cole Young (played by Lewis Tan), all of your arcade go-tos will also be included. Kano (Josh Lawson), Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) are all on hand.
And four-armed behemoth Goro will be a big part of the movie. “He’s extremely integral to the plot, he’s a beloved character … but he’s also really expensive,” Garner said, referring to the new, computer-generated incarnation of the character. “Every second is like my house. You’ve got to use him sparingly and be smart about how you use him. But practically, he’s so expensive.” Garner continued: “We had to figure out a real reason for him to be in the movie and we have.” Fear not, your four-armed favorite will be represented.
Oh, for anyone wondering about music in the new movie, the infamous MORTAL KOMBAT theme song, originally devised for an album that accompanied the home console release of the game, will make an appearance in the new film. But it might not return in the way you’d expect. “It becomes a big, cinematic score that uses elements of that song. Sometimes it’s more overt and sometimes it’s quite subtle,” McQuoid explained. For example, Raiden’s theme is a slowed-down version of the song. While he didn’t want to spoil anything, he did promise that “The little '90s kid inside you will be very happy by the end of this film.”
After seeing the opening sequence and talking to the filmmakers, we are very sure that MORTAL KOMBAT will scratch the itch that you’ve had since you originally stood in front of the arcade cabinet back in the mid-1990s.
MORTAL KOMBAT slams into theaters on April 16.
All images courtesy of New Line and Warner Bros Pictures.