[Article] Bringing MORTAL KOMBAT Back to the Big Screen

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings had the opportunity to check out the first 13 minutes of the much anticipated live-action feature film, MORTAL KOMBAT, as well as chat with Director Steve McQuoid and Producers Todd Garner and James Wan.

In MORTAL KOMBAT, MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage – or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana – the immense power from within his soul – in time to save not only his family, but to stop Outworld once and for all?

Fans of the franchise are probably wondering what could possibly be in those 13 minutes of footage. The film opens in a village with a very stylized, lush atmosphere where we are introduced to Hanzo Hasashi, aka Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada), and his family. There are no English words spoken in those first 13 minutes, but the viewer will have no problem understanding what’s about to unfold once Bi-Han, aka Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), arrives. As Sub-Zero charges through this serene landscape, he brings down each and every person he encounters in a violent display of incredible martial arts. Soon, Scorpion and Sub-Zero come face-to-face with one another leading to a bloody duel that will soon see one of them vanquished. However, with the surprise appearance of Raiden just before the title appears, one has to wonder if death truly is the end.

Speaking of martial arts, when talking about bringing MORTAL KOMBAT back to the big screen, producer Todd Garner stated that he was most excited to see the fighting. “Simon set out to make the best fighting movie that’s ever made,” explained the indie-producer. “And look, time will tell if he’s done it, but the fact that he set that bar and the fact that he cast the best guys and women possible who could do this movie, not for box office, or if they have a huge Twitter following, or if they are on a huge hit CW show, but because they were the best [for the character].” Garner further went on to explain, “[T]o see those talented artists go toe toe with very, very intense fight choreography, in a practical set, in the middle of the Outback, was awesome.” But for Garner, the most exciting moment for him came when Kabal, played by Daniel Nelson, walked on set. “I lost my shit, it was amazing,” Garner laughed.

Still from Mortal Kombat

One of the reasons so many of us enjoyed playing Mortal Kombat growing up was not just because of the fighting, but also for the immense violence and gore. Whether it’s hearts or spines being ripped from the character’s body, the violence and gore has only become more pronounced in it’s 20+ years. When speaking with director Steve McQuoid about concerns over pushing the envelope in terms of gore, he remarked, “[I]t was on our minds quite a bit and we had a lot of discussions. It was something that took up a fair amount of brain power amongst us because we didn’t want to under do it and we didn’t want to overdo it.” But in the world of Mortal Kombat, where the fight scenes are so graphic, how does one toe that line? Luckily for the crew they had a secret weapon in the form of line producer, E. Bennett Walsh. “E. Bennett Walsh was a huge, huge, important person in the making of this film,” explained the director. “Bennett worked on Kill Bill and he knows about blood and knows about [MPAA] ratings and stuff like that. We talked about it a lot cause stylistically it needed to feel right, too. There were a lot of discussions about blood,” laughed McQuoid.

As for producer and horror maestro James Wan, this has been a passion project of his for quite some time. When talking about why now felt like the right time to make the movie, Wan stated, “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.” In order to get it right from the get-go, Wan partnered with producer Todd Garner and his Atomic Monster team. “[We] were excited and gung-ho about creating a new, updated version with today’s filmmaking technology whilst being respectful to the fantasy tone, violent action, and gore of the game that fans have come to love and, at the same time, bring these vivid characters and stories back to the big screen in a modern, exciting way for a whole new generation who may not be as familiar with the films as we were growing up.”

But what I was really dying to know is what character the horror master identified with the most. “The recent Mortal Kombat allows you to play so many different characters – I’ve played Black Manta in the latest one – but I love to go back to the old school, OG characters that I used to play, and that was either Liu Kang or Scorpion. Wan further went on to explain, “What was cool with Liu Kang is that he was heavily inspired by Bruce Lee, and so when I play as Liu Kang, I basically get to live out my fantasy of being Bruce Lee!”

For more MORTAL KOMBAT, check out this exclusive clip below and prepare for the ultimate battle when the film is released in theaters and on HBOMax, April 16, 2021.




Shannon McGrew
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