Mortal Kombat has made a name for itself by letting gamers indulge in brutal, no-holds-barred battles. So, it comes as no surprise that the blood splatter fans have been dispensing virtually since the video game’s debut nearly 30 years ago had to stay intact for the new movie reboot (opening Friday).
“The DNA of Mortal Kombat is made up of several key ingredients, and the brutality is one of those,” director Simon McQuoid says in a video call. “But what I loved about that was it allowed us to bring an authenticity to the way the fights play out. I think smart, cinematic, beautiful and epic can fit with brutality.”
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“We went up to the edge. In fact, we probably peered over it,” producer Todd Garner adds with a grin in a separate conversation. “In the first 13 minutes of the movie someone gets speared in the head, someone gets turned to ice, a bunch of people get stabbed, a guy gets cut in half, a guy gets stabbed in the heart, turns to dust and disappears. Those first 13 minutes gives you a hint of what’s to come.”
Co-produced by Aquaman’sJames Wan, this new cinematic take inspired by the fabled video game franchise finds washed-up MMA fighter Cole Young, a new character to this world played by actor Lewis Tan (Wu Assassins, Into the Badlands), drawn into a battle between the evil forces of Outworld and the noble warriors of Earthrealm.
In addition to Cole, the film reintroduces characters familiar to fans, including the villainous Sub-Zero (The Raid’s Joe Taslim), Mileena (newcomer Sisi Stringer), Major Jackson ‘Jax’ Briggs (Supergirl’s Mehcad Brooks), Sonya Blade (The Meg’s Jessica McNamee), Kano (Superstore’s Josh Lawson), Liu Kang (Power Rangers’ Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (stuntman Max Huang) and a CGI Goro.
Sub-Zero was chosen as one of the film’s main antagonists, McQuoid says, because his “ice powers were very intriguing.”
But Garner says the character is the perfect foil for the heroic and vengeful Scorpion (played by Westworld’s Hiroyuki Sanada).
“We wanted to start with a story that was surprising and heartbreaking and unexpected and (prove) that anyone can die in this movie,” he says. “(Sub-Zero) has an agenda. He is doing something he believes in. He’s not just a mindless villain.”
McQuoid realizes the legacy of the games — and two previous films — looms large over the new entry, but he says that this new Mortal Kombat had to appeal to both longtime devotees and newcomers to the series.
“There was a constant conversation about respecting the fans and understanding the new audience,” he says. “There are certain details that only super-fans will know. But I would ask a lot of questions to make sure that in pursuit of a new audience, we weren’t pissing off the old fans.”
“We can’t just do a movie for the fans, but we have to make sure that they’re happy,” Garner adds.
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Garner knows that many eyebrows will be raised by the absence of Johnny Cage, who in the game is a Hollywood action star turned tournament fighter, but the producer is eyeing this movie revamp as a springboard to a cinematic universe of Mortal Kombat films.
“We didn’t have a character we felt strong enough to say, ‘Here’s a Mortal Kombat movie,'” he says. “The thing about the Marvel universe is it can say, ‘Here’s an Iron Man movie, here’s a Thor movie.’ Mortal Kombat is known for its universe, which is a bit of a challenge. In a weird way we had to start with Avengers … we’re going to show you these characters and the universe and by the end … we can go out and make a Johnny Cage movie.”
But not everyone who appears in this first Mortal Kombat will live to fight another day in any potential sequel.
“There’s a lot of people who are going to be bummed,” Garner admits. “When you play Mortal Kombat, you have your favourite character. So, we agonized over it because as soon as you kill a character it’s, ‘There goes those fans.’ But again, I want to make something that’s satisfying, and I want to make a lot of (sequels). Hopefully, every fan eventually gets something that they want.”
Mortal Kombat opens in select theatres and is available on demand Friday, April 23