We Watched the Opening Scenes of 'Mortal Kombat' and Spoke to the Director – Here's What We Learned
The first thing you’re going to notice about the new Mortal Kombat movie is that it’s bloody. When the original Mortal Kombat game arrived on home entertainment systems in the 1990s, fears of an overabundance of violence in video games resulted in a censored version that took out all the blood and gore that made the arcade version famous. However, by using a simple cheat code – nicknamed the blood code – players could unlock the uncensored version of the game, and unlock all the blood with it. With the new Mortal Kombat movie, it’s almost as if the filmmakers have implemented a blood code of their own, because there are geysers of the red stuff flowing left and right, practically exploding out of people’s bodies as they’re cut down in the midst of fast-paced fights.
But all this blood and gore is leading to something grand. As Mortal Kombat director Simon McQuoid puts it, the end result will be a film that’s “epic, brutal, beautiful” and “sort of tasteful.”
I recently got to see the first 13 minutes of the new Mortal Kombat movie, and what I saw was quite promising. The film is striving to be a big, bloody epic, with an emphasis on epic, and an emphasis on, well, blood. These first minutes take us back to 1617 and introduce us to Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the man who will soon become Scorpion, as he fights against his sworn enemy, Bi-Han (Joe Taslim), the future Sub-Zero. The fights are fast and loaded with explosions of blood – almost too much blood, to the point where you wonder if anyone could have that much blood in their body. And while there are a few eyebrow-raising decisions – we learn the somewhat dubious origins of that cool, deadly blade that shoots out of Scorpion’s hand, for example – the opening sequence hints at a movie that’s bound to entertain with its lightning-quick, plasma-soaked action.
During an online roundtable interview with director Simon McQuoid, the filmmaker made a point of underscoring all that blood, both literally and figuratively. The story “really comes from blood and what blood means,” McQuoid said. “And it’s about bloodlines and it’s about what blood means to our connections. It means family. It means all these things. It also happens to mean blood spraying everywhere.”
In the new Mortal Kombat, an MMA fighter Cole Young (a new character invented for the film, played by Lewis Tan), gets dropped into circumstances surrounding a deadly fighting tournament involving Earth and the alternate dimension known as Outworld. This thrusts Cole into a world of ultra-violent action, as evil Outworld Emperor Shang Tsung sends Sub-Zero out to slaughter Earth’s mightiest warriors to avoid losing the fighting competition, officially known as Mortal Kombat.
This material has been mined for the movies before, most notably Paul W. S. Anderson’s silly-but-fun 1995 film that cranked up the techno music and watered down the gore (it was rated PG-13). But the new Mortal Kombat is no mere repeat of the 1995 film. For one thing, you’re going to notice that some prominent players from the games – like hot-shot martial artist and actor Johnny Cage – are nowhere to be found. After all, you’ve gotta save something for the sequel.
“The reason we held back Johnny Cage is, he is a very egotistical guy,” producer Todd Garner said during another roundtable interview. “He’s a scoundrel. He’s funny, he’s bigger than life…but so is Kano [a character from the games played in the new movie by Josh Lawson]. And so you go, ‘All right, are we going to have two guys competing to out-funny each other in this movie?’ Or do you hold Johnny Cage back? Because, God willing, [we’ll be] able to do another one…everybody is waiting for that.”
Not present at the roundtable interviews was producer James Wan, but Wan did send out a few comments about the upcoming film. As to why the time was right to finally make a new Mortal Kombat movie, Wan said:
“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. From the get go, Todd Garner, my Atomic Monster team and I, 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.”
During the roundtable talk with director Simon McQuoid, I specifically asked how the new Mortal Kombat is going to stand out when compared to its 1995 counterpart. “It’s stylistically radically different,” McQuoid said, adding that when he started to think about adapting the material, he approached it all under the pretext that he wasn’t just adapting a video game, but something akin to a series of novels: “Let’s pretend this was a series of novels…before it was a game, because there’s so much lore [that] I wanted to preserve and [I wanted to] respect the source material. So as soon as you visualize it as a book, you go, ‘Oh, well, this really matters…this is really detailed and rich.’”
He continued: “I would say it’s just a much more epic, brutal, beautiful, sort of tasteful telling of the Mortal Kombat story. I’ve really just tried to make a giant cinematic version that really hasn’t been done for this title. I want to make big movies that you believe.”
This sounds like it’s all building towards a big, violent (and did I mention bloody?) Mortal Kombat movie that somehow feels grounded in reality. Or at least as much reality as you can expect from a film with inter-dimensional martial artists kicking buckets of blood out of each other’s heads.
Mortal Kombat opens in theaters and arrives on HBO Max on April 16, 2021. Check out a quick new teaser for the film below.
Mortal Kombat Teaser
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?
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