Mortal Kombat fans aren’t left wanting for more of their favourite franchise, considering the release of Aftermath for Mortal Kombat 11 and coming up next, a film set for release on 8 April 2021. Our editor was given the chance by Warner Bros to head over to Adelaide, Australia to experience for themselves the set of Mortal Kombat! As you might be able to gather, this happened way before the whole COVID thing broke out, so rest easy on that. Other media were also there along with ours to interview the director as well as the cast of the film to learn what’s behind the scenes in production. Let’s get down to it!
SIMON MCQUOID’S TAKE ON THE MORTAL KOMBAT FILM
Right off the bad, McQuoid found the challenges in filming Mortal Kombat wasn’t just the need to have excellent fight choreography; sure that was one of the important aspects, but he also had to figure out how to best showcase the “essence” of Mortal Kombat on film, besides having to think of the most effective way to show off the characters, and add depth to the production as a whole.
At its core, McQuoid found he had to figure out how to control the pacing and the rhythm of the entire work well. He expresses his gratitude towards the cast of the film, praising their professionalism and how easy it was to work with them. The themes of Mortal Kombat come together in a work of fantasy and fiction, while also reflecting various aspects of reality, with elements of humanity up for discussion. Both players and regular audience members will be able to enjoy the film whether or not they are familiar with the source material.
Cole Young is an original character for the film. As McQuoid explains:
“If we only used all the classic Mortal Kombat characters, I worry for new viewers to be able to immerse themselves into this film. Hence, Cole Young, so that the audience can see the world through his fresh eyes.”
McQuiod has also been very strict in casting, as he is of the opinion that the characters should be as authentic as possible e.g. casting Japanese actors for the Japanese characters. Mortal Kombat as it is, is pretty much deeply tied to martial arts, so he chose Joe Taslim, Max Huang and Lewis Tan for the principle characters to showcase the beautiful martial arts of the franchise.
KEEPING THE ASPECTS OF VIOLENCE AND TELLING THE STORY FROM A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Bennett Walsh is one of the producers of the film, tasked with handling the various action elements and ensuring these segments and effects are about as flawless as possible in their performance. He confirms there’ll be plenty of scenes full of blood and violence, even potentially breaking the NC-17 rating.
From the story point of view, Bennet Walsh and James Wan have come together to adapt Mortal Kombat, saying this new story will gradually bring viewers into the fold of the world. So many characters means so many backstories coming together, and could cause an overload of information. Even the most diehard fans of the franchise won’t necessarily be able to fully understand where it begins and ends, as the story continues to develop.
One thing’s for sure: you’ll be seeing Mortal Kombat on film with plenty of action, and a new perspective. They want to make a film that can stand the test of time.
POWDERING UP: THE MAKEUP OF MORTAL KOMBAT
Larry van Duynhoven is the makeup artist for the film, in charge of this field of visual effects. As most of you would be aware, there’s plenty of non-human combatants. He’s crafted lizard skins solely for the movie, besides having lots of problems with Jax and Kano. He especially points out Kano, since he needs to work together with CGI as well, so care is needed in regards to the whole mechanics.
Many of the actors had to undergo four hour make up sessions, so to put it lightly, it’s not easy. Besides crafting those lizard skins, Larry’s also made corpse props, hearts and long lizard tongues. He also demonstrated his technique to our editor, painting on a fake scar on one of the media attendees.
CRAFTING THE UNIQUE WEAPONRY USED IN THE FILM
Besides the martial arts utilized by the characters of Mortal Kombat, many of the classic characters also possess their own weapons to fight, adding another layer of complexity in crafting props for the movie. Lisa Brennan is the person in charge, showing off the weapons and props they made to the media, with the dizzying array of Kano’s hidden weapons, Sub-Zero’s “ice” weapons, Naga Shang Tsung’s cane, a sledgehammer, Scorpion’s props and many, many more.
They look sharp at first glance, but Brennan explains that many of these props are made from lightweight materials to make them easier to use by the actors. While she herself isn’t a Mortal Kombat fan, she still worked to understand a character before she got to work on their gear, including their characteristics and their backstories into the design of the weapons so that they too can tell a story.
While the props may not always necessarily be say, visible, or even pretty to look at, it didn’t mean that Brennan could just throw them together without a care. What especially amazed our editor was that even after showing off the armoury, it was only still a part of what players can expect to see in the film.
CLOTHES MAKETH THE MAN
Cappi Ireland is your costume designer for Mortal Kombat, next on the plate to show the outfits that will be gracing the screen. Ireland is accompanied by a team to stitch these costumes together till late into the night. All hands on deck for these threads! Our editor saw two sets for Scorpion, Sub-Zero’s costume and steel shirt, Shang Tsung’s costume and many more.
On enquiry about the weight of these outfits, Ireland takes Sub-Zero’s ensemble as an outfit and reveals it to weigh at least 24 kilograms (roughly 53 lbs.)! Still though, so that the actors can move about more freely especially during battle scenes, they also have much lighter costume frames. Each character has at least 6 sets they swap around, so that’s a lot of work to put it mildly.
As with Brennan, Ireland also did plenty of research to ensure the level of authenticity and detail are as accurate as possible for the various pieces of gear. Shang Tsung’s steel shirt is Chinese-made, so plenty of discussion and research was done regarding Chinese culture, before deciding on the embellishments that would be weaved into Shang Tsung’s outfit.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
While Mortal Kombat does not lie in the realm of reality, nonetheless the locations still exist, in some form. Namaan Marshall who oversees the sets explains that the team will first begin with drafts. Once the drafts are approved, they’ll get to work with their computers to render the location in 3D. They’ll build up the skeleton, then start adding in the various elements to bring the place to life. As and when it’s needed, they’ll also add in real life items – from trees to big rocks – for the touch of realism. A locale they dubbed Fighting Pits uses this technique.
Marshall and McQuoid agreed to have some practical effects and not wholly depend on CGI for some of the more classic Mortal Kombat scenes. They wanted to show the idea of how these scenes would play out in reality, and really surprise both fans and viewers with this technique.
They have gone on location to obtain their materials, visiting South Australia, Melbourne and Vietnam, using their instruments to scan in local buildings to store as data until they can render it in their computers. They “restore” these areas digitally then insert them into the film.
All these are just one half of the whole process behind the scenes in the making of this film. Next up, the actors themselves!
With Jessica McNamee (Sonya) and Josh Lawson (Kano)
Before going into the questions proper, we asked both McNamee and Lawson what they thought of their characters. For McNamee, she feels that Sonya is a really strong character, with deep hatred for villains like Kano, and aims to hunt him down. At the same time, she also wants to let the world know about the Outerworld, and fights to protect the peace.
For Lawson, Kano feels like your typical mercenary, and will be one to shoot “at the right time”. At its most basic, Kano’s values are in direct conflict with Sonya’s. As such, their storyline is going to be an interesting one, full of sparks as they “fall in love and kill each other” in turn.
McNamee reveals she’s done her part to learn and prepare for the role of Sonya, reading up on her and listening to radio dramas so that she can bring the role to life. The most of her experience with Mortal Kombat is limited to the Super Nintendo era, but it’s more than Lawson who only knows up to Fatality, and Finish him. Lawson’s asked fans about Kano as well, but having gotten conflicting explanations depending on how they felt about the character, he decided to follow the director’s and producer’s vision instead.
The fans can have their opinions regarding the roles they were play, but Lawson acknowledges that too much can prevent them from doing their jobs right, so he’ll simply be focusing on his role and have the audience accept him and Kano.
With Chin Han (Shang Tsung) and Max Huang (Kung Lao)
At the start of the interview, Huang expresses how lucky he feels to be able to be part of the Mortal Kombat film, having loved the franchise and the games as a child. He’s got experience in martial arts too, so it would seem he’s a pretty dead ringer for Kung Lao.
In Han’s case, he’s mostly been influenced by the 1990s films of Mortal Kombat. He’s also specially gone out to obtain the soundtrack of this now old films too. When receiving the script for this iteration of the Mortal Kombat film and being asked to take the role of Shang Tsung, he felt that the character matches himself. He jokes about how his roles have often been moody and evil, so it would be easy for him to play someone like Shang Tsung.
Huang bought the latest Mortal Kombat to research, observing Kung Lao’s movements. Since he uses a hat as his weapon, he also had to undergo training related to the hats and add in various action scenes to take advantage of it.
You could say it’s harder in Han’s case, since he has to don a heavy steel shirt for his scenes, but he’s enjoyed the filming process. They’ll be respecting the actors who’ve played their respective roles before them, but they’ll be bringing their own touch to their roles based on their own knowledge and interpretation. Both Huang and Han believe their role is to really carry the spirit of Mortal Kombat, and have both old and new fans accept how they play Kung Lao and Shang Tsung.
With Joe Taslim (Sub-Zero) and Sisi Stringer (Mileena)
Both Taslim and Stringer have been learning from each other, while also having been into the franchise for some time. For Stringer, she’s got plenty of friends who love stuff like the Marvel and DC comics and has in turn loved the fandom surrounding it, gradually making her way into the world of Mortal Kombat. Starting from 9, her favourite characters are Mileena, Jade and Scorpion. Taslim’s still playing the game himself to this day, and is really proud to have been picked to be Sub-Zero. He’s bought 10 and 11 to further study his character for his part.
Taslim reveals he’s very interested in Sub-Zero’s backstory, with how complicated his relationship is with Scorpion on top of having been trained as a killing machine since childhood. As such, he feels that he doesn’t stop at showing just how cruel Sub-Zero can be, but also his human side. He believes the audience will enjoy his portrayal of this iconic character.
On Stringer’s end, she says her fans were happy for her when they found out she would be playing Mileena, sending her long essays on her Instagram on Mileena to give her the leg up to better portray the character. She’s taken in both her fans words and also director McQuiod’s vision to tell this dark and gloomy story that is Mortal Kombat. She feels Mileena is quite an emotional character, loving her father-daughter interactions with Shang Tsung. She praises Chin Han’s performance as well, with both of them in tandem showing the more vulnerable sides of these villains to the audience.
Taslim coyly hints about “unforgettable” action scenes he’s in in the film that would be highly anticipated by fans, and he’s put his best foot forward for them. He doesn’t elaborate further if his scenes involve Scorpion, only asking the audience to keep watching.
A time with Mehcad Brooks (Jax)
Brooks admits playing Jax – one of the more recognizable characters of Mortal Kombat – has been tough. This bio-chemically enhanced person has meant Brooks undergoing a training regime 6 days a week to get the physique befitting the character. He’s had to watch his health and his food intake, with food practically having to be hidden away from him throughout filming.
Here’s another franchise fan among the cast, gushing about Jax’s coolness. Brooks likes the mysterious part of the character, who appears to be a killer yet not one who would murder without reason, having his own reasons to act the way he does. Brooks hasn’t looked up past portrayals of Jax, preferring to deepen his own understanding about the character’s backstory. He merely wants to show his own interpretation without being influenced by others.
Brooks adds that a lot of the cast and crew are fans of the franchise, so they’re all doing their best in their respective roles: showing the brutality of these characters, yet also their inner depths. That’s what he’s looking for himself in the film.
With Ludi Lin (Liu Kang) and Tadanobu Asano (Raiden)
Asano gleefully tells how he and his child are both fans of Mortal Kombat, adding that as Raiden, he doesn’t have many if any issues to play the character with him being Japanese. He smiles and says be will “be himself”. With many previous Raidens portrayed by Westerners, he’s giving this role more attention to play it well. Joining with the other cast members who have nothing but praise for McQuiod, Asano mentions how his comments have often been accepted by the director, giving him a lot more room to play Raiden well. He also says he hasn’t come across any particular issues during filming since he doesn’t fight that much in the movie and CGI can add on as needed.
Liu Kang is another iconic character of Mortal Kombat, Lin expressing his joy in being able to play him having been a fan of the franchise as a child, and being really taken aback at executing a Fatality for the first time. When the second ever Mortal Kombat film showed in theaters, he got friends together to watch it, and that passion can still be seen in the interview.
Lin hasn’t been lagging behind in his preparation for his role, often discussing his character with director McQuoid to make him seem more real. He’s likewise undergone martial arts training and worked on his physique to better match Liu Kang. Echoing his fellow cast members, the Mortal Kombat film will have both its action and violence, and having more deeply philosophical discussions about the nature of man. Everyone in this film is fighting for their own reasons, after all, and you’ll see all their stories tangle up with each other’s.
With the promise of many incredible fights and nothing spared in details in costumes and everything else, this would seem like a must-watch for both more regular audiences, and of course the fans, alike. We’ll be looking forward to the blend of deep stories and wanton violence. Pretty much everyone talked to here have a deep appreciation and love for the source material of Mortal Kombat, passion oozing out from every aspect of the production.
The Mortal Kombat live action movie will be showing in theaters on 8 April 2021. Will it be a good Fatality? We’ll find out soon enough.