We talked to director Simon McQuoid, Lewis Tan (Cole) and Mehcad Brooks (Jax)
The new Mortal Kombat was always going to be a hard sell.
Not only do you have the stigma of video game movies lingering throughout the industry (I don’t think Detective Pikachu completely “solved” it), but you have the nostalgia for the 1995 original to compete against.
It’s an uphill battle for sure, and we spoke to director Simon McQuoid, Lewis Tan (Cole), and Mehcad Brooks (Jax) about that Sisyphean theatrical journey.
As you may have noticed, Mortal Kombat is out today on HBO Max. You can watch it and tell us what you think!
As for me, I keyed into a handful of scenes and what made them tick. Most notably, sequences that really drew from the games. It inspired me to ask Simon McQuoid directly about how the series influenced the new film; but more importantly, I wanted to get his thoughts on the producer recently likening the violence to “Bambi” compared to the games. Because I actually disagree! It was a little over-the-top at times, in a good way.
McQuoid explained, “Well, we studied a lot of what makes Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat. And obviously the brutality of it all was a key ingredient of it. So it was a question of balancing…the amount that’s in there. So a key ingredient, but not so much so we’re overdoing it for the sake of it. I wanted those moments to land when it was going to be an action finale, or a story point, moving forward. We’re not doing Wuthering Heights here, this is Mortal Kombat.”
On that point, I followed up on the authenticity of it all, because it does feel authentic, for better or worse. How much research went into the project? A lot. “I think collectively it’s probably millions of hours,” he explains. “Every single person who worked on the film took it upon themselves to draw directly on the canon. Now the goal was to elevate it, and make an epic…sort of beautiful version of it. But the stunt team, and all those guys, what they did in research…it’s phenomenal.
Speaking of that! I spoke directly to Mehcad Brooks (Jax, a classic fan favorite) and Lewis Tan (Cole Young, the new protagonist) about their characters, and they backed up what McQuoid was saying. Jax in particular is a tough act to follow, given how he’s had multiple portrayals since the 1995 film. When asked about the pressure that instills, Brooks talked to me about how he was up to the task.
He muses: “The legacy of…to be completely honest, I’m a huge Mortal Kombat fan myself. I wanted to deliver…I think our consciousness as a fan and as an actor are going to meet in that regard. But you’re aware of the pressure that people have been playing the characters for over 20 years, it’s an extension of their nervous system, their motor skills, their consciousness really because they’re using their brain to move the character. So they have a strong opinion on the character. But the pressure has to go away, because you’re living the character…what we really all tried to do is bring a certain level of reality…and physics…because the world is so big, there’s this fine line you have to walk between being believable as a video game character, but also existing in this world.”
Lewis Tan, who had the equally gargantuan responsibility of playing a brand new character, felt similarly. “I think that the games are important in a sense that understanding the tone and the energy…and what makes the games popular. It’s one of the highest-selling games of all times, and it’s awesome. So having that energy and understanding where things are in that world. I didn’t really have anything to research as far as Cole’s backstory…I was open to creating some things from my imagination…while keeping in mind what I know fans want to see, and make Cole worthy of being part of this universe.”
Tan follows up by saying “I think there was a lot of thought that went into it. It wasn’t a new character for the sake of showing the audience the Mortal Kombat world. I’m proud of that. And hopefully Cole can be part of the video game too, that would be awesome, that would be a dream come true. I have some fatalities in mind for him.” At this point Brooks jumps in and shouts “He has to be! I think when fans see it they’ll demand it.”
I think he’s earned it!
As a final hurrah, I asked McQuoid about a potential director’s cut in an era filled with them. Would that have even been possible? Well, no. “Uh, it’s not something I really think about to be honest,” he says. “It’s a collaborative team sport. I don’t really feel the need to do that.” Fair enough.
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