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New Mortal Kombat Movie Producers Had Five Key Demands to Get the Movie Right

Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim in Mortal Kombat (2021)

The new Mortal Kombat movie is close at hand, and with it, a chance to revamp the series cinematically for the first time in years. The trailer and behind-the-scenes information has already been a positive indicator of quality, especially when it comes to promises of fatalities and diversity.

Producers James Wan and Todd Garner, along with first-time feature-film director Simon McQuoid, talked in a roundtable interview (according to Polygon) about the journey to allow the film to be as bloody as the video games and the demands they had for getting the movie done right. After all, we are talking about creating an R-rated version of a M-rated video game. That can be a challenge.

“Basically, there were five things James and I said — you might call them demands, you might call them really polite asks — we said, ‘There are five things that are really important to us in this movie.’ One, it’s got to be R-rated,” Garner said. “Two, it’s got to be a diverse cast.”

I already love where this is going, but continue.

“Three, they’ve got to be [legitimate] to the lore and backstory, and each character. Four is they need to be real martial artists. And five is we’re gonna do these [specific] characters.”

Garner also said that they didn’t want to have “movie stars” in the film because that is not really the allure of Mortal Kombat in the first place. While there are certainly familiar faces, the cast is definitely not the A-list project that it could have been—especially considering the ease with which it could have been to stuffed with notable faces. Noah Centineo is Liu Kang! You laugh … but you know some producer would.

The key to this happening, as Garner told it, was the success of diverse films like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther showing movie studios that films could be successful with diversity and not centering white leads. Adding Cole Young (Lewis Tan) was a way of having an audience insert to ask the questions moviegoers who don’t know Mortal Kombat might ask, without positioning “yet another white guy in a diverse, Asian-led cast to be the hero.”

“I just felt if I was getting the chance to make a movie with a diverse cast, it felt weird to me to have a white actor, literally Johnny Cage, be the hero of the story,” Garner said. “It just felt weird all of a sudden, to have like, ‘Oh, by the way, the white guy is going to come in and kind of be the hero of the movie.’ And we already have Kano in the movie, who’s so great — he’s my big carrot for the sequel.”

Video game movie adaptations are difficult. It is hard to adapt that feeling, and in the case of Mortal Kombat, fighting and violence are such a part of the brand, as well as a diverse cast. I am glad and optimistic that the series had people behind it who understood how valuable those images could be for the audience. That is what I want. Give me the feels. Cast the right diverse cast and have fun doing it.

Mortal Kombat is coming to theaters and HBO Max on April 16. I’ll be watching.

(via Polygon, image: Warner Bros.)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.