According to HBO Max’s new behind-the-scenes video for Mortal Kombat, director Simon McQuoid had one goal for the movie: make the kombat grounded in reality so the fights felt real. What, Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 movie wasn’t real enough? Liu Kang wielded the element which brings life!
Early on in pre-production, McQuoid told Kyle Gardiner and Chan Griffin: “I need you to do the things you always wanted to do in a movie and everyone tells you can’t do.” The result is a movie that mixes the superpowered techniques of the games with fighting styles like Wing Chun. In the video, actor Max Huang, who plays Kung Lao, describes the process of developing his own moves based on references he saw in the gameplay. Then you have Joe Taslim, who brings 15 years of experience fighting on Indonesia’s national judo team to Sub-Zero’s choreography. McQuoid was on to something.
The video is a fun peek into the process of staging cinematic throwdowns, but the best part is seeing how the director and his visual effects team had to rethink Goro to be a fully CG kombatant.
As Paul W.S. Anderson told Polygon last year in our hourlong interview for the 25th anniversary of Mortal Kombat, his Goro was a “diva” animatronic that took hours to setup for each take. But the actual-sized model allowed Anderson to shoot over-the-shoulder shots like he would with any actor, lending a bit of reality to the action, while encumbering the momentum on the fights. Making a movie is full of sacrifices (just ask Mortal Kombat 2021 screenwriter Greg Russo).
For his new Mortal Kombat, McQuoid went with a fully CG Goro that would allow actor Lewis Tan’s Cole Young to demonstrate his physical skills against a monster twice his size. But who could play the towering foe in the early stages of the fight, before visual effects artists laid over the Goro suit? As Gardiner explains, the scene involved two of his stuntmen, one on stilts and the other on the stilt guy’s shoulders, just swinging at Tan like two kids in a trenchcoat sneaking into an R-rated movie. The scene is effective in the film, but the behind-the-scenes footage is pure magic.