The recent trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of Mortal Kombat makes the film look extremely violent. In one scene, Mortal Kombat icon Sub-Zero slices an opponent’s arm with a sword, freezes the resulting blood splatter into a dagger, and uses that blood dagger to stab his foe. But in an interview this week, producer Todd Garner told The Verge that the movie’s violence isn’t nearly as over-the-top as it is in the classic game series.
“Compared to the game, we’re like Bambi,” says Garner. “We’re like a G-rated movie compared to the game. The game is just incredibly operatic in terms of the violence, and the Motion Picture Association of America would never let us do that much violence.”
Fights in the Mortal Kombat games are brutal, with blood often appearing following each punch, kick, throw, or weapon slice. And the series is famous for its Fatality finishing moves, where characters murder their opponents in exceedingly gruesome ways. (They often involve some kind of dismemberment.) Violence is part of playing the game, and it’s something that has only become more extreme as the series has progressed. In fact, it can be so bad that it’s even impacted members of the development team. The Mortal Kombat movie isn’t trying to violence for violence’s sake, though, according to Garner.
“We’re trying to make a movie where you care about the people, it’s grounded, it has a realistic tone to it, and the violence comes from the rules of the world that have been established, but you’re not just trying to make torture porn,” he says. “You’re trying to do something that is faithful to the IP, but also comes from a motivated and grounded place that is motivated by real characters that feel like they’ve lived real lives up until this moment.”
In a separate interview, director Simon McQuoid talked about how he wanted to do right by the series by including violence, but that also allowed him to make a more authentic movie. “I just wanted to do Mortal Kombat justice,” McQuoid says. “It was about studying and looking at what the fundamental ingredients are of Mortal Kombat. What are the key strands of DNA that make this what it is?
“One of those, obviously, is kind of the brutality [of the series],” he says. “And what I liked about the blood aspect of that is that we could be authentic. We didn’t have to hold back on the fights.” For example, if somebody was stabbed through the head, “blood probably would burst down the back,” McQuoid notes.
McQuoid’s not just saying that hypothetically. I’ve seen the first 13 minutes of the film, which included a big, blade-filled fight scene. And one of its most memorable moments features a knife being plunged into the top of someone’s head, and yes, blood does seep from the wound.
But while the movie could come across as overly violent, “everyone knows Mortal Kombat is known for that and was OK sort of doing that,” McQuoid says. “It wasn’t a great surprise. It’s not like it’s a Jane Austen novel that we’re turning super violent. That would not be good.” The violence “matters for this property,” he says. “It allowed us to be authentic in a stylistic approach and [it was] also just what’s right for Mortal Kombat.”
The new Mortal Kombat movie will hit theaters and HBO Max on April 16th.