When it was announced that Warner Bros. Animation was going to make an R-rated Mortal Kombat movie, fans went wild. The beloved fighting game franchise has been delighting and disgusting gamers in equal measure since it debuted in 1992. Since its release the series has been courting controversy for its extreme violence, which is exactly why it’s been such a success. Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge pays homage to that legacy with a blood-splattered, gore filled, martial arts heavy take on the lore of the game with bone-crunchingly awesome results. Watching Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge feels like a Mortal Kombat lover’s dream, and for this lifelong Fatality fan it delivered on all fronts.
To celebrate the release of the 80 minute animated spectacular–which is available digitally on April 14th–I spoke with two of the men behind the movie, writer Jeremy Adams and executive producer Rick Morales. The pair are both huge fans of the franchise and have been since childhood. “I went to school in Burbank and we had an arcade that was on my walk home from high school and middle school. And we used to go to the arcade afterwards and, you know, I’d save up my lunch money to play Mortal Kombat,” Morales laughs.
Adams shares a similar Mortal Kombat origin story, though he wasn’t so lucky as to live near an arcade. “Growing up in the ’80s, home console video games weren’t as prevalent as they are now, right? So you would go to an arcade, or in my case, in the small town I’m from there was a pizza joint [where] we would play and plunk quarters into Street Fighter incessantly. And then one day this Mortal Kombat machine showed up.”
From then on the pair were hooked. Adams still remembers the trial and error of learning how to play the classic fighter fondly. “What people don’t understand is that when you played games back then there were no YouTube tutorials. It took people an inordinate amount of change to figure out those moves. I remember seeing a Fatality and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ So we started playing, but we were also kind of looking over our shoulder scared that mom was going to show up and I was gonna get in trouble because it felt very forbidden.”
While Morales usually played as Sub-Zero or Liu Kang, Adams’ main was Raiden, simply for how easy it was to fight people with the power of the lightning god in your hands. “His lightning strikes were pretty much just like Ryu’s blast, so okay, at least I could do that,” Adams chuckles.
As you can imagine for two kids who grew up spending their lunch money and any available pocket change on playing Mortal Kombat, getting asked to make a Mortal Kombat movie was nothing short of a dream project. “I was just like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. How has this never been done before?'” Morales says. “Mortal Kombat? Of course, I would want to do that. And then they let me know up front that they were aiming for an R rating and that made it even more appealing because it’s very rare that you get to work on R-rated content, especially for something like this which I was very familiar with.”
When it came to finding a writer for the project, Adams’ name immediately came up which might have had just a little something to do with his very public passion for martial arts movies. “I’m always talking about martial arts and always talking about karate to the point that Jim Krieg–who is one of the producers on this project–would tell me before we went into meetings, ‘Don’t bring up Cynthia Rothrock, don’t start talking about martial arts movies.'” That obsession paid off, as when the studio was thinking about a writer only one name came up: Adams! The head of Warner Bros. Animation sat down with Morales and Adams and asked them to find a new twist for their take on Mortal Kombat and the idea for Scorpion’s Revenge was born.
Their take is drenched in the movies and genres that they loved, which luckily had a lot of crossover. “I have always been a fan of horror films and ’80s action, so between me and Jeremy, we’d been working together at the time and we know what our likes are,” Morales explains. “This fit in that space to me, especially because in Mortal Kombat they draw a lot of influence from ’80s action films and all kinds of different Bruce Lee movies and martial arts films and was just steeped in all the stuff that we love so much. It was like, ‘I get to make the movie that I’ve always wanted to make here.'”
One exciting aspect for Adams was the intensive lore and love that Mortal Kombat commands. “What was fun for me was the fanbase of Mortal Kombat. I don’t even know if I’d realized the depth of it. As I was doing research and just really getting into some of the nitty gritty of the mythology that I wasn’t even aware of, I came to understand how big that universe is.” He was also very aware of the legacy the series has. “At the same time, how do I tell a story that’s been told a bunch of times? How do we take that different tack?
The answer to that question lay in the yellow-masked guise of Hanzo Hasashi. “I started reading about Scorpion and how his family was killed,” Adams says. “I have a family myself and I thought, ‘That’s the worst thing ever.’ You know, I thought what could be so painful to drive someone to escape from hell? So we decided let’s really focus on Scorpion because it’s so tragic and it’s so ambitious and you can kind of get where he’s coming from. Then that’s kind of the back door in which to tell this Mortal Kombat story.”
Getting the world of Mortal Kombat right was vital, and luckily NetherRealm studios was more than happy to help the creative team to craft it. “We worked really closely with NetherRealm on the development of this, obviously. Ed Boon and his team were really helpful to us because obviously no one knows the lore and stuff better than they do,” Morales says. That didn’t mean that the originators of the game were overbearing, though. “I was actually really amazed at how hands off they were with our production. Certainly, they gave us insight and they looked at designs and things like that, but in a lot of ways, they let us do what we wanted to do. I was expecting that they might be a little bit more precious with things.”
Morales says that the opening ten minutes of Mortal Kombat: Scorpion’s Revenge is “one of my favorite things that I’ve ever done” and that moment is the one that he thinks fans will really love. For Adams, his hopes are all about the bigger impact that the film could have. “I get the privilege to play with these toys and I feel like my goal as a writer is just to add to that toy box in a way that will hopefully inspire some other people. Maybe later when they watch it, kids can be inspired just like I was when I played the Mortal Kombat game. How many times did my friends run around and act like Sub-Zero and Scorpion? So it’s a great feeling to be able to add to that.”
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge is out digitally on April 14th!