Mortal Kombat Director On Adapting Interactive Storytelling to Movies
When it comes to movies based on video games, they seem to have one thing very much in common; they fail to take into account the extreme change in storytelling they are going to have to take in adaptation. We already don't watch a movie like we read a book, we don't read a comic like we watch a play, and we don't watch TV like we watch a movie. However, all of those are inactive forms of storytelling. Video games are unique in that they are interactive storytelling, and most of the video game movies that have come out have failed to take that into account when they are adapting. During a roundtable interview with Mortal Kombat director Simon McQuoid, he was asked how he approached this very different form of storytelling and how he was going to succeed where other video game movies have failed.
"Great specific question straight out of the gate," McQuoid said. "Well, it's very, very hard to replace. The interactive quality you talk about, I think perhaps I didn't even try to do that; I didn't try to replace it. But what I what we all attempted to do was and, I think this was sort of in the sort of analysis of why perhaps more perhaps video game movies tend to not live up to where you'd hope they'd be, is because they don't really respect the material, to begin with. And they kind of ignore things that shouldn't be ignored and treated; they don't treat it with the respect that it deserves. So really, the very simple way of answering that quite specific question is I didn't try and replace the interactivity. I just tried to respect the material and use that and move the Mortal Kombat tone and feeling into a place that was a big epic version of what people loved. So perhaps the way maybe I did, as I even think about it, maybe I did try and replace it with just a massive movie."
"Because I knew that there wasn't any way to sort of take the executional component of that interactivity, that full brain immersion, which is a different thing in a game than it is to a movie," McQuoid continued. "And just reflect on, "okay, what makes a successful movie? Let's try and just bring those things in." And so, really, it was respecting and taking the material and doing it justice, but amplifying and elevating into this kind of beautiful cinematic version. But also not taking certain executional things that only exist properly in a game and knowing what not to take and what to take. So that's what it was. It was a big exercise in "okay, do we keep that? No, we don't need that. Do we need that?" You know, and so that was the intent. So obviously, in the film, you can tell me whether we succeeded."
Basic respect for your source material seems like kind of a low bar to hit, but that lack of respect does seem to happen a lot when it comes to adapting material that is considered "low art." There was a time when comic books or video games weren't even considered worthy of being called art, and the era in which Mortal Kombat came out that was very much the case. So it's really good to hear that McQuoid has respect for the material and that he isn't going to try and awkwardly shoehorn the blood code into the movie.
In "Mortal Kombat," MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld's Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family's safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth's greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana—the immense power from within his soul—in time to save not only his family, but to stop Outworld once and for all?
Mortal Kombat, directed by Simon McQuoid, stars. Ludi Lin, Joe Taslim, Tadanobu Asano, Jessica McNamee, Mehcad Brooks, Josh Lawson, Lewis Tan, Chin Han, and Hiroyuki Sanada. It will be released on April 16, 2021, in theaters and will be on HBO Max for 31-days.