Mortal Kombat Director Paul W.S. Anderson Reflects on 25 Years

In the history of video games adapted to films, there have been far more stinkers than gems. One of the arguable gems is Paul W.S. Anderson's Mortal Kombat. Adapted from the 1993 Midway game of the same name, the 1995 film follows the familiar plot of the arcade classic where earth realm fighters compete in an inter-dimensional tournament for survival. Anderson spoke with Entertainment Weekly to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the film's original release. "I was very, very excited about it because I was a big fan of the game," Anderson said. At the time, the few films already released like Hollywood Picture's adaptation of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros (1993) were critically panned. "There was almost a stigma attached to them because there'd been several that hadn't worked, like Double Dragon and Super Mario Brothers," he said. To top that off, Mortal Kombat's biggest franchise rival in Street Fighter (1994) from Universal was critically eviscerated and a profound flop at the box office. Anderson knew he has some tall task to sell the film.

Paul WS Anderson, Milla Jovovich at the "Zero Dark Thirty" Los Angeles Premiere, Dolby Theater, Hollywood, CA. Editorial credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
Paul WS Anderson, Milla Jovovich at the "Zero Dark Thirty" Los Angeles Premiere, Dolby Theater, Hollywood, CA. Editorial credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

Bringing the Film Adaptation of Mortal Kombat to Life

"I was a big fan and knew intimately," Anderson recalled. "This was a really intriguing intellectual property to adapt. If you played the game enough, there was good mythology behind it, which reminded me of classic movies like Jason and the Argonauts and Enter the Dragon." One thing the director wanted to convey was retaining the game's integrity when filming in Thailand. "We delivered something fresh and exciting that hadn't been seen before in American cinema, and I think that stuff still holds up," he said. "Two actors who really know how to fight going at it, that's a thing of beauty that holds up whether it was done 30 years ago or three weeks ago. That's something Mortal Kombat has in spades, which is why I think it's cool." Helping the film was its effective use of CGI despite its limitations in the 90s. Mortal Kombat became a box office success making $122 million worldwide at the box office, making more than six times its budget. It spawned the ill-fated sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) but showed film audiences video game films don't have to be awful in the right hands. The 1995 film starred Robin Shou, Christopher Lambert, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Linden Ashby, and Bridgette Wilson. Anderson would prove that again in the Resident Evil film franchise. You can read more about Mortal Kombat's casting, choreography, upcoming remake, and meeting fan expectations at EW. What is your most favorite moment from the films?

Mortal Kombat Director Paul W.S. Anderson Reflects on 25 Years
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat (1994). Image courtesy of New Line Cinema

 

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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