When you think of Mortal Kombat, you think of blood. Buckets and buckets of it. The kind of gruesome splatter that results when you defeat an opponent in a savage fight to the death. But blood, as envisioned by director Simon McQuoid for the upcoming video game-inspired cinematic reboot, has many meanings.
“Blood represents family,” he tells EW. “Blood represents connection. Blood represents who we are. Without getting too complicated, what we did was use blood in an executive way.” And it starts flowing from the beginning.
If this new version of Mortal Kombat, revealed in EW’s exclusive early photos, is a “blood universe,” McQuoid says the kunai blade is at its center. It’s the signature weapon of fan-favorite game character Hanzo Hasashi, aka Scorpion, played by The Wolverine and The Twilight Samurai star Hiroyuki Sanada.
Mortal Kombat, produced by Aquaman’s Todd Garner and James Wan, opens with a crucial part of the original games’ story: the blood feud between the clans of Hanzo and Bi-Han (Warrior’s Joe Taslim). The 10-minute opening sequence begins in feudal Japan, long before these fighters had supernatural abilities like Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and ends with a “pretty nasty scuffle” between the two, according to McQuoid. That’s why the first film’s director cast Sanada and Taslim, two actors known for their martial arts skills. “[Hanzo is] the leader of a ninja clan, and he’s strong, but he’s also … a peaceful family man at first,” Sanada says. “It’s like a family drama with exciting and brutal fights. That’s the image of this film for me,” he adds.
The story of Bi-Han and Hanzo “had to be told within the fight,” McQuoid says. “There are some cool camera movements that give it a little bit of momentum, which makes it really nice. We wanted it to be really elemental and brutal. It’s not a glossy film…. I wanted the dirt and grime to come out.”
That brutality carries over into the present, where we meet Cole Young, a brand new character in the Mortal Kombat world played by actor and martial artist Lewis Tan (Wu Assassins, Into the Badlands), someone who takes pride in performing his own stunts despite the pain of training.
When we first meet Cole, he’s in really bad shape,” Tan says. “He’s in the doldrums. He’s kind of a failed MMA fighter who used to be a champion, who used to believe in himself, who used to have a lot of hope for his career. And it’s all gone down the drain. It’s a really interesting place for a hero to start, and I think over the course of Mortal Kombat’s journey and Cole discovering where he comes from, it introduces all these other iconic characters and elements that everyone loves so much.”
Cole knows nothing about his origins, aside from the mysterious birthmark on his chest in the shape of the Mortal Kombat symbol. Tan says nothing about how this birthmark relates to the character’s origins, but agrees that “it’s a unique symbol” that “ends up being related to the journey he’s going on.” It remains the only clue Cole has when the sinister sorcerer and ruler of the outside world, Shang Tsung (Chin Han of Skyscraper), sends Sub-Zero, now with his cryomancy powers, to hunt him down.