Ricky Church chats with Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms producer Rick Morales…
Next week sees the release of the animated film Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, the sequel to last year’s Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge. The film sees Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage and the other defenders of Earthrealm challenged by Shao Khan to one final Mortal Kombat, determining forever the fate of Earthrealm even as a greater threat to all the realms loom over them.
We got the chance to speak with the film’s producer Rick Morales on the almost 30-year legacy of the Mortal Kombat franchise, working with creator Ed Boon on which iconic characters to use, adapting the characters fighting styles into the animation and more. Check out our discussion below…
Ricky Church: Mortal Kombat has been around for nearly 30 years now with next year being the 30th anniversary. Why do you think this franchise’s appeal has been so enduring?
Rick Morales: I just think the characters and the world they’ve created are all drawn from sources that people are familiar with. Basically this franchise has everything. It’s got cyborgs and monsters and ninjas and soldiers! It’s got something for everyone literally. And then also the gameplay! The games have been so good and they just keep getting better and better. The look, the feel, just the way they play. They’ve really stayed on top with keeping that stuff modern and exciting. And that’s why it endures, because of its quality.
Now Battle of the Realms continues the story from Scorpion’s Revenge. How did you begin developing the idea of continuing the journeys of Scorpion and Liu Kang in particular among the other characters?
When we started the first film, as we started to talk about what the story was and how it was going to be following Scorpion and this and that, Liu Kang kept sticking his head in because he’s unavoidable. He’s such an important character, you know? And so as we talked about developing that first movie, Jeremy [Adams, screenwriter] and I were of course talking about if this happened then this would happen later on and follow Liu Kang. It became very clear very early on that if we were to do a second film it was going to be Liu Kang focused because that just naturally felt like the right way for that story to develop. We just let it go that way because I do feel like Liu Kang is the centre of this universe, really. He’s the Chosen One. I wanted to get into the question of how does he deal with that?
Talking about Liu Kang as the centre of the franchise, Mortal Kombat has such a large roster of characters. Aside from making it focused on Liu Kang, how did you choose who will appear, who else will have the focus or even when you do the Mortal Kombat matches, who will fight one another?
Yeah, it’s a discussion that we had also with NetherRealm, with Ed Boon. We come with proposals and for this movie, this movie is just packed with characters and ideas and big set pieces. It’s just big and sprawling. There are a number of characters that were in this film that didn’t make the cut because it was just too packed and there was not enough space for them. It’s a difficult decision, but for me Scorpion, Liu Kang, Sonya, Johnny, Jax was a character that I really wanted more of in the sequel because we just didn’t get to do much with him in that first film. Those are guys that, and that’s already a big cast, we knew we wanted to follow and develop and we get late seeds in the first movie for the relationship with Johnny and Sonya and wanted to explore that more.
Those were the easy ones and then it became like who else can we bring in that fans would appreciate seeing and that we could do something cool with. Stryker, Jade and characters like that, Kung Lao, we wanted to expand the world and show a lot more. I in particular was excited to get more time to spend with Sub-Zero. I’ve been saying it over and over again, but he’s one of my favourite characters in the games. When we’re playing the games he’s the character I generally play. I just wanted more.
Now, we’ve been talking about the games and of course Mortal Kombat is mostly known for the video games. There are so many in the franchise now, what elements from the games influenced you while making these movies? One thing I liked was the x-ray vision during the fights which was introduced in one of the games not too long ago. Was there anything else from the games or any pieces of lore you said we should bring this into the movies?
Oh yeah! So, so, so much of it. We were even taking stuff from some of their non-fighting games that that they’ve made on some platforms and stuff off the beaten path of Mortal Kombat games for this one. For instance, the Temple of the Elements and stuff like that. Yeah, we pulled from all sources for this film. Luckily we get to work with Ed and Dominic and pick their brains about the lore directly because there’s a lot of resources out there for Mortal Kombat. There’s a lot of fan pages and speculation about what happens here and there, this and that, but to be able to actually go to the source and talk to those people and be like “what was your intention here?” or “what should this be? What is that?” was invaluable to us to keep us honest and faithful to the lore they’ve created.
One of the things I really liked about the movie is the animation, which I thought was really cool and very well choreographed. Like you said, you have such a large ensemble of characters who all have different moves and powers and skillsets. Was it difficult to keep track of the varied fight styles and keep it in the spirit of the games with the amount of violence, gore and fatalities?
Yeah. Yeah, it’s tough to track all that stuff really, to be quite honest with you. When the board artists start to work on this stuff, the director, Ethan Spaulding and I, we’ll look over it and it’s a constant “well, let’s add this moment from the games” or “let’s take this out and do this instead. Let’s try to work in a little bit more of a fight choreography from some of the games that they’ve done. Can we put a special move here? Does this need an x-ray?” Those are the questions that we’re constantly asking ourselves. Are we doing the x-rays too much now? Stuff like that. I’m trying to find the right balance with all of that, but yeah, it was important to me to be faithful to it as much as possible and actually use the moves from the game.
Watching the Mortal Kombat live-action movies, when I was a kid and even the Street Fighter live action, it would always just bug me that they never used their powers. They never just embraced it and just went for it, you know? And so that was always my thing with the crew here like, just let it go. We don’t have to try to make sense of why Liu Kang can shoot a fireball. He just does it. And Johnny Cage, he does the shadow kick, let’s have him use his power! I just think that’s how it is in the game and that’s how I want to see it on the screen.
Thank you to Rick Morales for speaking with us!
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms comes out on Blu-ray August 31st.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.