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How the Mortal Kombat Movie Almost Lost All Its Combat

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How the Mortal Kombat Movie Almost Lost All Its Combat 2

If New Line Cinema had its way, 1995’s Mortal Kombat movie would have had far less Kombat in it, according to its director. During his New York Comic Con panel, Paul W.S. Anderson revealed that eleventh-hour budget cuts drastically affected the original scope of his video game adaptation’s fight scenes and that it was only after positive test screening feedback that he was allowed to deliver the combat as it was originally envisioned.“What happened was right before we started shooting, Bob Shaye, who was running New Line at the time, he decided that we had too much money and I disagreed, obviously, as a filmmaker,” Anderson recalled, claiming $3 million was shaved off Mortal Kombat’s budget. “We had to shoot the story we had. We had to get that on screen. So some of the fight scenes that were due to be done and take a week, we had to do in a couple of days. So all the fights were there, but we couldn’t deliver the fights that I originally planned.”

Test audiences who screened an early cut of the film responded positively but, Anderson claimed, “the fans came back and said, ‘There’s not enough fighting in the film. It’s Mortal Kombat. Where’s the combat?’ So we basically went and we shot all the stuff that we cut out of the original version of the movie. We shot it all later. So it wasn’t additional photography. It was kind of doing what we really wanted to do in the first place.”One such Mortal Kombat sequence that was bolstered was the battle between Johnny Cage and Scorpion, which Anderson claims initially concluded right as the brawl seemed like it was literally kicking off.

“For example, the Scorpion fight was always there, but it kind of ended when Johnny did the shadow kick and kind of knocked out Scorpion. So it felt like the beginning of a fight but it didn’t feel like a real kind of three-ring circus of a fight. Which is then what we ended up shooting when we did the additional photography,” Anderson explained. “And the same with Liu versus Reptile. That fight started, but we then continued it and just made more of a meal of it. Then we tested the movie a second time and people just absolutely loved it.”

Mortal Kombat’s limited budget didn’t allow for much in the way of CGI visual effects, not that Anderson regrets that considering how CGI from other 25-year-old movies have aged. Indeed, one of Mortal Kombat’s more notorious practical visual effects, its animatronic Goro, “still looks pretty decent now” to the director compared to how “deeply embarrassing” many CG effects of the era seem now.

Mortal Kombat’s Bizarre History of Movie and TV Adaptations

“I’ve always been somebody who tries to limit the amount of CG in a movie. Even back then, the reason for it was, it was very, very expensive. But I think if you can do things practically, they have more impact, and they also stand the test of time. Obviously, Mortal Kombat is a movie that in some regards is dated, but it still holds up pretty good, because I think a bone-crunching fight is still a bone-crunching fight. A good fight is a good fight, and it doesn’t matter when it was shot. Good CG, that dates really fast. What is cutting edge CG, you look at it 10 years later, and you go, ‘Oh, my God, that’s deeply embarrassing.’”

Anderson praised Mortal Kombat for relying on wire-work, location shooting, and practical sets rather than CGI that would have only chewed up his meager budget and not aged well. He cited the movie’s puppet version of the four-armed combatant Goro as an example of a practical effect that has stood the test of time relatively well.

“(Goro) was really difficult to work with because he was a big, complicated animatronic,” Anderson said. “But what we got was reality. I could do an over the shoulder shot with Goro of Trevor Goddard playing Kano and he’s really there. You’re really shooting over his shoulder. It’s not composite that kind of in 10 years time looks really, really dated. And I think doing it practical like that with some CG enhancement, which we did with his lips to kind of help with the lip sync, I think ultimately, was the best way to shoot him because the guy really holds up. He still looks pretty decent now.”Goro in 1995's Mortal Kombat.

Goro in 1995’s Mortal Kombat.

Do you think the movie’s portrayal of Goro holds up well 25 years later? Let us know in the comments.

For more of Paul W.S. Anderson’s NYCC panel, discover why Monster Hunter’s hero is from our world and learn which video game characters are confirmed to appear in Anderson’s Monster Hunter movie.

Meanwhile, a Mortal Kombat reboot is headed to screens in 2021. Learn who plays who in the new Mortal Kombat movie.

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