If you haven’t already, check out the red band trailer below:
A Chilling First Impression
The trailer opens with Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) investigating a building with an interior bizarrely coated in ice, but any Mortal Kombat fan knows that means Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) is nearby.“This is really the first time [Jax has] encountered Sub-Zero,” McQuoid said of the scene. “So he’s starting to learn stuff about what this character and this creature can do.”
Jax gets introduced to the blue-clad ninja in a way he will never forget, as Sub-Zero uses his ice powers to effortlessly, impossibly stop a shotgun blast fired in his face at point-blank range. McQuoid emphasized how it was important to introduce the revered and well-known fighters of Mortal Kombat in a way that left a strong impression of their character while also demonstrating their unique abilities.
“[Sub-Zero] has no problem freezing the gun, he’s in total control,” McQuoid said. “This was a whole setup to educate what Sub-Zero is doing here and show he, literally in the face of danger, has no problem.”
And then comes the first of many violent delights in the trailer: Sub-Zero sends a surge of ice down Jax’s arms, causing them to instantly freeze and shatter. Again, Mortal Kombat diehards know that something bad will usually happen to Jax’s arms–in one take on his origin they are damaged beyond repair by Prince Goro, while in another Ermac uses telekinesis to rip them clean off–all so he can wind up with his signature robotic arms, as seen later in the trailer.
“In this film we needed to drive a few certain characters and narratives, and so given that [Jax losing his arms] had been done a couple of different ways in the past, we felt we had a bit of license to do that again here,” McQuoid said. “We’ve really tried to be very truthful and true to the canon where we can be, but every now and again, we might deviate slightly where we felt that it was okay to do so.”
Sub-Zero is a character with a lot of history in Mortal Kombat lore. The mantle has been held by two different brothers, each with their own agenda and moral alignment. McQuoid says the movie version is inspired by the original Sub-Zero named Bi-Han, and given how we watched him maim a hero in merciless fashion, it won’t surprise you to hear he’s a bad guy. In fact, McQuoid described Sub-Zero as the key villain of the film.
Adding Some New Blood
While this new Mortal Kombat movie has plenty of familiar characters and story beats, even those who have been fans since the first video game debuted back in 1992 and can name every colored ninja from memory will have some surprises waiting for them. The film will introduce an original character named Cole Young (Lewis Tan) who bears a mysterious dragon marking on his chest.
“We felt it was okay to bring in a new character given that Mortal Kombat has over the years introduced new characters quite a bit,” McQuoid said. And he’s right–what started as a lineup of seven fighters in the first game has grown into a roster of almost 100, with new faces being added in each installment.
Cole finds an ally in Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), and she educates Cole on what will become the main conflict of the film: the Mortal Kombat tournament, which a select group of human warriors must win to prevent Earth from being invaded by the evil forces of Outworld.
McQuoid was tight-lipped when it came to discussing Cole and the dragon symbol, preferring to preserve the mystery until fans get to watch the movie themselves, but he did share that Cole is an underground MMA fighter before he’s swept up into the supernatural contest. Intriguingly, we watch as Cole is startled by a vision in the mirror of a fiery, yellow-clad warrior–we’ll learn why that particular character appears to him when we watch the movie, McQuoid promised.
Dressed to Kill
That yellow-clad warrior is of course Scorpion, by far the most popular Mortal Kombat fighter, played by Hiroyuki Sanada in the film. McQuoid explained how Scorpion is traditionally depicted as a sleek ninja but for the film they turned to Japanese history to inspire a new look.
“Hiroyuki Sanada was really incredibly helpful in getting the Japanese history right on this character,” McQuoid said. “We really wanted to be very true to his heritage and make it feel very genuine. That’s really why it was born out of this touch of samurai about it. Obviously there’s been many, many versions of Scorpion’s costume and how he looks, but out of authenticity came this version of Scorpion that kind of felt real, but also felt very powerful.”
Making such a bold change to a beloved character’s appearance was not done without careful consideration. Bringing Scorpion and the other fighters of Mortal Kombat to life in authentic fashion challenged McQuoid and his team to find practical purpose in every element of their design.
“The costumes needed a lot of detail in them, they needed a lot of texture and layering, so that they felt they had purpose rather than just being a costume,” McQuoid said. “[Scorpion’s costume] needed to have the armor plating with the detail in it and had a sort of dignity and elegance about it, which matched his character from the beginning.”
A Rivalry of Ice and Fire
The rivalry between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is one of the most enduring and iconic in all of video games, and it’s going to be a key component of the new movie. The film starts by showing how the rivalry began, with Hanzo Hasashi (the man who becomes Scorpion) defending his Shirai Ryu village from an attack by Bi-Han’s clan, the Lin Kuei.
“It’s really about seeing [Scorpion’s] evolution on the screen and the ingredients, both emotional and physical as to why he becomes Scorpion. And so that is explained across the opening of our film. And it’s a pretty brutal, nasty fight,” McQuoid teased.
The trailer shows how a moment of improvisation during that heated battle leads to the creation of Scorpion’s signature “spear” weapon, made from a kunai attached to a rope.
“We did a bit of research into what a kunai actually is, and it was originally, not exclusively, but it was often used as a gardening tool in 14th century, Japan,” McQuoid explained. “That’s why [Scorpion] has the kunai on the end of that rope, because that’s all he has at the time. You’ll see how he sort of adapts and turns that rope and that gardening tool into a pretty lethal weapon that really does the job.”
When it came to depicting Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s abilities, McQuoid wanted to emphasize their elemental nature, showing a battle of fire against ice.
“I wanted it to feel real and I wanted to feel very elemental, not silly or too shiny. It’s always got to have some mongrel about it, so it feels completely real and believable,” McQuoid said, highlighting the shot of Sub-Zero slowly creating a crude ice dagger.
Even when the fighters weren’t using their powers, it was important to McQuoid for the characters to evoke a strong physical presence.
“Joe Taslim did an amazing job [as Sub-Zero.] He represented Indonesia for judo, so the guy is an athlete and he shows it, and the presence he brought to that character was just extraordinary,” McQuoid praised. “And [Scorpion actor] Hiroyuki Sanada is a very, very gifted swordsman and athlete in his own ways. Physicality between these two guys was quite extraordinary to watch. Just years and years of experience and ability to do these moves was kind of all baked into them. … That level of brutality and physicality is what I wanted to bring to the film, and those guys certainly delivered.”
Fan Service and Fatalities
The Mortal Kombat games are known for their over-the-top violence and brutal beatdowns as much as their sense of humor and signature phrases.
No character glimpsed in the trailer seems to embody all of those elements more than Kano, played by Josh Lawson. Kano is shown executing his signature Fatality by viciously ripping the still-beating heart out of his enemy and gleefully declaring, “Kano wins!”
“The Fatalities were always in from the get-go, there was never any question from anyone at all. There was no resistance from the studio. They wanted them, I wanted them,” McQuoid said. “There’s a fatality from Kano, he ripped someone’s heart out. But what was important to me was that even when the Fatalities arrived, we couldn’t just do a Fatality and have it mean nothing. … It actually becomes an important ingredient in the rhythm of the action scene.”
Well, consider that one heck of a bloody exclamation point on the first Mortal Kombat trailer. Mortal Kombat is set to release in theaters and on HBO Max on April 16 in the US.
Want even more on the new Mortal Kombat movie? Here’s your exclusive first look at the Mortal Kombat movie poster featuring Sub-Zero and Scorpion.
Joshua is a Senior Editor and Producer of Features at IGN. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Star Wars are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.