STACK chats with director Simon McQuoid about shooting the new Mortal Kombat movie Down Under.

Mortal Kombat returns as a movie for the first time in 24 years, and what an absolute treat it is for gaming fans and movie lovers alike!

Based upon the popular video game franchise of the same name, the new film is the third live-action treatment of the series following the box office hit Mortal Kombat (1995) and its poorly received sequel, Annihilation (1997). But if fans of the game have any reservations about this latest effort, they need not worry, because director Simon McQuoid and producer James Wan (Saw, Aquaman) have conjured a kick-ass film that adheres to the lore of the games, dazzles with fantasy, and carries an unexpected gravitas.

Speaking with STACK, McQuoid discusses the importance of augmenting practical effects with digital effects to bolster the film’s authenticity.

“To go against the norm of what digital effects tend to look like, and become, takes a bit of time to get everyone on the same page,” he explains. “But the visual effects companies that we worked with all got it really quickly. That was a wonderful experience, working with them. And by shooting a lot of stuff in-camera to begin with, we ground it in a very elemental and very gritty and real feeling. That helped inform the visual effects companies when they got the material. It kept a very real and consistent look and feel for them to match, and they did a great job.”

International audiences may be oblivious to the fact that the film was shot in South Australia, with the production taking advantage of the state’s unique scenery and versatile landscapes. What many people might assume to be proficient soundstage designs are actually – for the most part – real locations. The subterranean tournament arena, for example, was shot inside Black Hill Quarry, situated in a remote area north of Adelaide.

In taking advantage of SA’s natural resources, McQuoid reflects on the one location that had concerned him ahead of filming.

“The one great surprise, and great relief, was the old grove pine forest that we found, which is the opening of the movie. That was amazing, and I was worried we wouldn’t find that in Australia. It’s incredible – a breathtaking location to spend time in. We actually shot that after we had been out in the desert in Coober Pedy and it was like coming into a day spa, coming back into a beautiful, gorgeous temperature, and shady. But yeah, South Australia provided enormous and really strong locations.”

Mortal Kombat is full of so many wonderful iconic characters, but there’s little doubt that Josh Lawson’s Kano is destined to be the crowd favourite. Delivering hysterical gags at a relentless pace throughout the movie, Lawson’s take on the character is almost polarising.

When asked about finding the right measure of humour, McQuoid elaborates: “I went in knowing that there needed to be comedy, but it had to be the right type of comedy. It had to come from a character, and it couldn’t be sprayed across the whole film, because then the tonality would be out of balance. So we needed the comedy that comes from Josh to balance the important and very earnest aspects of the Mortal Kombat lore.”

Although Mortal Kombat is McQuoid’s first feature-length movie, he is no stranger to filmmaking, having come from the world of commercials. His notable work includes advertisements for companies like Duracell, Nissan and Samsung, but when asked if stepping into the world of big budget Hollywood filmmaking was a daunting proposition, his response is unequivocal.

“No, not at all. I was so ready and so looking forward to it. And the commercials I do on a day-to-day basis feel pretty similar to this, it’s just that I don’t do them for so long, you know?”

There is no doubt about it, Mortal Kombat is bang-for-buck cinema – a highly stylised, ultra-violent and ferociously fun film that honours its source material, while also providing an easy entry point for newcomers to the franchise.

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