New ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie isn’t just about violence

Greg Russo was barely a teenager when he convinced his mom to buy him Mortal combat for the Sega Genesis. It was 1993 and she had to drive it to the local K-Mart in South Jersey to pick up a copy. Once he had it in his hands, he felt like he was getting away with something mean. Russo was aware of the brewing controversy Mortal combat at the time; how horrible and violent it was meant to be. His mom, not so much.

“After that, it was all day,” Russo said. “I joke with her these days. I’m like, ‘Hey Mom, I might have cheated on you, but listen, I wrote the movie.’ “

Russo is the screenwriter on Mortal combat, the film is set to hit theaters and streaming on April 23. He put together a story featuring series newcomer Cole Young and a cast of iconic characters, wrote dozens of fight and bloody death scenes, and dotted plenty of jokes and dramas, all while s ‘inspired by his long personal history with the franchise.

And for Russo, it’s definitely personal.

FREDERIC J. BROWN via Getty Images

“I grew up loving it,” he says. “I used to go to the arcade after school. It was like it was an escape for me. I grew up in a family with divorce, so for me it was a way out and being my own person, it was important. And for me, it was the arcade.

In the early 1990s, Mortal combat has become the center of an intense congressional debate on violence in pop culture. The game celebrated blood with a wink and a smile, featuring photorealistic characters spitting out pixelated blood as they gutted each other in horrific, often hilarious ways. By 1994, Mortal combat was partly to blame for the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which still slaps black-and-white ratings of video games today.

But for Russo and many others at the start Mortal combat fans, the game was purely fun and fantastic. He was playing it at home, on that Sega Genesis, but when he needed an escape he would visit the Mortal combat Arcade cabinet at the local Barkley Bowling Lane.

“It was just me and a bunch of kids, and it felt like our little safety net,” he said. “And Mortal combat was the throne around which we would all gather. So he took that real personal place for me, and my love for it just grew out of that experience, really.

Mortal Kombat was the throne around which we would all gather.

Barkley no longer exists, like many other bowling centers across the country. Mortal Kombat, however, has lasted. The series has produced dozens of video games across generations of consoles and a handful of films, most of which are cringe-worthy.

Russo made sure to add lightness to the new script, but not enough to release the dramatic momentum. As the movie demonstrates first seven minutes, he exhibits slow-burning tension that explodes in bloody violence, and he doesn’t shy away from mass murder, even when it comes to children. But of course there is also humor. It wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without it.

“Mortal Kombat – you know their deaths are insane,” Russo said. “They’re finding new ways to tear faces apart every day, and it’s ridiculously wonderful. I give them a lot of credit. But for a movie, we really wanted to make sure that the balance felt, that it didn’t feel overdone, and that it didn’t go into silly territory.

There is a rhythm in Mortal Kombat games – introduce a new character, launch them into a fight; introduce a new character; Throwing them into a fight – and it was Russo’s goal to infuse the film with similar rhythms.

Mortal Kombat (2021)

Warner Bros. Entertainment

“If you start with everyone in a way, Avengers-Fashion is just too much, ”he said. “You’re going to be lost trying to figure out who everyone is. So that allows our audience to slowly acclimate to the world of Mortal Kombat as we slowly introduce them. And then we have the creative thing – I thought it was just a lot of fun, because I felt like you unlocked characters as you scrolled through the movie, kind of like in a classic game mode. . “

Russo didn’t stop playing video games once Barkley Bowling Lane closed. He recently admitted to Polygon that it has an Xbox Live Gamerscore of “like 1.5 million”, which places it among the top 50 Xbox gamers in the world, and the top 15 in the United States. Work on Mortal combat was more than a fantastic opportunity for him. Mostly, it’s familiar.

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