The 2021 Mortal Kombat movie ain’t perfect, but it has quite a bit going for it. The production design is incredible, the costumes are gorgeous, and quite a few of the special effects are seamless. While some of the special effects don’t quite mesh and the tonal inconsistencies can be jarring, when Mortal Kombat get something right, it really nails it. Warner Brothers released a 20-minute featurette, From Game to Screen: The Making of Mortal Kombat, that takes a deep dive into just how they made the video game come to life. What’s clear is that the people who made the movie really love the video games, and this was a project of pure passion. The cast and crew dug deep to share some great behind-the-scenes tidbits about the costumes, locations, and special effects that made the world feel more real.

Creating the Costumes

Costume designer Cappi Ireland said that it was important to make the fantastical costumes have a basis in a grittier reality.

“We used real textures, real fabrics, real earthy cottons and leathers and metals, nothing too shiny and new, nothing too superheroey,” she explains as she shows off rows and rows of fabrics and costumes. 

Quite a bit of thought went into each of the costumes, from Sub-Zero’s wild looking cowl to Scorpion’s samurai-style armor. Sub-Zero was the first costume design they developed, and they wanted his hood and neckpiece to look almost organic, like sinewy muscles. His armor was based on a traditional Chinese armor pattern. In fact, quite a few of the armor pieces for various characters were based on Chinese and Korean armor. Scorpion, however, was based more directly on Japanese samurai. The spikes on the chest-piece of his armor are actually made from the digging claws his family are using at the beginning of the film!

There are a lot of little Easter eggs hidden in the costumes. They wanted to make Kano more realistic, since he comes from our world, so they removed the giant glowing chest-piece from the video games and replaced it with an ouroboros, or a snake eating its own tail, on his chest belt. Perhaps the best secret? The button combinations for all of Kabal’s special moves in the Playstation games are on the top of his helmet, in tiny print.

Location, Location, Locations!

One of the most impressive things in Mortal Kombat is the sense of scale. There are some absolutely massive locations where the action takes place, with loads of detail. This was achieved by shooting on location instead of a soundstage.

Director Simon McQuoid told his crew to go out and find him the biggest, most epic locations they could in South Austrailia, and they delivered. They ended up shooting at the Leigh Creek coal mine for most of the Outworld sequences. Raiden’s temple is actually abandoned opal mines. They also shot in Black Hill Quarry, which has only one access road and can reach temperatures of 105 degrees. While shooting on location could be unpleasant, McQuoid believed it was worth the effort.

“No one wants to go and shoot in the bottom of a coal mine,” he said. “When you go down there, and we have these incredible costumes and these incredible actors, and then you put them in this incredible location, all of a sudden it becomes another world.”

Bringing the Unreal to Life

While there is a lot of computer-generated imagery in Mortal Kombat, McQuoid stressed that he wanted things to be done practically whenever possible.

“One thing I stressed very early on is that I want this film to be in camera,” he said. 

To accomplish this, many of the special effects shots used a mix of practical and digital effects. Some things were just impossible to do with practical effects, like Mileena’s split mouth or the character of Reptile, who can go invisible. When they could make a practical effect, though, they did. The featurette shows some of the wild work of the effects team, including building a massive ice gun that launched foot-long ice chunk “bullets.” You also get a chance to see some of the fatalities in all of the gory glory, sans CGI. They’re still plenty gross, trust me.

“It’s sort of the chaos of reality that can’t be animated sometimes, that I think an audience will believe that it is real, because it is,” special effects supervisor Peter Stubbs explained. 

Check out the featurette on the Warner Bros. Entertainmenton YouTube channel if you want to see more from behind the scenes of Mortal Kombat.

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