Video game movies are notoriously difficult to crack, but Hollywood has been developing a third Mortal Kombat movie for many years now. The popular fighting game first came to the big screen in 1995, which was followed by the 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but just a few years ago Warner Bros. began developing a big-screen adaptation that sadly has yet to get off the ground. Most recently, filmmaker James Wan—who’s currently directing Aquaman—signed on to produce the Mortal Kombat reboot, and last November commercials director Simon McQuoid came onboard to direct.
But the very first writer on this project, years ago, was Oren Uziel. I recently got the chance to speak with Uziel in anticipation of the release of his directorial debut, the Netflix crime thriller Shimmer Lake (which is available June 9th), and the screenwriter explained his long history with the Mortal Kombat property:
“I have a long history with that Mortal Kombat project. It was kind of the first thing I got hired on. After Shimmer Lake went out around town I took a lot of meetings and one of the first job’s I got, and then ended up not getting, was to write Mortal Kombat for Warner Bros. But the guy who hired me exited the company before we even completed the paperwork. So it was like a job that existed and then disappeared, it was soul-crushing. But Kevin Tancharoen, who I guess was also trying to direct that movie before it went away, he called me and said, ‘Hey, would you be willing to write a short that I would shoot, because I think there’s something here, I think we can convince Warner Bros. to do it.’
That short film was Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, which took off on the internet and spurred a digital series on Machinima:
“I ended up writing a short for him that he shot and it became kind of a big thing, and I know he used that to convince Machinima to make the digital series which I didn’t have anything to do with, and then after a couple years of that New Line came onboard to actually make a feature version again. And it was at that point that Kevin called and New Line called and said, ‘Hey, you were there at at the beginning, do you wanna come back?’ I said, ‘Sure’, so I wrote them a feature that has been the basis of what the Mortal Kombat movie will be, but it’s been kicking around for a little while now. I know James Wan came on to produce, so that to me was a good sign that maybe things were heating up again, but beyond that I really don’t know the specifics.”
It’s unclear how much of Uziel’s script remains in the version of the film currently in development, but he did describe the tone of his take on the material, and it’s pretty great:
“Well, and again I don’t know what remains of this, but I know that it was going to be—it’s almost like if you took The Avengers, or if you took a storyline like that and set it in a sort of hard-R, over-the-top violence and hard-edged world of Mortal Kombat. It was a little bit like that, it was a little bit like a Wanted-type story that brought together a bunch of these characters and just pulled zero punches, and had a tone that was still fun but very dark.”