Mortal Kombat's Stars Believe the Film's Diversity Gives It Added Resonance

Joe Taslim as Bi-Han and Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi will each evolve into something more in Mortal Kombat.
Joe Taslim as Bi-Han and Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi will each evolve into something more in Mortal Kombat.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Though Mortal Kombat is an action-packed adaptation of a hit video game, releasing it right now may wind up meaning a little something extra. The film is filled with actors from all walks of life, but many of are of Asian descent. In a time when violence against AAPI community is at the forefront of public discussion and awareness, the films actors believe it shouldn’t go unnoticed that a movie filled with a cast this diverse is poised to be a worldwide hit.

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“It’s very important, especially now, if this movie could give not just entertainment to the people ... but give hope that Hollywood is more diverse, the door is open and everything is possible,” actor Joe Taslim, who plays Sub-Zero, told io9. “If you’re Asian and then you’re thinking about Hollywood, [some people think] it’s just for the West. You’re wrong, because now Hollywood is not only for America or North America. Hollywood belongs to the world. And this diversity is important to make people think if they can do it, I can do it.”

“With what’s happening in North America and in the West right now with all this hate, I want people to believe that this is something that we need to work on together as a team, like Earth Realm in the film,” Taslim continues. “You got to be in it together. This is the fight that everybody needs to be involved [in]. It’s humanity. It’s not about color, race, religion, et cetera. It’s about you want to fight for humanity or not. I think that’s the message.”

Lewis Tan as Cole Young in Mortal Kombat.
Lewis Tan as Cole Young in Mortal Kombat.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Lewis Tan, who plays Sub-Zero rival and Mortal Kombat newcomer Cole Young, agreed. “I’ve been campaigning for diversity in Hollywood for many years,” the Iron Fist, Wu Assassins, and Deadpool 2 actor told io9. “Coincidentally, this is coming out at crazy time where there’s so much violence towards Asian people for whatever reason. There’s many different reasons. But I was looking at a big, big poster of me on the side of the building, and I was like, ‘This is so crazy.’ The emotion that I had when I saw it was really non-objectively thinking ‘Wow. This is a moment in history where Asian people are being targeted and at the same time, there’s this big old picture of this Asian dude with no shirt on the side of this gigantic building and all over the world.’”

“[Mortal Kombat] is going to help in a way that it helps people identify you with the culture and the norm,” Tan continued. “The norm of being part of culture, doing cool things, being heroes, being these awesome characters, larger than life. And it just gives you a different perspective of how people look. Obviously, that’s very important because how people look is causing them to be injured and killed and targeted. It’s crazy for me to see. It’s heartbreaking for me to see. At the same time, I’ll use my platform in any way I can to help this movement to the best of my ability.”

Ludi Lin as Liu Kang and Max Huang as Kung Lao make up more of the diverse cast.
Ludi Lin as Liu Kang and Max Huang as Kung Lao make up more of the diverse cast.
Photo: Warner Bros.
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Hoping a movie that uses extreme violence for entertainment purposes could make people committing actual acts of extreme violence think differently might be a stretch, but every little bit helps. Seeing this incredible cast will absolutely remind everyone that anyone can be a hero. Tan and Taslim are both right when they say normalizing the kind of diversity a film like Mortal Kombat has could reach far beyond the screen.

Mortal Kombat hits theaters, and HBO Max, April 23.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo. Formerly of Premiere, EW, Us Weekly, and Slashfilm. AP Award-Winning Film Critic and CCA member. Loves Star Wars, posters, Legos, and often all three at once.

DISCUSSION

amontilladowolf
AmontilladoWolf

I’m a little confused about the subject matter of representation in just one sense:

I’ve heard from some Asian American actors that they are tired of the “all asian people do martial arts” trope, as it’s been going on for 60 years in Hollywood. But everyone here seems excited. Obviously no culture is a monolith and I’m guessing this is just a sentiment that not all Asian Americans share - aside from this clearly being a marketing thing, as “diversity” has been a big buzz word for several years in promoting movies with even one iota of diversity.

So I guess this film is making POC feel better by engaging in these tropes?

Regardless, I’m super fucking hyped to see this movie.