MORTAL KOMBAT: BATTLE OF THE REALMS Interview: Dave B. Mitchell On Finding Humanity In Raiden (Exclusive)
Mortal Kombat: Battle of the Realms star Dave B. Mitchell talks about finding the humanity in Raiden in the sequel, delving into his relationship with Liu Kang and getting physical in the recording booth.
Picking up shortly after the explosive finale of Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms follows a team of heroes who are besieged by the enemy forces of Shao Kahn. Raiden and his group of warriors are forced into a deal to compete in a final Mortal Kombat that will determine the fate of the realms; Scorpion, meanwhile, must find the ancient Kamidogu before it's used to resurrect the One Being to avert the destruction of all things.
Earlier this week, we sat down with voiceover acting legend Dave B. Mitchell to discuss his role as Raiden in the animated sequel. A Mortal Kombat veteran after starring in the eleventh chapter of the video game franchise, he returns as Raiden here and also lends his voice to Kintaro and Sektor.
Breaking down how his performance changed once Raiden lost his God-like abilities, Dave goes on to discuss his three very different roles in the project, what it meant to him to explore Raiden's dynamic with Liu Kang, and the secrets to perfecting fight scenes when you're stuck in a recording booth.
He also addresses the possibility of returning as Shocker after starring in Insomniac's hit Spider-Man video game in 2018, and as we're sure you'll agree, it's clear Dave is a big fan of these franchises!
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms arrives August 31 on 4K/Blu-ray & Digital!
In this movie, we quickly see Raiden lose his Godhood, so what role, if any, did that play in how you approached playing him in the sequel?
Well, it’s interesting because I’ve been a longtime Mortal Kombat fan since the first game. I’m in Mortal Kombat 11 in a different role, but Raiden is obviously an iconic character. To really dig into his humanity and the fact that the core of who he is, God or human, is the protector of Earthrealm. That’s his thing. Also, the fact he has a very special relationship with Liu Kang. We got to see some really nice moments of that relationship and the purity of Raiden. Even without his powers, he’s still the same person at his core. He’s an honourable and loyal defender of what he sees as being the good side. To really see that consistency of character even without his powers informed how that whole thing played out.
Of course, you’re also lending your voice to Kintaro and Sektor, so can you talk about how your approach with those two differed?
Sektor doesn’t say a whole lot, but I had actually played him in Mortal Kombat 11. The funny thing was for me is that Sektor is actually my favourite character in the entire MK Universe. I was really excited to get to play him and to carry that over into this was really cool. Kintaro is another favourite character as far as the bad guys go, and for him, it was trying to find his brutality. Obviously, he’s got that beast thing going on anyway, but he’s all aggression so I had to tap into that and find his arrogance too. Most of the outworlders are arrogant and aggressive. They’re sure they're going to win, so that jumped off the page at me and was kind of right there. Tapping into that and making that the direction we went was fun. It was fun to get to play both sides like that. I know there’s at least one scene where I’m opposing myself with Raiden and Kintaro in the scene together, so that was kinda fun too [Laughs].
Raiden’s relationship with Liu Kang is such a huge part of this movie, but what about that dynamic did you find most interesting to explore?
I guess that’s it right there. Liu Kang, in pretty much any iteration of the games or otherwise and in the lore of Mortal Kombat, is the central character because he is the chosen one. He was destined to be the saviour of Earthrealm, so getting to see that depth of the relationship...Raiden genuinely loves Liu Kang. He loves him as a son. He knows what Liu Kang is capable of even when Liu Kang doesn’t, so it’s that great paternal relationship he has with him and the fact we get to see those softer moments with him. We really see how much Raiden loves and cares for Liu Kang. He’s a pure soul and Raiden was always the one that saw that. So much of this stuff for me, not just as an actor getting to do this, but as a fan of this franchise and these characters, every moment I spent working on this was a joy. Both of the films, Scorpion’s Revenge and then this new one, Battle of the Realms, are...I love them. I think they’re great. It’s been an absolute pleasure to explore these things and see some different sides of these characters than we’ve seen before.
The action scenes in this movie are fantastic, but what would you say is the secret to perfecting that physicality in the recording booth?
You are on your own as a general rule, particularly with games. In animation, a lot of the time they do try to put the cast together so that they can mime that chemistry when we’re in the same space. Obviously, over the past year and a half, that hasn’t been possible with COVID. One of the things I talk about in my classes, because I teach video game classes, is that when it comes to that sort of stuff...with animation, it’s a little different, because a lot of the time you’ll have stuff on screen to follow, but usually even before they animate the fights, we’ll end up giving a pass of what’s described in the script because they usually give a pretty good description. Sometimes it will just say ‘they fight,’ but a lot of times it will give you a good direction of where it goes and how it’s working, and the director is always very good at that sort of leading us down the path of where the physicality is.
The thing I always talk about in my classes with what we call ‘efforts’ which is doing fighting sounds, exertion, and things like that is with the trick to doing them successfully being to connect every effort to something super specific. Even if it says, ‘Okay, I want you to do a set of three punches, light, medium, and heavy, and then three impacts the same way,’ the trick is not to just throw a punch, but to think about exactly what sort of punch you’re throwing. It is an uppercut? A hook? A cross? A couple of jabs? How am I kicking and what am I kicking? Am I throwing a roundhouse kick to the low section? A sidekick to the middle? Am I throwing a wheel kick to the head? All those things are super-specific and sound different. If you do them in real life, they’re going to have different sounds because you’re using your body in different ways and you’re using different parts of your body and striking different parts of your opponent. The trick is to connect every single action you're depicting to something super specific.
That ends up giving you not only a nice variety of sounds, but we're accustomed to things sounding a certain way just from having watched movies or combat sports, so I think we have a pre-existing idea in our head of what some things are going to sound like. If we connect those performances to really specific actions, I think it plays well and certainly came off in this. As you said, to watch an animated fight and still get invested and be on the edge of your seat, they did them really well and are consistent with the MK Universe because they are brutal, bloody, and so much fun [Laughs].
On another note, I’m a huge Spider-Man fan, so what did it mean to you to play Shocker in that game and has there been any talk of a possible return?
It was a thrill and an honour. I’m an honest to God, dye in the wool, card-carrying geek. I have been my whole life. I’m a comic book fan, a science-fiction fan, [and] a video game fan. The nice thing is that I get to work on so many things that I already have a love for and Spider-Man was definitely no exception. I’m a longtime Spider-Man fan. Shocker is a great character and one of the most difficult opponents that Spider-Man ever had because he’s had Spidey on the ropes a couple of times in the comics! He’s no joke. To get to bring that character to life was amazing. My performance aside - take me out of the picture - just the version of Shocker that they conceived for the game is my favourite version of the character. I love the reimagined look of his armour. One of the things that really struck me when they showed me some of the early animations when we started doing the game, when you saw him use the shock gauntlets, I kind of felt like that was the first time in any medium we’ve seen just how powerful those shock gauntlets are. The fact that Herman [Schultz] really is a genuine threat and when I saw those in action I went, ‘Wow, I can really feel the power of those for the first time.’ As far as coming back, oh God yes. If they ask me back, I will be there in a heartbeat. I would love to play Herman again.
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