Inspired by the worldwide video game sensation now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind finds vicious, power-mad Kano determined to take over Earthrealm, one soul at a time. Assisted by a trio of cold Black Dragon mercenaries, he embarks on a brutal assault from town to defenceless town. The choice is simple: Kneel or be annihilated.
But when the cocky and talented but undisciplined Kenshi doesn’t take a knee, Kano and his clan destroy the young warrior, taking his eyesight and his confidence. Under the tutelage of reluctant, retired Kuai Liang, the only one powerful enough to challenge the malevolent Kano, Kenshi finds renewed hope and a clear path to redemption. But will it be enough to stop Kano from decimating all of Earthrealm?
We recently had the opportunity to talk with some of Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind's cast, including the latest actor to bring Sub-Zero to life on screen, Ron Yuan (Marco Polo, Mulan), The actor previously lent his voice to Scorpion in Mortal Kombat 11, but this movie marks his debut in this animated Legends franchise.
During our conversation, Yuan explained his approach to Kuai Liang, how Logan inspired his approach to the character, and the biggest difference between working on a video game and a movie.
The actor also shares some insights into his creative process, whether he'd like to return to this Mortal Kombat Legends Universe, and what fans can expect from Sub-Zero in this adventure.
You obviously voiced Scorpion in Mortal Kombat 11, so what did it mean to you to return to the franchise, albeit as the equally iconic Sub-Zero?
Yeah, it was fun playing both parts. MK 11 was awesome because we did different kinds of Scorpion voices. I think, in total, there were three. For this animation, to just have the layers of playing a character in a film, for me as an actor, it’s what I normally do, so it was a lot of fun. I had fun on both ends.
To be part of this series and voice the two characters everyone recognises regardless of whether they’ve played the games must be a pretty special feeling as an actor?
I feel like it’s a blessing. As a fan of the games since the 90s…I love Liu Kang, but everyone loves Scorpion and Sub-Zero. To be able to have a chance to voice both is an incredible feeling.
In terms of how you approached this version of Sub-Zero, how would you say your preparation differed from when you worked on Scorpion?
I think with Sub-Zero, it was closer to my natural voice. The approach I took with the character is that he’s worn down and trying to escape aspects of his past and put certain things to rest. I came at it with that kind of perspective whereas, with Scorpion, there’s definitely a very dark, brooding revenge factor because of what happened to him and his family. That definitely comes from a different perspective, but with Sub-Zero, it’s almost like playing Scorpion ten or fifteen years later. He’s had time to process and to know what he does and doesn’t want now. It’s more human and relatable to us as an audience. That was what I was going for.
For our readers who may not know, can you talk about what the main differences are between working on a video game to an animated feature like this one?
MK 11 was interesting because you had to do different kinds of Scorpions because of the switching of the eras. That in itself was different. I actually loved the script for the game, but when we’re actually recording over a period of two years in total, it’s about coming in, plugging in, figuring out the situation, and just going in there. A lot of it, we have to build that back history for Scorpion ourselves. Whereas in animation, you get the script, and it’s more like when I’m working on a live-action feature or series. It’s about building character. What does he do on his off time? We know the habitual stuff he does, but why does he love being at peace? Those were the two main obvious differences in the approach.
When we find Sub-Zero here, he’s become withdrawn and almost a hermit, of sorts. What about that did you most enjoy exploring?
That’s what I love about this movie. It’s like when we watched Logan. That’s one of my favourite perspectives on Wolverine and the Wolverine legacy because he’s so done, man. For me, I approached it like that because I knew, at the end of the day, he’s going to train this kid, but what do we do to get there? It’s the hero’s journey to reject him at first, but then we see the innocence in the young man and why he wants to help. That was the kind of stuff I was approaching and what happens when that peace within Sub-Zero is broken and someone interrupts his life? He realises later that it is a calling for him as well to come back, help, and be on the right side of what’s going on in the storyline. It’s definitely more layers than other roles I’ve had in video games and animation, but that’s why I was very excited to voice this.
You mentioned Logan, but did you catch the news this week that Hugh Jackman is back as Wolverine in Deadpool 3?
Oh man, that was nuts, man! [Laughs] I’m there with all the other fanboys saying, ‘Oh sh*t, that’s great!’ I can’t wait. It’s awesome.
This is also a character haunted by his past and given the time jump from the previous Mortal Kombat movies, how helpful were those flashbacks for you to help get a better understanding of who he is?
It’s interesting because every storyline has…just being a fan since the 90s, whether it’s Shang-Tsung, Kano, or the different selection of characters from over 30 years, I’m always interested to see why they chose this one or that one. For me, it feels like when we first watched The Man With No Name. It’s basically that and he’s pulled into a situation, but he can’t be bothered. He just wants to live on his own and do his thing in peace. He’s found his, I guess you could say, happiness, and it’s where he wants to be. The journey from that, and to meet all these characters on the journey…when you watch the film, you want him from the get-go to just kill all these guys, but you realise he’s just doing his best to stay out of the drama. That’s one of the many things that really interested me in Sub-Zero’s journey in this animation.
Sub-Zero is a very iconic character, but as a mentor and teacher, we see a very different side of him; what did you like most about getting to put that fresh spin on him?
It was a lot of fun. When you’re there, you see little bits and illustrations and unfinished stuff, so you have to use what they’re giving you and your imagination as well. To see that montage finished, even when I was reading it in script form, to be a reluctant Obi-Wan was very, very interesting to me.
There’s a lot of physicality with a role like this, so how do you go about performing those in the recording booth?
You get excited and sometimes you’ve got to watch yourself. I do like to get really into it, but you have to balance it because if you move too much, they’ll hear all the fabric moving and stuff. You have to make it so that it’s friendly to the actual recording, but I do tend to get into it. I love the physicality of the voiceover world. Since the late 80s, I’ve been playing characters who are very physical and, growing up doing martial arts and all kinds of sports, it’s kind of natural. I also started theatre when I was a kid, so you get taught when you’re doing a live play how to speak your dialogue but reach the back seat of the room without sounding like you’re yelling. I’ve been very comfortable with that stuff, but with this character, it’s the layers, man. That’s what I love. All the subtle layers with this guy is why I did my best to ground him in reality so you feel like he’s been around the block and you feel the pain he’s trying to hide under his skin.
This movie doesn’t hold back in terms of violence and that’s a big part of why fans love this movie so much. Were you shocked to see how bloody things get when you sat down to watch it?
[Laughs] That was the funny thing! I love it. I love the violence. It’s why we’re drawn to these games as kids. We know it’s surreal and fake, so you just go to the extremes with it. It was the same with MK 11. With this, I was excited for it, but my girlfriend doesn’t know too much about Mortal Kombat. She thought she was just watching another animation was like, ‘Oh wait, what? My God!’ [Laughs] I was just laughing. I’m like, ‘Yeah, this movie is violent…it’s Mortal Kombat!’
Are you much of a gamer and, either way, how tough would it be to choose between Scorpion and Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat?
[Laughs] I’ll go for Liu Kang. I would probably want to play both [Laughs]. That’s what I did as a kid. I would switch between Sub-Zero and Scorpion. It would mainly be them and Liu Kang. I’d go back and forth between those three because I love those characters.
You’ve voiced two of the big ones now, but if you return to the Mortal Kombat franchise, are there any other characters you’d like to lend your voice to?
I think if they make an older version of Liu Kang because he’s always had a certain youthfulness to him. I really enjoy Scorpion and Sub-Zero. As a kid, I loved Raiden too. I’d have fun doing a different take on him. Obviously, there are great voiceover actors playing the other parts, so I’m happy to do what I’m doing now because there’s a great, rich array of voices and great guys playing them.
Should you get the chance to return as Sub-Zero, have you given any thought to where you’d like to take the character next?
I would like to see what he does after this story. It seems like he’s again answering his calling, so if that means training new and young warriors to be on the right side, then I’d like to see that journey and I’m sure there would be a lot of obstacles in that world. To continue seeing the journey from this one would be great. For me, it was very interesting to come in and play a guy who doesn’t want to be part of it anymore but is pulled back in because it is the right thing to do.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind will be released on Digital platforms on October 9 and hits Blu-ray on October 11.