MORTAL KOMBAT: BATTLE OF THE REALMS Interview: Writer Jeremy Adams On How He Expands The Mythology (Exclusive)

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms writer Jeremy Adams shares his love of the franchise, how he approached expanding this animated universe, and his the characters that resonate with him most.

Picking up shortly after the explosive finale of Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's RevengeMortal 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.

Last week, we jumped on the phone to catch up with the movie's writer, Jeremy Adams. He penned Justice Society: World War II, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, and 2020's Scorpion's Revenge, so is no stranger to this world of animation. However, as you'll quickly realise, Jeremy is also a major fan of this Mortal Kombat franchise and that's something that shines through in his work. 

In this interview, Jeremy talks in detail about what makes him a fan, the work that went into expanding the mythology of the Mortal Kombat universe, and which of the characters resonated with him most. 

He also opens up on the process of writing action scenes and whether he's given any thought to where he'd like to take this world and the characters who inhabit it in a possible third instalment of this series.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms arrives August 31 on 4K/Blu-ray & Digital!
 

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What led to you becoming a fan of the Mortal Kombat franchise, and what did it mean to you to be able to be part of this world for a second time with Battle of the Realms

When I was a kid playing video games, we had stand up arcades and those were a big deal. Street Fighter had just come out I believe and I remember very clearly Mortal Kombat showing up at the pizza joint near where I lived. I remember playing it and thinking, ‘We’re gonna get in trouble for playing this game.’ Every kid who played it kept looking over their shoulder like, ‘An adult is going to stop us playing this game because it’s so violent!’ Of course, that was 8-bit violence...now it’s just over-the-top! Back then, I was a huge martial arts fan, a huge Van Damme nerd, and martial art movies were all over the place. This movie was right in my wheelhouse; I think it came out after Bloodsport, and as that was a fighting tournament movie, this just hit the sweet spot. That was cool. The movie was a big turning point because when it was released in 1995, I was like ‘This is an awesome movie.’ It really illustrated how big this universe is, hinting at bigger stories. 

When I started working on this project and saw how much mythology and how much time other creators have put into expanding this universe, I was blown away. I was probably just a cursory fan originally, but through this, I realised how big and how much fun this franchise is. It’s not just a tournament; there are worlds that rise and fall and royalty and betrayal and history. I love that. It feels very Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones in its expansiveness. It’s expanded so much since it started. 

Johnny Cage was definitely my favourite character watching this movie, but who did you most enjoy writing? 

The funny thing is, I definitely loved writing for Johnny Cage! I think that’s partly down to that ‘95 movie where he’s so funny. He’s the everyman and the in for the audience to make fun of. With Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, Joel McHale was so funny and I would have a line he’d improv over in a better way. I’d get a call from Rick [Morales] who would say, ‘I just sat through some of the record for Joel McHale - you’ve got to write more Johnny Cage!’ [Laughs] 

Johnny was really fun for me, but with this movie, the thing that really surprised me was how much I started enjoying writing Raiden. Raiden was my character growing up because I could do the electric bolt as it was pretty much like Ryu from Street Fighter [Laughs] and that was the only special move I was capable of. When I started writing this movie, I ruminated on who this Guardian of Earthrealm and this God. Why does he care about Earthrealm? In that opening of the movie, I didn’t want to make him an emotionless being and I think, more than anything else, I got to dig into his feelings here. As much as he’s here to guard Earthrealm, I think he’s much more of a father figure to Liu Kang. He’s about guardian Liu Kang. I had this big backstory for Raiden that’s not in the movie that isn’t canonical that I hope someday I can explore, but...I don’t know why, man, but I found myself more and more enjoying writing him and seeing what he was going through, especially in this movie. He goes through a lot. 

There are some killer action scenes in this movie, and a lot of the time, they don’t have much dialogue. As a writer, what’s it like getting those choreographed sequences on the page without having a verbal back and forth between characters? 

I tend to overwrite action sequences! I write very detailed action sequences. That is to say, it’s just a springboard for the storyboard and animation guys. They can use it or not use it, but in my mind...I grew up with those movies, and action is always a critical piece to a story, especially for something like this. The funny thing is, you say that, but I turned in a really big script. There’s an entire subplot we had to take out [Laughs]. It’s one of those things where you go, ‘I like to write a lot of action, and thank goodness the storyboard guys are geniuses.’ I think it helps them sometimes, and maybe it doesn’t, but I’m still doing a lot of writing and I try to punctuate things and make the fights mean something. I’ll give you an example: Johnny’s fighting and he’s losing, but to make that mean something, it dovetails into Sonya’s fight so that now she’s in this fight with somebody she’s begrudgingly falling for. Now, the fight scene means something. It’s not just a fight scene and ties into their characters. I think that’s important. 

Now you’ve mentioned it, I’ve got to ask: is there anything you can say about that subplot you had to cut out? 

Hmm-Mmm [Laughs]. I don’t know, because I don’t know if I’m allowed to and I don’t know if they might put it in the DVDs or something. I hope they do. I can’t say anything, but it takes place in...no, I better not! I better not! I’ll get shot! [Laughs] 

No spoilers, but the dynamic between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is something I think will really take people by surprise; what led to you decided to delve into that here? 

Yeah, in the first one, the Sub-Zero aspect of the fight...he had no idea why this guy was coming at him so hard because he was tricked. Exploring that and getting a coda to Scorpion was important to me. 

The live-action Mortal Kombat movie came out this year, of course, but did that have any sort of impact on the characters and storylines you could touch on or were you given complete creative freedom? 

We had done these movies far before they actually wrote the script for the live-action Mortal Kombat movie! I’m trying to think...it was a long, long time ago, maybe 2017, when I first did my pitch. Then, it was 2018 when I wrote it, so it was three years ago. 

Now you’ve seen the finished version so long after writing it -

[Laughs] I know! That is the world of animation!

Absolutely, but having heard and seen this amazing voice cast in action, were there any performances that jumped out at you? 

Joel is great. I think the fact that Jordan [Rodrigues]...in the first one, he didn’t have as much to do as Liu Kang, but this was a great one that really gave him a chance to play with new stuff. Dave [B. Mitchell] is always good. Grey [Griffin] is never going to turn in a bad performance. Ever. I was thrilled with Jordan and think he did a great job. 

I know it’s always a case-by-case basis with these things, but have you given any thought to where you’d like to take these characters next if a third movie happens? 

Heck yes! Of course I have [Laughs]. In my head, I’ve got ten movies! With how big of a deep dive I had to do on this world, there’s a lot of stories that just weren’t explored explicitly. In Scorpion’s Revenge, they mentioned it, but I don’t think the origin of Hanzo had ever been committed to memory that way. We explored and expanded that, and put it down so people could see it. There are tonnes of that in Mortal Kombat. Each character has an elaborate backstory, and I would love to be able to explore them in a tournament setting or individual character films if they let me. That’s up to the higher powers. I had a great time doing what I did. 
 

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