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Mortal Kombat's Kung Lao Fatality Was More Practical Effects Than CGI

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Mortal Kombat's wild and bloody Kung Lao fatality was surprisingly done more with practical effects than CGI. With $22.5 million at the box office this weekend, the newest adaptation of the hugely popular Midway fighting game is a bigger hit than experts predicted.

The first adaptation of Mortal Kombat was of course released back in 1995 and took in $23 million its opening weekend. Directed by a pre-Resident Evil Paul W.S. Anderson, the earlier movie famously toned down the insane violence of the game to achieve a PG-13 rating. 2021’s Mortal Kombat does not tone down the violence however, and in fact features a level of gore that is unusual even for today’s most extreme R-rated movies.

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Among the many shockingly gruesome moments in the deservedly R-rated new Mortal Kombat is a memorable fatality (a finishing move in Mortal Kombat parlance) dealt by the character Kung Lao (Max Huang) against the character Nitara (Mel Jarnson). In the scene in question, Kung Lao ends his brief battle with the winged Nitara by leaping on her back while she's in flight and riding her into his spinning razor-rimmed hat, slicing her neatly in half. Surprisingly for a movie released in 2021, the incredibly bloody moment was actually created using more practical movie magic than CGI. Speaking to CinemaBlend, Kung Lao actor Huang himself talked about shooting the scene, which indeed turned out to be very messy:

It was a blend of the both. But it was actually more practical than CGI, I have to say because all the blood you see, that is all real. I can't give away too much, but, when we shot that fatality, it was coming at me and it was a mess.

Of course CGI work was added in post-production to make the already brutal kill look even more horrifying. But even with that being the case there was still enough on-set blood to make the experience all-too-real for Huang and others involved in the shooting. “I think a lot of people felt sick on set watching it,” Huang revealed.

Audiences certainly seem to be responding positively to the blood drenched and bone crunching action in Mortal Kombat as the movie won the weekend’s box office. Of course, there are some who have argued the movie goes too far in trying to capture the ultra-violent action featured in the long-running video game series. Ultimately though, Mortal Kombat is a violent game and any reasonably faithful adaptation by definition is itself going to be violent. There indeed arguably would be no point in a Mortal Kombat movie that didn't lay on the blood and viscera in the extreme, regardless of whether it resulted in an R rating. Kung Lao’s fatality is just one of several moments in the new film that rise to the level of gore expected by Mortal Kombat fans wanting the movie to deliver an experience that is closer to the games when it comes to over-the-top brutality. That this particular moment was delivered using practical effects more than CGI only adds to its craziness.

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