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 spoke to a number of cast members ahead of today's Blu-ray and Digital release, including Artt Butler (The Clone Wars), the actor who has played the villainous Shang Tsung in all of these Mortal Kombat Legends movies.
The villain is quite a bit different from what you might remember in this Wastelands setting, and Butler talks us through how he approached the weakened bad guy, what's going on in his mind now he's one of Kano's underlings, and his creative process in the recording booth.
This is Shang Tsung as you've never seen him before, but rest assured there are some big surprises along the way. With that in mind, be sure to check out our full interview with the actor below!
This movie is a lot of fun, but how much did you enjoy putting such a different spin on Shang Tsung?
It’s great. It’s great to be able to play a different facet of this character and a different version.
Would you say your approach to playing him differed a lot from the previous Mortal Kombat movies you’ve been part of?
Playing him as much older and weaker…he’s a little subservient to Kano now too. It was quite a trip to play him without his power in every sense of the word.
We see that Shang is someone who wants to reclaim what he’s lost, so what about that journey did you most enjoy exploring?
He’s always scheming. It’s so funny. You can never take him at face value because there’s always something going on up there. He’s always scheming and very opportunistic. He quite often finds the angle he’s looking for!
And then, of course, he has to put up with Kano - was that dynamic one you had fun with?
Oh God, you can just feel the burning resentment that Shang-Tsung has against him! Kano is so showy and bragging and really rubbing it in everybody’s face. Whether he’s doing it on purpose or not, Shang-Tsung is just burning inside any time Kano says or does anything [Laughs]. He’s like, ‘That’s supposed to be me!’
Again, I don’t want to get into spoilers, but Shang sees a fair bit of violence throughout the course of this film - what was it like for you to get to see that on screen in the finished movie?
I love doing the violence. It’s just so fun to be able to play that out. Basically, we’ll watch it [Laughs] and say, ‘Okay, what happens when your arm gets ripped from your body or you’re set on fire?’ [Laughs] All those actions are fun to play because, God willing, they don’t happen in real life, but you get to play them out! It’s so funny. After the pandemic and everything, it’s all being done from home, so screaming your head off while you’re having limbs broken in this tiny little booth in the middle of my house is, you know, kind of fun and cathartic!
What has that adjustment been like for you through COVID? Are you hoping to get back into the studio now?
There is a benefit to being able to just walk ten feet and go to work, but I really miss seeing the people. I’ve gone to a couple of studios and when I get there, it’s just me and the engineer in masks and everybody is on Zoom. It’s like, ‘Eh, okay, I could do this from home. I want to see people!’ [Laughs] I actually went to a session the other day where the producers were there and I said, ‘Hey! It’s almost back to normal!’ I think it’s time for all of us to come out of our shells.
There’s so much physicality with a role like this, what does a typical day in the recording booth look like for you, particularly when it comes to the action side of things?
It’s funny, some actions that are more physical visually in animation, I’ll be surprisingly still. Then, there are other times when something that doesn’t look as physical in terms of movement, I find myself really exerting myself and moving around. It does happen, but a lot of times, it’s not when you’d expect it to be. In my tiny booth at home, which is a four-by-four box, it’s different but when you’re in a studio, you have space to fling your arms around and stuff. I can’t do that in here or the microphone will pick up the sound of me banging against the walls. Also at home, I don’t have air conditioning being piped in as I’m working as it would pick up the sound. I have to have that off and, during the summer months, it can get really hot in here [Laughs]. I’ll be dripping sweat and having to scream my head off without banging the walls. It’s quite the sauna experience in here!
You’ve played this character across pretty much this entire series now, but when it came to jumping into the future for this story, did you give much thought to what Shang has been up to in all that time and how that might influence your performance?
I’m kind of in the moment, but I do factor those things in. I don’t have any hard or solid ideas about what has gone on, especially as I’m not as familiar with the property as many, many people out there are. I know as much as I know. I think we spoke before about how I missed the boat on the whole Mortal Kombat wave. It was just outside my generation, plus I’m terrible at video games. I missed it and didn’t realise, when I first got the role, just how giant a franchise it was. Once I realised, it was such an honour to play a character in that world. I want to do as much as I can to honour the fandom that follows it.
Prior to working on the film, were you shown the two very different versions of the character in any early artwork? If so, was that helpful to you?
Not at first. I only saw the bits for when I had to reenact the violence once it was all animated. That’s when we do the ADR to get specific with the screams and the bone crunches. Since we do play him as different ages, that was all imagination. I just had to imagine him as being older and decrepit, and now, of course, we get to see him in his youthful fighting weight powers as well. He gets his fill of souls. It’s nice to be able to play him cradling the grave in terms of age ranges!
I know you’ve said in the past that you weren’t hugely familiar with the Mortal Kombat franchise before joining this series, but has starring in these movies led to you checking out the games at all?
I have, but very peripherally. Again, I wish I could play video games well enough to be able to play video games, but anytime I get a controller in my hands, it feels like…I’m the one saying, ‘The controller doesn’t work! It’s not doing what I want it to!’ [Laughs] I’m always the character just in a full sprint into a corner and I can’t get out of it. I’m bad at controlling the video games but this one is something I always wanted to be able to play. Whenever I watch anybody play the Mortal Kombat games, it’s this super frantic mashing of all the buttons. I’m sure they’re doing something on purpose, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if that is maybe how you play the game and just luck out by killing somebody, but it seems very confusing. I always wanted to take part, but [Laughs] I haven’t had the skillset.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind will be released on Digital platforms and Blu-ray on October 11.