It’s safe to say that the bar is pretty low for movies based on video game properties. Yet somehow the filmmakers of the recent Mortal Kombat Legends animated direct-to-video films did the seemingly impossible and made two video game movies that were not only decent but I would dare to say are actually excellent. So it was a no-brainer for  Warner Bros. to greenlit a follow-up movie Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind now available on Blu-ray on Digital.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the film finds Earthrealm mysteriously under the control of the power-mad cyborg Kano and his Black Dragon mercenaries. The world’s only hope lies in the talented but undisciplined Kenshi along with his new mentor Kuai Liang a.k.a Sub-Zero. The Beat had the fortune to speak with some of Snow Blind’s cast and crew in interviews conducted over the phone and in person at New York Comic Con last weekend.

From L – R: Jeremy Adams, Rick Morales, Ron Yuan, Courtenay Taylor

After the success of the first two Mortal Kombat Legends films, Jeremy Adams was once again tapped to work his magic on Snow Blind. “I came up with like six ideas and sent it into Warner Bros. Animation and NetherRealms. We circled around this one probably because at first glance it doesn’t feel like it would fit into the continuity of Mortal Kombat but as you go along and more is revealed you realize it could,” the writer divulged.

Avoiding a common trap of sequels, the filmmakers aimed not to follow the established story structure. “We made this film to open up the world. There’s no tournament. That’s a big part of Mortal Kombat,” said producer and director Rick Morales. “I wanted to say that you can do a story within this world without being tied to that.” It’s partially why the fan-favorite “X-Ray Moves” are not featured in this movie. “We took the X-Rays out of this one because we were introducing Kenshi vision which is a similar idea. So we got away from that. And we used it so much in the first two that I didn’t want to go to the well too much.”

As much as the filmmakers knocked it out of the park with these Mortal Kombat animated films, Adams conceded that the previous film, Battle of the Realms, had a “certain inaccessibility” to it and so took a different approach with Snow Blind. “The last one was the longest script ever. They cut like 40 minutes. With this one we really needed to be more focused and tell a smaller tale with more dramatic stakes.”

“Even as we were making the last one I said if we do another one, we are going small and scaling it down,” echoed Morales. “I just wanted to do a solo Sub-Zero film. I wanted to focus more on him because he around in the first two films but didn’t get to explore him as deeply as I would have liked.”

With the animation services handled this time around by Digital eMation, viewers will notice a different visual style as well which carries over into the narrative. “The action has a different flow,” described Morales. “It’s not all bloody violence the entire time. We start with an explosion of bloody violence and then taper it off and build up the relationships until the finale which is over-the-top ridiculous. The flow of the story is different in this one than the last one.”

It goes without saying just from glancing at the trailer that the seminal Mad Max franchise influenced the post-apocalyptic landscape of Snow Blind. But the concept actually has roots in the Mortal Kombat games themselves. “The germ of the idea came from the one of the cut scenes of the Mortal Kombat video games,” Adams revealed. “You couple that with the fact that Kano is Australian just like everyone in Mad Max. Being able to capitalize on that cut scene made sense. I remember when the second Mad Max movie came out there was this huge deluge of post-apocalyptic movies.”

Morales also cited spaghetti Westerns and samurai movies as other influences on Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind. The chance to direct this animated project was too good to pass up, so Morales joked that he “selfishly” made the decision to helm Snow Blind himself. “As we started talking about it I realized I wanted to do this one. It’s been a little while since I directed something myself so I wanted to flex that muscle again a little bit and work directly with the board artists. I don’t get to generally do [that] a lot of the times when I’m overseeing this stuff. I brought in a great art director, Todd Gibbs, who did a really great job. He took some of the weight off my shoulders on that end. “

Mortal Kombat Legends Snow Blind

For veteran voice actors Keith Silverstein and Courtenay Taylor, Snow Blind served as their first foray into the Mortal Kombat franchise as the Black Dragon mercenaries Kabal and Kira respectively. The project certainly rekindled childhood memories for Silverstein. “I remember playing Mortal Kombat 1-3 for sure which interestingly enough did bring us up to Kabal. I remember being at the arcade when it was THE game and you heard that ‘Fatality’ and there was nothing else like at the around like that. You would crowd around the machine and watch someone who was good show you a new Fatality or Babality or Friendship. Those elements separated those games from the other fighting games at the time.”

Whether it’s Johan Liebert in the anime Monster or Hawkmoth in the smash-hit Miraculous Ladybug, Silverstein has a proclivity for playing villains. “I have no problem with it. I think one of the more fun things about doing voiceover is you can’t plan your career from your start. You kind of have to accept that and roll with it. I’m getting a lot of work playing villains in addition to dads. And sometimes I play a dad who is a villain and I’m not opposed to that either. I feel like I’m lucky to have played a decent enough variety. Even though I’m known as someone who plays a lot of villains I don’t mind that at all.”

Taylor, whose resume of characters runs the gamut, shared similar sentiments. “I feel incredibly lucky to be able to play a breadth of characters. I feel like I have a ton more to learn and to give. I feel so fortunate to be given opportunities where I can filter my experiences through these characters. One of the greatest gifts of doing this work is we’re not beholden to our age or size or beauty. My great love of working in this area of pop culture is to show people that you can be all things. This slice of pop culture does it better than any other medium.”

Silverstein found the voice of Kabal, the self-interested mercenary, fairly easily but the digital voice processing for the character added an extra challenge for him. “It’s really a mask filter kind of sound. I played the character Reaper in the Call of Duty games and it’s a really strong effect. You can barely hear a human voice which is what you need for that. I didn’t concern myself for the post-effect on my voice except I didn’t do anything too subtly. It was a choice from the beginning to push the character’s toughness and how badass he was and up his volume just a little bit as opposed to giving a subtle performance that might not cut through the effect as well. I think that was the right choice and I’m sure [voice director] Wes [Gleason] knew that from the start and was part of why I was directed that way.”

Though Kira and Kabal are cut from similar mercenary cloths, Taylor found the character reflective of current real world issues. “She has a very mercenary side to her. There’s not a lot of food. No one is bad all the time. It’s ripe for jokes but being hungry and knowing who is going to take care of you is a decision that people make every day in real life. She takes the path of least resistance.”

While Silverstein and Taylor are making their Mortal Kombat debut with Snow Blind, the franchise is old hat for actor Ron Yuan who voiced Scorpion in the Mortal Kombat X video game. This time around he’s playing Kuai Liang, better known as the frigid ninja Sub-Zero. Much like Silverstein, Yuan played the games in his youth so getting to portray yet another iconic character from the franchise is icing on the cake.

Mortal Kombat Legends Snow Blind

Much like Taylor and her character, Yuan connected deeply with this particular iteration of Sub-Zero comparing him to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine in Logan. “This version of Sub-Zero relatable to me because I’m getting older [and] this Kuai Liang is broken down and grizzled and wants to separate himself from the rest of the world,” revealed Yuan. “Circumstances pull him back in and he rejects the hero’s journey and Kenshi as a student. But then at journey comes full circle when he does take him on as a student and their journey together really drew me to this role.”

This description perfectly encapsulates the experience for nearly everyone living during the pandemic during the last two years, and Yuan’s own experiences informed his own performance. “My girlfriend was at Beijing so we were separated for two and a half years. That loneliness was really there and easy for me to tap into.”

It’s for this reason that Snow Blind resonated for Taylor on a deeper level. “The overarching story of the film is one that I really love. That call to do the right thing even when it’s the thing you don’t want, I think it’s so important for people to understand right now. We’ve all been stressed and traumatized from the last few years and it can hard to be graceful out in the world. It’s a funny thing to say for a Mortal Kombat film. It is the greatest thing to show honor and mercy.”

As is the case with most animated projects now, the actors had to record their parts for Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind remotely at home. Thankfully for some like Silverstein, who already had a sound booth setup before the pandemic, it wasn’t that hard to adapt to the new situation. “I bought a house somewhat recently and as soon as we moved in I converted it into an office with a booth in there. I already had all this pre-pandemic. The only difference was making it sound a little sweeter and getting some more soundproofing in there when the pandemic did hit. A buddy of mine who was an engineer helped me. It was for auditioning before but once I knew I was going to be recording for these huge budget movies, games, and shows I threw a little bit more into it. It only took a few weeks after the pandemic hit for me to up my microphone and soundproofing to make it sound as good as I could for what I had built.”

Actors who’ve worked in video game voiceover work can attest as how taxing recording sessions can be. And while Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind definitely put the actors through the ringer, they didn’t find it as straining.”I find video games can be more vocally stressful,” said Silverstein. “If we had done Mortal Kombat the game, I guarantee that would have been far more vocally stressful because the amount of takes and damage taken and attacks would have exhausted far more. I got a break with the straightforward dialogue and some action.”

Fans eagerly anticipating a new entry into Mortal Kombat Legends animated film series don’t have to wait long. During the NYCC panel it was announced that a fourth film, Mortal Kombat Legends: Cage Match, is set for release next year with actor Joel McHale reprising his role as the vain Hollywood action star and fan-favorite character Johnny Cage. Though details are scarce, I think it’s safe to expect it will be quite “toasty.”

Miss any of our other NYCC ’22 coverage? Find it all here!