Like any young whippersnapper coming of age in the mid-’80s onwards, video games – predominantly Nintendo video games – played a considerable role in frequently stunting my development towards adulthood. I mean, jobs and responsibilities are a real gas and all, but how can they compare to laying waste to alien invaders with heavy artillery or freeing Dreamworld from the tyranny of the repulsive frog-like overlord Wart? Answer: They can’t.
While many NES and SNES titles, such as “Super Empire Strikes Back,” “Blackthorne,” “Contra,” “Double Dragon II” and “StarTropics” made a significant impact, none of them hold a candle to the “Mortal Kombat” fever that overtook me and my small clique of like-minded friends in our formative High School years. We lived and breathed all things “Kombat,” memorizing ever move, Fatality, Babality and Friendship finisher possible, reading one terrible spin-off novel after another and worshipping at the not-so-holy altar of Paul W.S. Anderson’s gleefully violent 1995 motion picture adaptation.
However, by the time the uneven “Mortal Kombat 3” landed in stores, and “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” revealed itself to be a shoe-brick in the tenders to ever ticket-buying fan of the franchise, the once relentlessly burning passion had been downgraded to a manageable fondness. In its place, “GoldenEye 64” would soon arrive and there was really no looking back from there.
With all that said, though, I couldn’t help but get a case of the giddy shivers watching the stylish new “Mortal Kombat” concept trailer unfold before my nostalgic eyes earlier this week. Director Kevin Tancharoen’s Nolan-ized take on the property – which morphs Reptile into a Killer Croc-like serial killer and the blade-armed Baraka (one my personal faves) into a lunatic plastic surgeon – looks and feels fresh, flashy and exciting, and promises to be an unabashedly bloody, vicious and campy-cool martial arts crime epic. And Michael Jai White as Jax? Excellent!
But how much of the seven-minute clip would actually wind up making its way into a future “Mortal Kombat” film?
In an interview with Collider, Tancharoen, who previously directed the “Fame” remake, explained his intentions behind lensing the extended clip:
“I had been thinking about this for awhile now. Just in passing, I’ve always had these conversations about “Mortal Kombat” because everyone was talking about rebooting the movie. I guess that’s the popular term everyone uses now. Reboot, reboot, let’s just take everything and reboot it. Of course I had my opinions on it, because of the first two movies, and because I was such an avid fan of the game. I really, really thought that something special could be made there. And it got to a point where we just kept talking about it, and I just had to do it. It took over a two-month span of time. I shot this whole thing in two days on two Red cameras that were donated to me with a group of friends who all believed in the cause. We shot it at Lacey Street Studios on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and we just kind of had fun with it. It all started at the beginning of April and it took two months to do all the post and the editing. I edited it myself and the visual effects were great people donating their time. It turned out to be pretty awesome. I was very, very happy about it. It’s one of those passion projects that lived in my head. The technology is so accessible now. There’s was no reason why I shouldn’t do it, so I did it. I know that there’s definitely a handful of purists that have their opinions on the mysticism and the mythos of Mortal Kombat. But I do have an answer for that: this is just a prelude to what my movie version would be. And of course, when you’re working by yourself, you have a limited resource of budget. I made this thing for $7,500. I couldn’t go balls-to-the-wall on visual effects. I had to utilize what I could and make the best of it. I want the mysticism to be treated carefully and with integrity. We just kind of went for it, and did it. And everyone was available, they believed in the project. We picked up the camera, and we went, and we didn’t stop.”
Also mentioned in the lengthy interview is Tancharoen’s influences for the piece (“Ong Bak,” “Flashpoint,” and “Killzone” are mentioned), as well as which characters he would like to see involved. Needless to say, Jax, Sonya, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Baraka, Reptile, Shang Tsung and Johnny Cage make the, um, cut, but the prospective helmer would also love to include Kitana, Kung Lao, Liu Kang (obviously…), Stryker, Raiden and Kabal. Interestingly, Goro isn’t mentioned.
While I think Tancharoen goes a little over the deep end doing lovey-dovey somersaults over the property’s arguable brilliance, I’d far rather have him steer the ship than someone who’s basically just trying to get to their next career step. Plus, the sensational (non-shaky cam) Baraka/Johnny Cage martial arts battle scene he’s put together with choreographer Larnell Stovall (“Undisputed III: Redemption”) blows most modern film fight sequences out of the ever-lovin’ water. It’s fun work and I’d like to see his vision expanded to feature-length. Warner Bros. is doubtlessly paying close attention to the on-line buzz – which has thus far been exceedingly enthusiastic – and will hopefully consider allowing “Mortal Kombat” to once again test its might on cinema screens around the world.
How do you guys and gals out there in IJM-land feel about this grittier take on “Mortal Kombat?” Is this something you’d want to see or did your interest in the franchise wither and die long ago? Get over to our comments section or forum and flex your movie-lovin’ muscles!
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Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.