Exclusive interview with Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2 director Kevin Tancharoen! Details on new movie!
The popular web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy debuted its second season on Machinima yesterday and I had the opportunity to talk at length with director Kevin Tancharoen about the franchise. Tancharoen reignited the MORTAL KOMBAT franchise by making a pitch film, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, which wowed Warner Brothers enough to fund a web series. With the success of that web series, Tancharoen was given the green light to develop a new live-action theatrical feature, which is currently being developed. We discussed the direction of this season, his inspiration to work on the franchise, the casting changes, the direction of videogame adaptations, as well as the current state of the feature film and how it fits into the web series and beyond.
On how the web series progressed from the initial pitch film, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and the first web series:
…I found out that it ended up being named the most watched You Tube series of all time so that warranted a sequel to do the second season but also it led me to develop the feature film version because now there’s an audience for a live action MORTAL KOMBAT. I would love to take credit and say that this is all part of the master plan but it was kinda like everything organically led to the next, which has been a lot of fun to witness.
On his inspiration for taking on the Mortal Kombat franchise:
Well, I’d always been a huge fan of the game. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the Arcade systems and buying it on Sega Genesis, because you could do the blood on that one, on Super Nintendo, and then, it was just a childhood dream of mine to continue to push it forward. I was a big fan of the first movie, the second movie not so much, I don’t think there’s many people were fans of the second movie.
As far as genre brands, MORTAL KOMBAT has always been there. I grew up watching Ninja Turtles, X-men, Power Rangers, and Mortal Kombat and I felt the closest to Mortal Kombat, so that was the one I picked…I wanted to do a really dark take on Mortal Kombat.
On his favorite character from the Mortal Kombat games:
"My go to character was Scorpion. I feel like that was everyone’s gateway into MORTAL KOMBAT. I immediately went to Scorpion, learned how to do the harpoon thing. That’s my guy."
On the differences between his Mortal Kombat and the 1995 film from Paul W.S. Anderson, as well as the future of videogame adaptations:
"I really appreciated his [Anderson's] tone and style and I thought it worked perfectly for one, the time period, and two, the franchise at the time. But I think audiences are different now and me growing up my tonal sensibilities tend to be in the more grounded darker stuff. Like, all of my favorite movies are rated R. So, my sensibilities are more on that side of the universe. I wouldn’t do the poppy version that I know made Mortal Kombat one in the 90’s work so well.
I think we’re also coming into a world where video game adaptations are being taken very, very seriously and I’m very happy about that because at some point it was just being treated as fluff; a little too cheesy, a little wink and a nod, and silly costumes. Now that videogames have matured so much I think that movie adaptations will take the same cue. And I’m very excited to see all the ones coming out between SPLINTER CELL, ASSASSINS CREED, NEED FOR SPEED, and MORTAL KOMBAT being the only fighting one. I’ll be curious to see how movie adaptations move forward in the next couple of decades because I think we’re right at the start of them being taken seriously."
On his vision for the Mortal Kombat tone:
"It was always my intention to turn Mortal Kombat into an edgier X-MEN with Grit. Because they all have super powers, they’re not super heroes by any means, but I’ve always wanted to do the supernatural fighting stuff. Not necessarily with wire work per se, but with just, particle effects and supernatural abilities and that progressed with you know having more money and not having it be my own budget and working with the videogame creators and trying to utilize them in a unique way."
On the fight choreography of Legacy and his inspiration for it:
"It’s a mix. I think my background in choreography definitely lends itself to helping choreograph the camera with the fight choreography because I take that very seriously and I like to really prep the shot around the fights and vice versa…I really want to shoot it like Hong Kong cinema and I think the best Western movie to do it in a very long time is THE MATRIX. I mean, THE MATRIX shot their fights very elegantly and that’s the style that I’m used to. So, my choreography and blocking background helps me design one) the blocking of the scene and two) helping the camera become a part of the choreography in the fights."
"Scheduling wise Jeri was on a hit ABC show, so she couldn’t come and join us and Michael Jai White has BLACK DYNAMITE amongst other movies he’s doing. And beyond that, I didn’t want to have to ask them to do me any more favors...However, the creative decision to not have them in this season is because I want to save them for the feature film. So, that is still for sure, in my mind, where you will see them again."
On the casting of Casper Van Dien as Johnny Cage:
"Casper jokes about that all the time. He's like: 'Yeah, so they had this role for Johnny Cage about this out of work Hollywood actor who is trying to find a job and ends up in a tournament and they said that you’d be perfect for it.' And his response was 'Hey, man, what are you trying to say?'
If there’s anybody that has a great sense of humor about themselves, it’s Casper."
On the current state of the feature film:
"That budget (50-100) is not-were still working on it-that’s actually what we’re figuring out right now. We havea really good script that everyone seems really happy with and we’re still developing it as it goes. Right now what we’re figuring out is taking that script and figuring out whats the best budget for the film and also where the location would be to shoot. So, that’s where we are in the process we’re on the logistics side of things and everyone is working together to get it done.
I think that’s everyone’s intention and hope. Y’know there’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to do it again. I would like to do longer episodes for season 3, because I think this kind of epic, sprawling tournament with a lot of mythology lends itself to a Game of Thrones style of storytelling where your main characters could just die off and you can be shocked. But yeah, everyone’s intention is to keep Legacy moving so if season 2 does well I’m sure we’ll be talking about it. They’re [the web series and feature film] gonna be completely separate."
On the tone and structure of the feature film:
"I think the important thing about a MORTAL KOMBAT movie is that it’s not a martial arts tournament film because the second that you throw the word tournament in there your movie structure is laid out for you. And I don’t want to be pushed into that corner of storytelling structure. With a tournament movie you essentially meet your characters, they have an obstacle to overcome, they train, and the third act is the tournament. Essentially, those have become dance movie now.
What we’ve always said is, no, we’re making a war movie. Because that’s essentially what Mortal Kombat is: it’s a war. It’s not necessarily a tournament run by a foundation with a point system and rules; it’s a war. So that’s how we’re designing the MORTAL KOMBAT feature."
On the rating of the feature:
"Everyone’s intention right now is to make a rated R movie. Right out of the gate that was the first thing that we laid out."
On his future projects:
"There’s this project that me, my sister, and her husband are dying to work on that’s an original idea that we’ve come up with and we want to execute it in the perfect way possible. It’s set in Thailand and is essentially like Looper and District 9 with Bangkok as the background."
If you haven't caught up on the newly debuted season of Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2 you can catch the entire season on Machinima now (as well as the first season). Settle in for a binge-worthy watch! Make your choice!
|Extra Tidbit:||What's your dream cast for the new Mortal Kombat feature?|