Thursday, 10 June 2010

Regarding Mortal Kombat: Rebirth

As every geek on the internet probably knows by now, Fame director Kevin Tancharoen has created a short proof-of-concept movie for an R-rated reboot of the Mortal Kombat movie franchise. Entitled Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, it supposedly was sent to Warner Brothers to test the water for his vision of what a Mortal Kombat movie should be. In a stroke of genius, it was then released onto the internet so as to allow the geek-o-sphere to pound Warner Brothers with demands that this shit gets made into a movie because it is exactly what we've been asking for this whole time.

Okay, so for those of you who don't know the history, the original Mortal Kombat movie was, for a long time, the best videogame adaptation Hollywood could muster, which is like saying that as far as industrial accidents go, losing a hand in an angle grinder isn't all that bad. It was a PG-13 version of a benchmark gory videogame, and it was still in every respect fucking horrible, but less so than, say, Super Mario Bros. Recently, the Prince of Persia movie ruined this by being, to all intents and purposes, pretty good actually, and apparently this proof of concept aims to match that standard.

It's what we wanted all along, and it looks good.

I mean this in relative terms, of course. It's not going to be The Dark Knight levels of geek-movie brilliance, but it could be a great action movie, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the director. He's a dancer and a dance movie director, so he obviously knows a thing or two about choreography, and he's obviously a fan, because he did this shit on his own buck. Look at the trailer. There's no Bourne shakycam shit. Every blow of a great, brutal, and entertaining fight scene is presented to us pristinely (admittedly with one or two blocking issues). The colour pallates are limited and dark, so as to avoid looking as much like a cartoon as the original Mortal Kombat movie did. As far as direction goes, Kevin Tancharoen seems to be a decent choice.

Secondly, it's dark. It's really fucking dark. It's brutal. And neccesarily so. This has been a bone of contention with many blog posts I've seen, and to be honest, I think it was a wise choice to make it more grounded. Can you imagine how jarring it would have been if, like the first Mortal Kombat movie, or the Street Fighter movie of the same period, it tried to replicate the look of the game, and then added the neccesary gore? It'd look unbearably cheesy, like some cosplayers had gotten some stage blood. This way, the context is more suited to the level of violence the series has always demanded.

Thirdly, it's not afraid to be its own thing. This is not a straight fitting of the game story into a movie, and a fucking good thing it isn't too. In case people forget, Videogames generally have bad writing. With obvious exceptions (I'm thinking The Path and anything Team Ico or Bioware have done), even the good ones are still only generally as good as bad summer blockbusters or bad B-movies. The stories the tell are not great stories - mostly they are just framing devices for the gameplay - and a lot of videogame movies have failed by trying to adapt this. This has taken the game Mortal Kombat, and made a move which takes its central premise - gory fights as a martial arts tournament between over-the top characters - and builds a film around that, making everythig in the movie justify that central premise.

Conversely, unlike, say, Super Mario Bros. or the works of Uwe Boll, it looks as though it's still going to stick to the premise and character designs to the point of recognisability - Baraka, for instance, looks fantastic (minus the dreads - it's not surprising that the actor wouldn't lose them for the sake of a favour job, but give him some money to shear them off and he'll look the part). And fundamentally, he's still Baraka, an animalistic, demonic psychopath with fuckin' blades coming out of his arm - the character straight out of Mortal Kombat II. That he's not actually a demon doesn't really concern me. The story seems like it's actually going to show the Mortal Kombat tournament and there's still space there to introduce the supernatural elements, should it be decided that they work.

The best thing? It's a decent-looking film of a game that wasn't like a film in the first place. As film critic Moviebob said of Prince of Persia, it's not hard to make a film of a game which cribs its notes from every Arabian Nights-style movie in history. Mortal Kombat was fundamentally game-like, with a cast of characters which could only be taken seriously in videogames or cartoons and a setting straight from a bad comic book - and given the geek culture context that videogames based themselves in, this worked for the game, but would not when not in that context - say, in a movie instead. Furthermore, its story was never good. Adapting THIS would have been a fucking disaster, and I'm glad that this director doesn't seem to want to. Instead, he's truly adapting the story - fitting it to a new medium by taking what works in videogames and replacing it with what works in a film.

So yes, I honestly hope that they end up making this movie, because it's as close to the Mortal Kombat movie I want as I'm ever going to get.

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