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Media & Merchandise

Discussing Mortal Kombat in Movies, Television, New Media and Merchandising.
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Mick-LuciferPosted: 06/20/2012 09:41 PMStatus ::
From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

With the latest Mortal Kombat movie rumors sparking a surprised reaction [full story], we're reminded that you can never take for granted what will eventuate from the adaptation process.

Video games have now spent decades flirting with cinema, but in that time, very few movies have broken through an assumed stigma of incompatibility that still exists between the interactivity of games, and the plot structure of popular film. For prominent figures like film critic, Roger Ebert -- who infamously wrote in a 2010 blog, "... video games can never be art." -- the flaw may be presumed to lie in the source.

Despite the inherent similarities between these audio-visual mediums, which fans are no doubt more sympathetic to, critics and audiences have often agreed upon the failings of big screen adaptations, resulting in as many financial flops, as bad reviews.

In the eyes of many, the fighting genre has been particularly guilty of wasting time and money. Typically deviating wildly from the spirit of what made characters successful, fighting game films have contributed some of the most costly disappointments to DVD bargain bins. Infamous titles like; Tekken (2010), The King of Fighters (2009) and The Legend of Chun-Li (2009) have worked hard to earn the mutual ire of critics, fans and audiences alike, shedding dollars in the process. Indeed, as recent reference documents, time and experience has not improved the output of video game adaptations, at all.

Released theatrically in 1995, Mortal Kombat has managed to remain one of the most successful and best regarded movies of its type.

Time and scrutiny will open the movie up to criticism and lampooning, but by sticking to the most fundamental elements of the hugely successful franchise -- which already included helping handfuls of film reference (ie; Enter the Dragon) -- Mortal Kombat: The Movie made its mark on pop culture as a whole.

Following on the heels of notoriously unsuccessful outings -- Super Mario Bros. (1993), Double Dragon (1994) and Street Fighter (1994); MK provided a stark contrast to the less confident representations of major pop culture events. The movie was the launching pad for then- youthful and stylish director, now-contentious British genre-phile, Paul W.S. Anderson, but as the book Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood recounts, it wasn't a world of savvy understanding that embraced the watershed film.

It was during a visit to Midway's offices in Chicago, that [producer Larry] Kasanoff saw the company's new hot property, the Mortal Kombat coin-op. They took the movie producer down to a local arcade where it was testing off the scale. As kids crowded around the machine, Kasanoff realised they had a hit on their hands. That wasn't news to Midway. But the producer was also convinced it had potential as a movie. Their response? "Bullshit! There's no way you can do that. This is an arcade game, there's no way you can turn it into a movie." Kasanoff told them, "I don't just want to just make a movie. I want to make a franchise."

Despite the huge interest in Mortal Kombat's success, the reaction was largely one of derision or outright bewilderment. Hollywood, always risk averse, was convinced that videogame movies were the kiss of death after the corrosive impact of Super Mario Bros.. "Everyone was calling me up saying, ‘What are you doing? This is going to ruin your career. This is a videogame, this can't happen'."

Videogames were still considered a new phenomenon. The older generation of studio executives simply didn't get it. "My best story of what it was like back then was the meeting I had after I announced I had the rights to Mortal Kombat," says the producer. "[One of the studios] said, ‘This is great, come right up'. When I got there, I'm in a boardroom with millions of people and they're going: ‘This is fantastic, this is great, you've got Mortal Kombat, this is wonderful... er, what is it exactly?' I tried to explain to them but nobody even had a Nintendo console to play the game on. So we got a golf cart to drive around the lot until they found the merchandising guy. He had a console. We plug it in, I show them Mortal Kombat on Nintendo [the sanitised, bloodless version]. They looked at it for about 30 seconds, turned to me, stuck out their hands and say: ‘Well, thanks for coming.'"

"My philosophy always was: the reason why people fail making movies from videogames is because they try to make movies from videogames," Kasanoff explains, somewhat gnomically. "I thought: we're not making a movie based on a videogame, we're making a movie based on the story that the videogame is based on. The story is the centre of the wheel and the videogame is the extension of one of the spokes."

As a consumable piece of pop entertainment, MK had one eye on the times, one eye on the hugely popular source. It was a project that encapsulated the era on many levels -- an age which lacked proven reference of even cousin properties, like the comic book superheroes who dominate todays box office.

In many respects, the superhero cream that has risen to the record setting top has overcome the same difficulties that face video game cinema. Since the superhero movie era was grandfathered in by the shy black leather of X-Men (2000), the best movies have become increasingly deliberate and bold with their artful combination of visual and conceptual reference. It is progress gaming adaptations have struggled to make since 1995, and a truth to learn from as the medium ages.

Celebrating twenty years of Mortal Kombat, it's impossible to ignore the similar fictional catalogue the series has built-up -- a serial that has continued even in the latest chapter, which sets about rewriting major elements in MK history, by spring-boarding off the otherwise most recent.

The potential for the series to emulate the blockbuster pantheon of comic book adaptations is strong.


Most Watched: Legacy Flaunts Success in Variety Magazine Spot. [Source: @KTANCH]

With the success of the first Mortal Kombat film still in memory -- along with the bitter taste of its unimpressive sequel -- we await what lies ahead for the franchise. With major icons like Halo and Metal Gear Solid falling short of their hotly anticipated filmic aspirations, the burden of pressure weighs heavily on the proven record of MK, which has the potential to become a major film property again, backed by new owners, Warner Brothers.

With no less than a reported 56 Million views on YouTube, Mortal Kombat: Legacy has already carved the Dragon Logo into history, once more. As the most viewed online series in the history of the site, the game adaptation has blazed a trail in new media and set the stage for high expectations. It remains to be seen, however, how much of that audience will follow into the tradition of the box office, where tickets are more likely to only count once.

As noted in an update to the original story; Legacy director, Kevin Tancharoen, has poked fun at the widespread rumors of his films plot, first reported by Bloody Disgusting. No details have been officially released.

Special thanks to Yellow Ant for permission to use excerpts from Jamie Russel's insightful book, Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood. We will be featuring more from the book soon. For more details, visit the author's website. Discuss Mortal Kombat movies and more in the Media & Merchandise forum.

gorostilllivesPosted: 06/20/2012 10:56 PMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

This is a good writeup and thanks for that excerpt from that book, I never found that through my research. I'll have to add it to my Preservation site for the movie!

johnny1upPosted: 06/21/2012 12:18 AMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

It doesn't seem too hard to do what they did with Mortal Kombat. You just need to stay true to the plot and make sure each chharacter is represented properly by their respected actor. Making a few creative changes is one thing, and it can work if it helps with the plot. Changing the entire plot is another thing completely, and it seems like that's what most of the writers do for some reason.

hey
blacksaibotPosted: 06/21/2012 09:10 AMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

With no less than a reported 56 Million views on YouTube, Mortal Kombat: Legacy has already carved the Dragon Logo into history, once more. As the most viewed online series in the history of the site,...

Fuckin' A! ... Go Mortal Kombat!!!

The way I see it, nothing could be worse than Annihilation... and if I can watch Annihilation I'm sure I will enjoy the next MK Film.

johnny1up Wrote:
It doesn't seem too hard to do what they did with Mortal Kombat. You just need to stay true to the plot and make sure each chharacter is represented properly by their respected actor. Making a few creative changes is one thing, and it can work if it helps with the plot. Changing the entire plot is another thing completely, and it seems like that's what most of the writers do for some reason.


I couldn't agree more. Annihilation tried to be MK Trilogy and that just doesn't work. You can't shove every character you possibly can and hope for the best. That's why X-Men Last Stand failed so miserably.

Yes, a very good write-up. Thanks for that. The original MK Movie trailer and music still put butterflies in my stomach.

Baraka407Posted: 06/21/2012 10:27 AMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

Great job, M-L! Good read, for sure. The first MK movie still stands up as far as I'm concerned, even if that trailer makes it look ridiculously cheesy.

Well, maybe ridiculously 90's is more accurate. I think that trailers like this have become much more serious and style-conscious (like The Dark Knight, which just looks cool, as opposed to simply trying to look cool to 15 year olds) since then.

As for video game movies in general, I think that we're still seeing the birth of this type of movie, even several years after the first good one was released in MK.

With comic books, an entire generation or two have grown up with comics as part of their lives, imagining their own stories and visions of how the characters would interact and what tales they'd tell.

So you have people that grew up reading them as kids, now showing the world their vision of the characters and universes as adults. They take the source material seriously because it's been a passion for them, not since last week when they acquired the license, but for years, decades even.

With video games, I don't really know that we've seen a lot of directors that grew up with the source material and have a vision based on their passion for that series.

Resident Evil movies are decent, but I sincerely doubt that the director played through all of the games as a kid, practically wetting his pants the first time a dog broke through the window or a giant spider fell from the ceiling.

These types of moments, and an understanding of the setting, the tone, the overall style and essence etc could have led to movies that more accurately depicted the spirit of the source material.

I just look at the first Resident Evil movie and I wonder why the entire thing didn't take place in the mansion. They could try to escape, find out why they can't, and then dig deeper in to this strange and foreboding house.

They could split up, nervously explore the rooms, the surrounding garden, the attic and basement etc, finding a puzzle to solve here, a mystery revealed there, a scare around each corner etc as the protagonists are slowly cut off from one another, killed off, but they frantically pushed on until they ultimately find out what happened.

Resident Evil had a creepy atmosphere and a "oh God, what's going to happen next" feel to it that the movies have never tried to depict. The first game is survival horror with a good dose of mystery, not stylized action and slow motion bullets.

Again, it goes to an understanding of the source material and how to cull the best parts of it that would translate in to a movie that fans will appreciate, but the masses will still enjoy, rather than simply taking some ideas from the game like skinless dogs, the virus name, some character names and slapping a franchise title on it.

This goes to several other game movies as well. Some of them either just rip stuff from the games at random (the Dead or Alive movie apparently needed to have a random volleyball match thrown in).

Or they try so hard to make the movie look like the game (Tekken, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Hitman, Bloodrayne etc) that they ignore the parts that make the universe compelling to begin with, or the parts that could be pulled to make for a compelling movie.

Until a generation of directors come along that grew up playing these games, yet envisioned a modern, more adapatable version of them, we'll see crap like Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, Doom, and anything that Uwe Boll puts out instead of The Avengers or The Dark Knight, because those game directors see a franchise and they see something that's popular, but they don't care to find out why they resonate with their fanbases.

Games are just mindless action, so make a mindless action movie, right? They simply try to put enough of the parts of the games and the look of the games in to the movie and call it a day.

That's my 2 cents on it. The original Mortal Kombat came close to rising above that back in 1995, but even by today's standards, there are still thngs that could've been avoided (Reptile's as a CG lizard, for example).

Kevin Tancheroen says that he grew up an MK fan, so it gives me hope, even if the whole "supermarket" thing scares me a bit.

TonyTheTigerPosted: 06/21/2012 08:56 PMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

Street Fighter is an amazing movie. I say that without the least bit of irony. In fact, most people who criticize it often prove to be incredible hypocrites.

Sorry, but I feel obligated to always jump to Street Fighter's defense when it gets lumped in as "one of those bad video game movies." It is actually pretty brilliant.

TonyTheTiger - Forum Director

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OrangatangKangPosted: 06/21/2012 10:51 PMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

IMO,nothing comes close to the BloodRayne series.

WATAHHHHHHHHH!!!
redmanPosted: 06/22/2012 10:01 AMStatus ::


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RE: From Sprite to Screen: Mortal Kombat versus the Movies

WOW awesome read! Good shit Mick

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