Since 2001, I’ve had a “Mortal Kombat 3” listed on my IMDb page. The film’s title has changed several times, and the film has had tons of false starts and stops. At various points, I’ve been in contact with different directors who were temporarily attached to the project, but no one’s ever rolled film on it at all.
When I was at ActionFest in Asheville, North Carolina, one film really stood out, a direct-to-video action film called “Undisputed III.” I’ll have more about that in the next couple of days, but for now, the most important thing about that film is the way Isaac Florentine shot the action, and the way Larnell Stovall choreographed the fights. Stovall is a guy who I think we’re going to end up hearing a lot about in the next decade, a guy who has a genuine hunger to change the way action happens on film. He comes from a fight background himself, and as a result, he has very strong ideas about what he wants to see when he looks at fights onscreen.
He’s been working in stunts for a while now, and thanks to the buzz that’s building from “Undisputed III” and “Bunraku,” the upcoming film he also did the choreography for, he’s starting to become one of the most in-demand names in town. One of the things Stovall has been doing is proof-of-concept test shoots for possible blockbusters, some big movie geek/comic nerd properties, and I think if he ends up landing these jobs, fans of the material are going to flip out.
And based on the reaction to the video leak today, I’d say the producers of Warner’s new “Mortal Kombat” reboot should hire Stovall immediately.
Now, as someone who was given the crash course in the backstory of “Mortal Kombat” when I got hired to write a sequel nine years ago, I was shocked when I first heard that the mandate for this new “Mortal Kombat” was simple. No powers, no magic. That pretty much throws out the mythology of the game series immediately, and I wasn’t sure fans would be okay with that.
It seems that they are indeed okay with it. Here’s the video:
I’ll be honest… I think it’s a mistake to dump the things that make “Mortal Kombat” what it is, and that includes the supernatural powers of the various fighters. I think the proof-of-concept short, directed by Kevin Tancharoen, is a whole bunch of the same-old same-old hyper-dark post-Fincher grime and mood that we’ve seen way too much of, and I’m personally worn out by the idea that this particular look means “serious.” I mean, am I mistaken? Or wasn’t “Mortal Kombat” a video game about shooting ice blasts and fireballs at each other before yanking someone’s spine out and beating them with it? The last thing that suggests to me is “realistic.” Tancharoen, who made his feature debut with last year’s remake of “Fame,” appears to me to be a lot like every other guy coming out of MTV, mistaking art direction with actual adult themes or ideas, but it’s hardly an original sin so it seems silly to beat him up over it.
Still, the reaction from much of fandom today has been overwhelmingly positive, so my guess is you’ll hear some confirmations soon that Warner Bros. is moving ahead with this one. And Michael Jai White is overdue a big action movie where he’s not covered in make-up, so I hope if this happens, he actually does get to play Jax. In the meantime, if you want to know who played what in the short film, check out what George Roush put together over at Latino Review for a breakdown of the cast.
And at the very least, I’ll bet the fights in the new movie are awesome.
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