Proving that movie fans never tire of some good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat, Mortal Kombat Legacy's re-imagined take on the world and characters of the video game and film series reached levels of success rarely seen in the world of free digital distribution. That success not only earned director Kevin Tancharoen the chance to make a live-action Mortal Kombat feature film, but a second season of Legacy as well.
The trailer for season two already promised that the short origin stories for each fighter were finished, making way for a linear story involving all players with Earth's fate in the balance. We got the chance to speak with the cast during San Diego Comic-Con and get their opinions on why, even now, fans flock to the Mortal Kombat brand.
Ian Anthony Dale (Hawaii Five-O), Brian Tee (Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift) and Samantha Jo explained their own feelings about the first attempt to adapt the game to film, and why the time is right for a darker, more grounded story within the franchise:
Ian Anthony Dale as Scorpion
It's easy to forget just how much of a cultural touchstone the Mortal Kombat series truly is, until a new chapter is written; did your interest in the property come from playing it early on, or only since landing the part?
BT: I was a huge fan of 'Mortal Kombat' as a kid, and what really kind of drew me was the brutality of it; all the fatalities and stuff. I wanted to win so bad just to get them.
SJ: I used to play all the time when I was younger with my brothers and they'd always be Scorpion… it has such a nostalgic feel to me every time I think of it, so I was so stoked for the web series to be able to bring that back.
IAD: I’m a little different from those two: I didn’t play the game as a kid but the property was so culturally pervasive and has been for such a long time - even when I didn’t play it, I was still very aware of it. Very aware of who the characters were. I’ve seen images of Scorpion and I knew that there was something about this that I liked. So obviously it has a universal appeal even for those who don’t even play the game.
Well, there's no way to mention Mortal Kombat in pop culture without paying particular attention to the previous film adaptations. What were your feelings about the first movies? Did you see them when they came out?
BT: I mean... I felt for me as a kid, to be completely honest, in the '90s I thought it was cool to bring these characters to life and watch them in a movie. I think what our series does in comparison to that is round out the characters, their story lines, their rivalries that we’ve talked about. And the fighting, and the action and special effects bring it to a whole new level.
Brian Tee as Liu Kang
IAD: It's been modernized. There's not that campiness that's synonymous with those '90s video games-to-film adaptations. There's a grittiness and a realness, especially with season 2 with certain performances - specifically Brian's portrayal of a tortured Liu Kang - it's gritty, it's real, there's nothing campy about it. I hope we get the chance to make a feature one day, we'd like to do it in the same vein of 'Mortal Kombat: Rebirth,' Kevin [Tancharoen]'s fan made video that kind of started this whole re-imagining, rebirth of the franchise. Really gritty, really dark, really real - as real as you could be when you got people with blades coming out of their arms.
Unfortunately for fans of Tancharoen's original Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short film, most if not all of the extremely dark and graphic twists on MK characters were toned down for Legacy, and presumably the upcoming movie. A less hard R rated web series still packed plenty of fan-favorite rivalries and impressive hand-to-hand combat, but there's no question that the series will need to change with the times if it hopes to be anything but a quaint remnant of a cheesier past.
For the cast, that shift begins with the man in charge:
BT: The great thing that I think Tancharoen has done is bring that fantasy world to such a groundedness people can viscerally feel. The story lines are all still there, nothing has really changed, except for the style I would say. You have the Sub-Zero/Scorpion rivalry all throughout - from 'Rebirth' to season 1 through season 2 - and it was really explored on screen. It's one of the most influential character archetypes that you'll definitely love to watch.
Samantha Jo reprises her role as Kitana
SJ: The '90s film... it was great. That was the trend, that was the style, and that was what people wanted to see. That was 'Mortal Kombat' back then. But now, trends and styles of filmmaking change and what this web series does, like Ian said, it modernized it. All these stories are gritty and darker and that's just what people want to see now - it just matches so perfectly the true essence of the game. This game is gory and violent as hell. So now that the times are kind of matched with that style, I think it's the perfect time. It's the future, a truly new future for [the series].
Mortal Kombat Legacy's cast may largely consists of actor and actresses falling into those known by roles, not names, but that's looking to change. With Brian Tee set to take the spotlight as Noburo Mori in The Wolverine (2013), and stuntwoman-turned-actress Samantha Jo fresh off of work on Man of Steel (2013), the odds of seeing the cast reprise their roles in the upcoming film may be rising.
Fans will have to wait until September to see if the foundations of the next chapter in the Mortal Kombat franchise are strong enough for a full-scale blockbuster, but given that the feature film and web series aren't going to be directly linked, Tancharoen has a bit of flexibility.
Mortal Kombat Legacy Season 2 is scheduled to premiere in September on Machinima.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.