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June 8, 2010

Considering my previous post, the timing of this video is serendipitous.

Video game movies arguably suffer the most from the attitude “Meh, it’s a video game movie, what do you expect?” We have yet to have a video game-based movie that treats the source material with the respect shown to novel adaptations. Comic book movies used to suffer under the same yoke, but in the last decade or so, some filmmakers have realized what I was talking about before: just because they’re comic book movies doesn’t mean they can’t be good movies.

Video games, sadly, are still caught in the catch-22. Filmmakers don’t take the movies seriously and the movies wind up shitty. Since the movies are shitty, they bomb. So filmmakers get it in their heads that a video game movie isn’t going to do well at the box office because it’s a video game movie, so they don’t bother to take it seriously. And round and round. (It looked like we might be able to break out of that cycle when Gore Verbinski was attached to BIOSHOCK, but alas.)

Which is why this video, titled MORTAL KOMBAT: REBIRTH, is pretty exciting.

The video is making the rounds of the blogosphere today. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether this is a well-made fan film or a producer’s pitch or what.

Me, I see the distinct hallmarks of an independent fan film. For one thing, a producer actually working the system in Hollywood would never release this to YouTube; not before the project was greenlit. For another, it’s clearly made to cater to fans, which I think makes it clear that it was made by fans.

Other than a few VFX shots that would be perfectly possible for a single (talented) VFX artist to pull off in a couple weeks, it’s not actually an expensive movie. It looks expensive — they got a solid DP, seem to have picked up Magic Bullet Mojo, and otherwise spent money wisely — but under the hood, it isn’t something that would actually cost much to shoot, assuming everyone worked lo/no/deferred. I’m sure they hope that this will lead to open doors and money being thrown at them hand-over-fist to make the feature version — that’s usually why people make these (see also: BATMAN: DEAD END) — but based on my experience in fan films, I’m fairly certain that there’s no such deal in place as of this writing.

This is not to say that I think this makes it bad. On the contrary, I think the fact that people outside the fan film culture can’t tell which this is is a testament to what a great job they did here. And while I don’t necessarily agree with some of the choices they made design-wise (Baraka is kind of a WTF), what I love is that they’re trying.

They’re putting in the effort to envision a movie based on a video game that doesn’t act like a video game movie. That appeals to the fans without pandering to them. They’re trying to make THE DARK KNIGHT and not BATMAN & ROBIN. Just like Nolan did — he didn’t take inspiration from “comic book movies,” he took inspiration from BLADE RUNNER and HEAT. In the same vein, MK:R has a strong SE7EN vibe to it. Even if a feature version never comes together, I have high hopes that at the very least this will get the wheels turning and help people realize “Wait, a movie based on a video game doesn’t have to be stupid and cartoony? Hmmmm.”

I don’t know if this would be a great movie, but it looks like it’d be pretty fucking good. Certainly better — or at the very least, far more interesting — than previous offerings in the genre. It would be easy to say “Nobody expects a MORTAL KOMBAT movie to be well-made.” And you’d be right. But this one was anyway, and no one’s complaining.

  1. Brian permalink

    Yeah, man, you’ve definitely got a Google ad at the bottom of your post here. This one tells me I can become a movie producer!

    • dorkmanscott permalink


      Apparently they’ve always done this, they’ve just started doing it more. I guess since my Grey Area post got a lot of traffic they decided it was time to start cashing in.

      I paid an upgrade so we shouldn’t get any more ads. If we do let me know and I will SUE THEM.

      Or at least complain.

  2. Spider-Fan permalink

    Actually I’ve heard quite a few complaints at the “ridiculous” grounding of the concept, that it’s betrayed the source material by abandoning the more fantastic elements. And these are comments made by fairly intelligent people.

    Frankly I disagree and were this a real movie, I’d be there opening day.

    Good to know I am not the only one who thought this was a step in the right direction.

    • dorkmanscott permalink

      While I will admit to being a little disappointed that it appears to be taking out the supernatural elements of the concept, if it led to people taking these kinds of movies more seriously, I’d consider it an acceptable sacrifice and just look forward to other movies diving deeper into fantasy while still leaving camp aside.

  3. Yeah, totally agree with you here. It’s rarely the concept which stands in the way of excellent execution. More often than not it feels the other way around – excellent source gets muddied by the mixture of design by committee and desire to cash in on a title.

    I do hope that some thought goes into how a mixture of fan-service and other influences have made MK:R as good as it is. It certainly draws attention by name alone, but what made me tweet it to my friends is that it is actually pretty good.


  4. Marcus permalink

    So, given your opinion on this, what did you think of Street Fighter: Legacy (seen here: )

  5. Jake permalink

    According to her, this is meant as a pitch.

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