Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Mortal Kombat reboot pitch is gritty, also shitty

Yes, I've seen this. You can stop asking now, alright?

This has been all the rage this week, mostly thanks to it showing up without any indication as to what it was "selling." Now we know: It's a "professional fan-film" made by a guy trying to sell a "reboot" pitch to the rights holders. With professional-looking shorts getting easier to produce, we'll probably end up seeing a lot more of these for "genre" franchises.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_MqZn7E-mk

Honestly... I think it looks like crap. Not that the other "Kombat" movies were any great shakes, and the guy certainly has the technical chops for spot-on recreating the Saw/Hostel "house style" to saying nothing of the ability to aquire the aid of Jeri Ryan and Michael Jai White.

But the "angle" he's pitching, a "realistic" gritty revamp of the series with the various supernatural Kombatants reworked as psychos with skin conditions or body-mod fetishes? BLEGH. No, thank you.

Y'know... we're coming up on the 35th Anniversary of "Jaws" next week. Whole books have been written making the case that, even though they stand up as great films in their own right, "Jaws" and "Star Wars" ultimately had a negative impact on moviemaking by creating the blockbuster mentality. I dunno how much truth there's ever been in that thesis, but I'm starting to feel like one day I'll be feeling something similar about Christopher Nolan's "Batman" movies... loving them as films but HATING the impact they're having on genre film, i.e. making this kind of grim-and-gritty, "realistic," suck-the-weird-out-of-everything reimagining the order of the day.

To hell with "grounded," and fuck "realism." I can't wait to see the "realistic" version of Superman, where instead of Krypton he's from Canada or something, and instead of flying he's just a pretty good helicopter pilot.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

sweet lord..... fan boy much?
if it doesn't have to do with Captain America or Nintendo, you want nothing to do with it.
i think this reboot looks awesome. some things (such as the Mortal Kombat universe) needs an explanation, if there left as is, they come off as stupid and silly. i cant wait to see you eat your words when and if this does get made and your the first one in line to see it.

The Canadian Gun Nut said...

I think the point he's trying to make (and I am partial to agree in this case) is that if you ground it in realism, then it's not really "Mortal Kombat"... not to say that the games had much of a good plot to begin with, but half the appeal was the supernatural powers that did gruesome things. If you humanize that it loses a lot of what made it great in the first place.

Then again, I DO think there is a good time and place for a gritty realistic movie in this style. I'll fully support the claim that the original MK movies were bad because they weren't gritty enough. Is it possible to have a middle ground here? Fantastic and Gritty?

Oh and Bob, I love your work for the most part, but he does have a point that you harp on the realism factor a bit much. It has it's time and place in films. Sometimes seeing someone do something that you could believe they could physically do has a serious appeal.

Bob said...

So... "they're from another dimension" or, even more simply, "magic" - explanations that handily answer any question one need ask about a franchise in which undead ninjas, lightning gods and four-armed ogres get together for a fighting tournament - are more "silly" a premise than a cannibalistic harlequin-ichthyosis sufferer being invited to a kung-fu tournament?

That's the irony of this sort of thing, for me: The more "real" some things get, the sillier.

Hey, I know! Let's "reboot" Harry Potter! Magic and wizard-schools are ghey... instead they'll be "tuff" street kids from an inexplicably rust-colored urban hellhole, and Hogwarts is a crackhouse where oldschool hustlers teach them how run card-trick scams. Yeah, that'll be BADASS ;)

The Canadian Gun Nut said...

Bob that's a pretty extreme example, surley you see there could be a good middle ground (and hell, MK would be a great medium). Picture a MK movie where the magical, other-dimensional beings fight like in the games, but also include the dark grimy lighting and gratuitous blood and gore of a SAW-style movie.

I don't like the "realistic" (very sarcastic) background they've given the characters. But I could see the visual style work very well with a Mortal Kombat movie. The video games were famous for their gore, as well as their fantastic settings.

Not to say that ALL movies need to take this approach. Certainly trying to do Mario Bros this way would be terrible. But a bloody, gritty "Realistic" adaptation of, say, Half-Life? That might work, so long as you kept the aliens :)

Bob said...

The R-rating I can get behind. But this particular style of cinematography irritates me in the same way shaky-cam does. For crissakes, even David Fincher turns a LAMP on once in awhile.

Charles Ragesmith III said...

First of all, I just want to get out that I think the first MK movie is one of the only legitimately good VG movies. Yes, it's a popcorn movie, but it's a fairly decent adaptation and it's FUN.

Second, I agree and disagree with you, Bob. Yes, trying to give real-world explanations for MK character is about as dumb as it sounds, and both "Reptile" and "Baraka" are ripped from bad DTV horror movies, BUT the idea of dark and gritty appeals to me and the short was entertaining for what it was.

Third, For an MK movie, the best way I can think of is to do it Constantine style and have "gritty" magic. I think that would be a good compromise. Oh, and for my money, it needs EPIC amounts of gore.

Anonymous said...

Only it's not "realistic". Like, at all. Who in their right mind calls a Tournament for killers and assassins (who are also somehow super-skilled in the Martial Arts) "realistic"? The condition given to the new Reptile is an actual thing, but no one can say that a person with such a condition would grow up to be Reptile's age or be at all capable of the things he does. Hell, Sub-Zero is apparently still 100% like how he was in the Games as far as we can tell, and someone who can do THAT sure as Hell isn't "realistic".

I get your point about this, too. Whenever I hear people talking about how they want a "grim, gritty" Superman movie (remember when Mark Millar was trying to get attached to that? Yuck), I retch. That sort of style doesn't fit that kind of story. At all. But "Mortal Kombat"? "Mortal Kombat" has ALWAYS been about the insane brutality, violence, and "Grim, Gritty" factors far more than it was about the interdimensional origins of its characters, which were always just an excuse to give them far greater means of unleashing the aforementioned insane violence anyway. It seems silly to complain about a Movie that takes those same core elements and simply grounds them in a new context, one that could EASILY open up into something more resembling the original games ANYWAY (I got the distinct impression from the trailer that there was far more to the Tournament than we were being told) and isn't all that far removed from where this franchise started in the first place. Be honest. Can you HONESTLY tell me, with characters like Kano running around, that you COULDN'T picture the new Baraka being an actual character from the original franchise?

Drunken Lemur said...

Anybody else remember the Street Fighter fan film from a little while back? That was neat. I don't care about Mortal Kombat, so I'll just leave it at that. So yeah, R rated Mortal Kombat.

Andy said...

I definitely agree that gritty "realism" has a time and a place. You once said, Bob, that realism is a style which an artist may use. It works with Batman because aside from the colorful cast of heroes and villains, Batman as a superhero is more "grounded" than most others. He doesn't have powers, he uses tools, he spent years developing the necessary skills in order to wage his fight against crime. That's why the Nolan Batman movies work, cause most audiences are willing forgo small leaps of logic while watching films grounded in "realism". He's one of the few with which "dark and gritty" fit, so I think it's great to have Batman as a gritty "realistic" superhero film, but we really should leave most others to have their colorful costumes.

I also agree, that realism is overrated. We never would have had franchises like Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings if people weren't willing to ignore realism.

Anonymous said...

Or, you know ... Superman could just leap ....

Tendo said...

I dunno bob, I think you're being a bit harsh on this one. MK has always been an awkward mash of ninja's magic and machinery in scenery that varies from haunted forests to tech bases to side streets. One of the main problems is that there is so much to chew and not enough cinematic plate to fit it on. The MK movies were trying to make the magic world coherent and workable for audiences off a story that was pretty sparse YET had a lot of characters and settings. The product was a flimsy story with built around cacophony action that mostly felt empty or ham handed to say the least. Is it really crazy that he cut out the mysticism? Sure its not true to the source but at least it would come together better then a hastily made ransom note.

As for the grittiness, I'm not sure what the problem is. This is mortal combat after all, the game who's staple is mauling your opponents. Cutting some ones head off AFTER the fight seems tame in comparison. Plus the fact that reptile eats heads was a nice call back to MK2. (when he ate the heads of people)

But maybe its best that it never see's the light of day. The plot seems strait forward, give or take one or two WHAT A TWEEEST moments. Maybe I'll just make the movie in my head and said it was worth while.

(The you might have something with Canadian heli super man)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bobs idea that gritty realism will go too far and Nolan will inspire far more bad movies than good.

However I would netflix this mortal kombat movie

Alex said...

I think that like some others here i agree and disagree with you Bob. While a realistic Superman sounds like a terrible idea, a realistic MK is not so bad. I mean there have been what, 12 games? Those games are all fucking nuts, demonic forces, ninjas, aliens from other dimensions. Its all about change, after 11 games midway realized that they needed to mix things up a bit so they throw in DC characters. In this one they take a leaf out of Batman's book. It takes the core ideas of Mortal Kombat and tries to place them in a real world setting, and good luck to them, hey they made me and god-knows how many other people interested in MK again for the first time in about a decade.

The thing about "realism" is that you have to let you audience suspend their disbelief so that the events of the movie don't seem incongruous. So at one end of the scale you have a biopic, say "The Queen" or something where everything about the film has to be as if it could happen, or in the case, could have happened. On the other end of the scale you'd have Alice in Wonderland or Le Chien Andalou where nothing needs to make sense at all, so the audiences disbelief is completely suspended.

Its all a scale and I don't care where a film sits on it as long as it knows where it is and makes sure that all its various parts are in line with it. I've found myself scoffing at as many serious dramas as i have genre films. Bad dramas often fail to create realistic characters or have a bit too convenient plot, because they have created the standard of realism too high.

Anyway, sorry i got really side tracked, my point is that the grim and gritty motif will get old, and derivative films will be lauded for what they are and people will get bored. Until then its interesting seeing some old IPs being revamped and redone in a different style and having new life breathed into them. Will it work for all IPs? No, but enjoy it when it works and don't buy it when it doesn't. Producers will get the idea.

untra said...

If this was a pitch for a homemade indie film like the mega man indie film was, I would totally get behind this. But otherwise this whole thing looks spectacularly cheesy, and I imagine that nothing good coul come out of this.

*shudder*

dennett316 said...

Mortal Kombat has never been gritty or realistic in the least, why would anyone clamour to see that? The series has been hyper violent, vibrant and colourful and insanely daft.
The original adaptation + added gore and fatalities = pitch perfect.

I appreciate the attempt to do something different, but you'd have to strip so much away that it might as well not be Mortal Kombat any more.

Sylocat said...

I think I'd be just as revolted as you, Bob...

...if I thought that Mortal Kombat actually had a storyline worth defending in its own right (as opposed to the plot that was apparently written when someone who didn't speak Chinese watched a kung-fu movie with the subtitles off, and was then asked to describe what he thought was going on)...

...and if the film actually looked like it was going to take itself this seriously (from the style of the trailer and the reimaginings of the characters, I could easily picture the final product being a Shaun of the Dead-style parody of gritty-realism reboots)...

...look, I realize how influential MK was on popularizing the medium, and I've certainly enjoyed playing it, but take the rose-colored glasses off and tell me that any attempt at sticking to canon would wind up as anything other than a parody of bad western attempts at east-Asian action films.

Red Priest Rezo said...

Wow. Bob, we are not talking about Mario or Zelda here. We are talking about MK. It always was supposed to be as "grim", "gritty" and "realistic" as possible.

And in an interview director of the short clearly said, that he has no intension to cast away all mystical elements of the games, just to make them more subtle. He just wants to return MK to what it always been - dark, bloody and evil.

Trip said...

Eh,the trailer bored me. Couldn't sit through it.

I think (and correct me if I'm wrong) that Bob is being so harsh on this not because it's "grim and gritty" but because damn near everything is "grim and gritty" nowadays. We've seen it in comics, we've seen it in video games, and we've seen it in movies. He'd probably be more forgiving if he didn't have to deal with it all of the time. Novels might be one of the only forms of entertainment that have avoided this, but even there the god awful Twilight series became one of the most popular books since Harry Potter.

I think we're all a little tired of seeing largely mediocre franchises become wildly popular.

Anonymous said...

Without the magic, other dimensions, etc, this movie is just full of fail. I could see the gritty work if it was in some dark Cthulu type world with dark gritty ritual magic. But my favorite MK characters reduces to "crazy" people... oooooohhh...scaaary. Meh. Like someone else said, something to Netflix at best.

Bob said...

I can't wait to find out if Raiden is just some guy running around with a car battery and some alligator clamps...

Sylocat said...

Having re-watched the trailer, I am increasingly convinced that it's meant as a parody of gritty-realism reboots, and not an actual attempt at one.

Smashmatt202 said...

I saw it, too, and I thought it was alright. But I agree with you on the whole "gritty realism" thing.

Anonymous said...

i think this new look works well with the MK world. the first 2 MK movies where a huge fail in my books, they did the exact opposite of this, why not try a new approach? i mean if you don't wanna see realism, and you want something so bright and colorful it almost comes off as fruity, there's always the Marvel movies.... all the comic book movies that have been coming out in the last couple of years make me want to be sick, there too colorful and too silly. they explain nothing, they just expect you to swallow the shallow story you are fed and be happy.... with the exception of Nolan's Batman series. this is a welcome change to me, i really hope this gets made and becomes what it should have been to begin with.
almost all movies based on a previous game come off as horrible because they try and stick to the game too much. its good to see a movie look at the realistic side of things and not just expect people to love it cause it has "Mortal Kombat" slapped on it.

Tal said...

Ha. I actually agree with Bob on this one, at least insofar as I think making MK into this kind of thing is absurd.

Mortal Kombat is a video game about a bunch of random superpowered whackos who beat the living crap out of each other for no reason that stands up under a two-year-old's five second contemplation. It's unabashed and unapologetic release of testosterone. There's not really a lot more to it.

Are there times and places for "toning down" unbelievable concepts into the world we live in (more or less)? Sure. Old example, but like Bob said: Batman. He's a vigilante who beats on crooks with expensive gadgets. Okay, we can work with that. Just nix the more ridiculous gizmos, give him a reason for what he's doing, and you're good to go.

What I can't understand is the next step in the logic of all these others: that making concepts that never bore even the slightest resemblance to reality part of the "real world" is in some way a good thing. Batman just loses his bat-lasers. No big. But MK? You'd have to prune pretty much everything that made Mortal Kombat what it was. What sort of fan could, or would, do that?

Mortal Kombat makes no sense. Trying to artificially insert some strikes me as not so much an homage as an attempt to somehow link enjoyment of the franchise with recognition of its plotlessness by creating something entirely new.

Guy wants to make some dark adventure about mutated street toughs duking it out? Whatevs. Just don't call it Mortal Kombat, 'cause it won't be.

NobleBear said...

I also disagree. I appreciate your views on the whole realism vs. go-for-broke thing; thinking outside the box and embracing the surreal and the ridiculous can make for some great creative stuff. I disagree here though because I like the idea of examining characters I like through different contexts and then seeing how these new tones, styles, settings shed light on the character(s). Your "could this be a monkey?" question is important but I think the equation should be able to run sideways and backwards as well. For example, as a Spidey fan, I am willing to take, say, Kraven's Last Hunt, Spider-Ham, and Mangaverse Spidey all in equal measure. in each case Peter is Still Peter but I find out new things about him or seeing how his skill sets would work in a setting governed by different rules. I would argue that there is room for a "realistic" Kombat as much as, say,I don't know, an Angelic Layer anime reworking of the characters. Anyway, I'm not trying to ride your ass or anything on this, just something to think about. :)

Anonymous said...

so going to another dimension, and fighting a bunch of weirdo's with colorful outfits on before finally confronting a four armed giant ogre thing is a better idea? lol.
i think ill go with the dark and gritty premise on this one. that's one thing that the MK series has always been lacking, a proper story. i like this spin. seems like it could work, of course you would have to tweak a few things, but i really think this could work.
oh and the idea of a realistic superman....... lol, nah...... just nah.

Chris said...

I worked on the not-so-seen Tekken film directed by Dwight Little, and there are two actors from that movie in this film short. Ian Anthony Dale & Lateef Crowder play Scorpion & Baraka respectively in this. I was watching this thing thinking to myself, this HAS to have been made by at least SOME of the same people involved. Whether this is a stand-alone film that someone was DYING to make or a precursor to a feature film, I still don't know. But it makes me think there's more to it, probably a screener to get more funding. Who knows? It does look stupid as hell, though. I mean, who the fuck are they kidding with this crap?

Anonymous said...

Hey there. Anonymous #1 here again. Just figured I'd mention, remember how I said that this concept could easily re-introduce the Mystical Trans-Dimensional stuff? Turns out, my instinct was spot on the money. From an interview with the Director:

"Now like I said, because I am such a fan of the Mortal Kombat series, I know there’s a lot of concern about the mysticism and the special powers and all that kind of stuff. Well, like I said, this is really designed — the short so far is really designed like a prologue to the movie. Now, in a movie version, I am going to have that mysticism there, but it has to be done in a very tasteful way. I wouldn’t like it too campy or too cheesy. I know this is a weird analogy, but it’s the best one I can think of right now. It’s kind of like when in Harry Potter, there’s two universes that coexist with each other. There’s the real world, and then you get on the train and then you go to Hogwart’s, and that’s where all the magic is.”

You can read the rest of the interview here: http://screenrant.com/mortal-kombat-rebirth-director-interview-benk-63998/

Gray said...

Wow, heated discussion here.

Like most other people here I agree that Grim 'n Gritty re imaginings have their time and place. They may not always be appropriate, but sometimes they fit right in.

Mortal Kombat was never supposed (at least not in my eyes) to be a fantastic, imaginative universe full of magic and escapism. The point of MK (again, as I see it) is to be a shocking, violent gore feast that you enjoy with a little bit of guilt.

This kind of Grim 'n Gritty would not destroy Mortal Kombat, it would take it back to what it's supposed to be. "He's a dude from hell and he's evil" doesn't have the same menacing evil ring to it today as it had a couple of decades back.

But like you said, removing the magic is not always a good idea, it would completely ruin a great deal of works. But not Mortal Kombat.

Mveculous said...

Hire a few decent writers to Mortal Kombat:Shoalin Monks into a workable narrative.

It's got the violence and the fantastiscm. All you have would have to do is jettison almost the whole story and you have a good model to go on.**

I for one and dying to see a man get buzz sawed in half from the balls up by a Kung Lao's hat on the big screen.

I'm willing to be "Tastefully" is going to be the same thing as in the horrid Max Payne movie. ONE whole scene of something fantastical happening and the rest of the movie everyone will act like it was one lone fart at the party, and it will never happen again so the character find it best to just not mention it.

This movie sounds like Bloodport only instead of Jeane Claude Van Damme every fighter is some genetic freak or ceral killer.

Silent Jay said...

I got to ride with Bob on this one. The whole reason you make a movie based on fantastic story is because you wan't A FANTASTIC STORY. Look at Super Mario Brothers. The game is about two ordinary men who are thrown into a fantastic world with it's own fantastic rules much like Alice in Wonderland. There is no explanation as to how a whole world is ruled by mushroom people or how turtles can kick your but (unless they're teenage mutant ninja variety) and how a fat plumber jumps so high it puts MJ hops to shame but none of that mattered. So when the movie comes along and there are dinosaurs, evolution, and rocket powered boots (actually those were cool) it just sort ruined what made Super Mario well so super. Trying to fabricate realistic explanations for a fantastic story so you can appeal to a mass audience while risking offending the fan base of that story doesn't always work.

Dave said...

Bob, you first reply just hammers home EVERYTHING that is wrong with your style of writing. Whenever there's an interpretation of something, anything that is outside a the very arbitrary confines of what you think it should be, it is automatically horrible and shit and anyone who likes it is a stupid mouth breathing trog (cue ogre from revenge of the nerds) completely incapable of accepting other opinions (and this is done entirely without irony.)

A realistic superman could still have him as an alien, but maybe this time we could have him as a relatable character. maybe one that could actually be hurt and thus generate a sense of drama. one that didn't run out of interesting villains midway through the second of 5 movies.

Grim and gritty for the sake of it is as stupid as candy coated and fanciful is just for the sake of it. One excess gives you All star batman and robin. The other give syou batman and robin.

If done well, (which naturally applies to EVERY aspect of filmmaking) the grim and gritty approach can giveus a better and higher quality understanding of the source material. As in the bond reboot, which is in every way superior to the predecessors, which were essentially, high budget B movies. And during the moore years (and when connery came back fro the 3rd time) not even those.

Bob said...

"As in the bond reboot, which is in every way superior to the predecessors, which were essentially, high budget B movies."

I can't really go there with ya, man. Sorry.

I thought "Casino Royale" was good. Solid. Decent. What the franchise needed at that moment. And so on and so forth. In a fair comparison (i.e. one taking into account the era and conditions of production) I'd put it on the "B Shelf" next to Thunderball, From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me. It's DEFINITELY not in the realm of Goldfinger or On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Honestly, even going outside the Bond series and holding it to the standards of other spy/espionage movies, I'd call it strictly average: It certainly doesn't rise to the level of Manchurian Candidate or Day of The Jackal. And since it primarily exists as a Bond "origin story," I found it lessened in hindsight once Quantum of Solace answered the "where can this go from here?" question with a thudding "nowhere special."

Graham said...

On Her Majesty's Secret Service? Huh. Don't think I've seen that one. Well, anyway, I heartily agree with you, Bob. Why is grim and gritty always associated with "more sophisticated"? I don't get it.

Taylor said...

People going crazy over this trailer are forgetting that it's just a trailer...it's kind of fun to think of this as a thought experiment, but what would you get if you expanded this into a full movie? Just a dull, samey karate and gore flick with nothing special to offer...how could it have something special to offer when it took everything special away from the series in an effort to be grittier?

Bob, I think you are totally right about everything here, particularly about the Jaws/Nolan Batman problem, although I trace everything even farther back to Watchmen. Moore pretty much said in this book, "Alright, in the real world obviously costumed heroes are hideously impractical and can't make a difference and an actual superhero would be a hideously imbalancing political force...so, obviously this genre is not to be taken to that place since it won't work.

And yet, everyone took it the wrong way and decided that this was the model of how we had to do superhero stories now.

It isn't superprising that Zack Snyder's (Completely awful) Watchmen adaptation slipped it's way in here, fits right in with the dark and gritty phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

first 2 MK movies = EPIC FAIL

this trailer = possible win.

im out.

Bob said...

"It isn't superprising that Zack Snyder's (Completely awful) Watchmen adaptation slipped it's way in here, fits right in with the dark and gritty phenomenon."

Setting opinion of the movie aside (I liked it) perhaps the ultimate irony of all this is that, while more obviously adult-skewed, the Watchmen movie - essentially a SATIRE of superheroes - is infinitely LESS gritty and "realistic" than the 'serious' superhero movie Dark Knight.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this interview with the short's creator will ease your knee jerk reaction to it's look. Frankly I liked the feel of the thing. 'Sucked all the weird' out of it is going a bit far. More like took the weird in a different direction, but hey, that's a re-imagining. It's a moot point anyway though since the creator indicates in the interview that he has every intention of keeping the magic, and sorcery, and such in the feature film if he ever gets it made (I for one hope he does).

I don't necessarily disagree with the sentiment about 'grounded' and 'realistic' film making, either. But I don't think that a seven minute proof of concept video really warrants this kind of flack.

http://www.collider.com/2010/06/09/kevin-tancharoen-interview-mortal-kombat-rebirth-feature-film/

Nathan said...

My problem is the direction they take with the characters. I personally couldn't route for any of the characters. As a fan of Mortal Kombat, yeah I could route for Scorpian, but as for a general movie audiance who would they route. It seems that all of the guys in the tournament are psycho killers and to me Jax comes off more of an asshole than the "tough cop". I just hope if this movie does get done that there is a person to relate to or at least anti-hero done right.

Sophie said...

okay... I don´t mind the realism aspect with the characters being psychos...but a) It does sound like a rip-off from several horror movies, b) it looks like a SAW-wannabe and c) okay, if you go WTIH a realism angle ... then how the fuck you explain using an action-movie actor UNDERCOVER against supposed super-danger-guys? ...and the ending... well..bäh.. bäh ..bäh