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Mortal Kombat is a franchise that’s been in a losing fight to stay relevant for years. After it shook up parents and moral guardians across the country in the early ’90s with its over-the-top violence and gory fatalities, the series began to lose its relevance after a string of mediocre-to-bad games and two horrible movies.

Despite a rich mythology packed with cyborg ninjas and vengeful thunder gods, Mortal Kombat slowly fell off the cultural radar (everyone who saw the movies tried to forcibly push it off the cultural radar). The harder it fought to stay relevant, the more ridiculous it became.

How is this even a game? Batman kills everyone. The end.

Case in point.

A film reboot of the franchise has long been in the works, but very little concrete information has been forthcoming. Until yesterday, when this happened.

Michael Jai White as Jax? Reptile and Baraka as homicidal psychopaths? JOHNNY CAGE BEHEADED?


Speculation about the mysterious video, titled Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, ran rampant across the internet. Was it a teaser for an upcoming film? A live action game trailer? Jeri Ryan, who portrayed Sonya Blade in the video, cleared things up on Twitter last night. Ryan tweets:

“It’s not a game trailer. Actually was made for the director to sell WB on his vision for a reimagined MK film… I did it as a favor to a friend. No idea yet what WB’s reaction to it was.”

The director Ryan refers to is Kevin Tancharoen, best known for directing last year’s remake of Fame, which was awarded a Razzie for the worst film of the year. Tancharoen’s filmography doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but in light of Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, I’m rooting for him.

Fan reaction to the pitch was and is split. Some, like myself, are totally sold on the concept of a dark and disturbingly awesome Mortal Kombat movie. Others say this is the latest in the unstoppable tidal wave of grim ‘n’ gritty reboots out of Hollywood and that Mortal Kombat is at its very essence and therefore should remain, campy as all hell.

Since you’re here, you’re apparently at least somewhat interested in my thoughts on the matter beyond “HOLY SOAP BLACK DYNAMITE IS GOING TO FIGHT ROBO-NINJAS!” I think MK: Rebirth is the best thing to happen to Mortal Kombat since those lawsuits that shoved it to the center of the public consciousness all those years ago. It shows that the franchise is capable of more than just bloody cartoonish violence and flying bicycle kicks. The idea of a Christopher Nolan-esque reboot that does for the bloated, self indulgent franchise what The Dark Night did for the bloated, self indulgent Batman film franchise excites me. It is unfortunate that the franchise needs a gritty reboot when we’re all sick of gritty reboots, but the Mortal Kombat universe lends itself particularly well to a darker interpretation, as the video pitch demonstrates.

As for Sub-Zero and Scorpion, since we know they’re in Tancharoen’s vision for the franchise, I’m okay with them as long as their abilities make sense in the context of the universe established by the film. If there is at least a semi-reasonable explanation for Sub-Zero’s ice powers (provided he has them), then I’ll have no complaints.

No matter what, haters are going to hate. Let them. More awesome movie for me. Warner Bros., please make this movie a reality. Also, would it be asking too much for you to drag Tony Jaa out of his Buddhist retreat and cast him as Liu Kang?

What are your thoughts on MK: Rebirth? Are you down with the macabre reboot, or should Mortal Kombat make like James Bond and stay campy?

UPDATE: You guys, the actor who portrayed Baraka in Rebirth is Lateef Crowder, who played the awesome capoiera guy from the temple fight scene in Tony Jaa’s The Protector. That is so radically awesome.

UPDATE: Collider has an excellent interview with Rebirth’s director Kevin Tancharoen. He discusses details from the shoot and briefly touches on his vision for the mysticism and special moves.


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