‘Mortal Kombat Legacy 2’ director on characters, choreography

Sept. 24, 2013 | 5:29 p.m.

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” Maurissa Tancharoen isn’t the only one in her family with a new creative venture premiering this week. On Thursday, her brother Kevin Tancharoen is set to debut “Mortal Kombat Legacy 2,” the sequel to the video game-inspired Web series that launched in 2011 on the Machinima YouTube channel and has had more than 70 million views. This time, though, the series will be released in its entirety rather than rolling out in episodic installments — Kevin Tancharoen noted that binge-viewing habits have changed even the way Web series creators think about launching new projects.

Hero Complex caught up with Tancharoen, whose original self-made short film spawned the Web series and an upcoming feature, to talk a bit more about what to expect from the new episodes and the big-screen version he’s planning.

HC: So, this time around, the week-long wait between episodes is gone?

KT: Yeah. We are going to do the Netflix style of binge-viewing, which I think fans are going to be extremely happy about because I think, given this format … well, actually it’s just given the way that audiences now digest content. I watched “House of Cards” in three days, and I watched all the seasons of “Breaking Bad” in a week. I think audiences want that now. It’s just kind of shifting. When it comes to “Mortal Kombat,” they’re only 10 minutes, so it’s a little unfair to have your fans wait a week for another 10 minutes.

HC: You have an extensive background in dance and choreography — including directing the 2009 remake of “Fame.” How different is it to do these action-centric shorts?

KT: Well, honestly, I feel more comfortable in this space because the types of movies that I watched my whole life were these types of movies. When it comes to the action, I feel like it’s very similar. In a lot of ways, all of these fight and action sequences are just as choreographed as a routine that would be done on stage, and that kind of background has helped me design specialty shots around the choreography as opposed to just covering the choreography. You let the camera be part of the design, and that transition has been very fluid to me in terms of being able to block a scene or really inform how to choreograph an action scene.

HC: What initially led you to re-imagine “Mortal Kombat”?

KT: It was a mixture of a couple of things, but it was always two things in my mind to do. It was either going to be “Mortal Kombat” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” I knew that they were already making a “Ninja Turtles” movie, but beyond that, I don’t think I had the budget in my personal account to pull off the “Ninja Turtles” that I wanted to do because I would’ve had to build those suits. Those suits are way too expensive for me, so I just thought “Mortal Kombat” will be cool and people haven’t really seen anything new about it in a while and there was a nostalgic love behind it. So let’s go off and do that one.

HC: So in choosing the characters, money was a factor. Anything else?

KT: Yes, that was a factor, but I also just really liked using the characters from the first two games. I know that there are so many others, with more Shaolin monks, etc. — they’re up to “Mortal Kombat 9” at this point [game-wise] — but I just wanted to pick the roster that I remember as a kid just loving and playing in either the arcade or on Sega Genesis. We went about it that way. Initially, in my short film, we picked the more human characters because I wasn’t able to do Goro or Baraka — those are hard characters to execute in a live-action format. I still haven’t been able to do Goro, but he’s written into the feature film, so hopefully I’ll get the chance to do him right.

HC: Specifically, Liu Kang seems to be a big part of this chapter.

KT: Admittedly, I was not a huge fan of Liu Kang growing up. I was always a Scorpion and Sub-Zero type of person. Liu Kang just felt like Bruce Lee, and his special moves and fatalities were not really that hard-core cause he had to be the monk. But this go-around, I said, if I’m going to do Liu Kang, the first time we see him he’s going to be alone in a bar drunk, and that opened up a whole discussion. We’re going to do drunk, angry, angsty Liu Kang — and where does that go? We are doing the complete opposite of the mythology that people already know, and I’m very happy that Ed Boon and his team over at NetherRealm embraced it because this was the only interesting version for me to do Liu Kang. I can’t just have him be some Shaolin monk in a temple who puts a red headband on — I don’t think that works in 2013 cause we’ve all seen “Enter the Dragon.”

Brian Tee stars as Liu Kang in "Mortal Kombat Legacy 2." (Machinima)

Brian Tee stars as Liu Kang in “Mortal Kombat Legacy 2.” (Machinima)

HC: Does the the upcoming movie function as “Mortal Kombat Legacy 3”? Or will it start from scratch?

KT: We made a conscious decision that the movie is going to be its own universe, the reason being that we want “Legacy” to live on its own and I don’t want them to have to rely on each other because I think the world of “Legacy” still has a lot of stories to tell. They’re just two different mediums and two different styles of storytelling. I picture that there’s also a version of “Mortal Kombat” that’s a TV version or a Netflix version that lives on and is epic in its scope like “Game of Thrones.” Obviously, they’re not shy about killing their main characters, and I would have to do the same thing. “Mortal Kombat” has been around for over 20 years. The movie has to stand on its own. We want to take the mythology that everyone knows but also add to it. We’re still taking the canon, but we’re adding additional characters to still push it forward for another, who knows, 20 or 30 years. “Mortal Kombat” could be one of those games that could be around forever, and that’s how we’re treating the feature film.

HC: So, has “Legacy 3” the Web series always been in your head?

KT: When I made the short film, it was just sort of cross your fingers and see what happens. In the first season, I will say, I felt like as designed as it was, it was slightly experimental. Each episode was very different from the other. This season, we’re really starting the long-form narrative style of storytelling in a more traditional cable style of narrative, and this one I wanted to make sure was a linear story line that could go on and on. But, yeah, me and the writers of “Legacy” have ideas for Season 3. If there is a Season 3, it would be great if it turned into 45-minute episodes! I think “Mortal Kombat” lends itself to having that. There’s so many characters and so many stories that you can just keep telling them.

— Jevon Phillips

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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