'Fame' Director Helms New 'Mortal Kombat' Digital Series for Warner Premiere

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Director Kevin Tancharoen, who helmed the 2009 Fame dance movie re-make, is shooting a new live action Mortal Kombat digital short film series this February in Vancouver, Canada. The series will delve deep into the history of popular video game characters like Scorpion, Johnny Cage and Liu Kang. The videos will be available this spring through online digital retailers from Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

With game developer NetherRealm Studios readying the first stereoscopic 3D Mortal Kombat game for publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE), gamers will get new insight into some of the key characters from the violent fighting game franchise. More details on the series, including the actors who will step into these iconic roles, will be announced soon.

Tancharoen connected with other Mortal Kombat fans by directing the unofficial live action fan short, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, which garnered over 10 million views online. That video paved the way for this new digital series, which will help promote the new Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game that ships April 19.

Warner Bros. is also developing a big screen reboot for the Mortal Kombat film franchise. The new film is expected to take a more mature approach to the source material than the first two movies. It's also a prime candidate for a 3D adaptation on the big screen, as recent video game translation Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D showed. Tancharoen has expressed interest in filming the new movie, but first up for the director is this short film series.

Before recent big screen translations of video games like Jerry Bruckheimer's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time earned over $335 million worldwide in 2010 for Disney, Mortal Kombat was one of the first true examples of a game franchise crossing over successfully into Hollywood.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson, whose 2010 Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D for Sony Pictures grossed over $296 million globally, directed the first Mortal Kombat movie for New Line Cinema. That film was the first theatrical video game blockbuster, earning over $122 million at the global box office in 1995. After Anderson left for other projects, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation earned only $51 million globally in 1997.

"I'd love to see another movie but I'd be really cautious," said Boon. "I wasn't crazy about the second Mortal Kombat movie. If they make another one, I'd want to make sure it has the quality of the first one. And it'd be exciting to see a Mortal Kombat movie in 3D."

Mortal Kombat spawned two televisions series (Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm and Mortal Kombat: Conquest) and an animated prequel Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. There was even a live touring stage show during its heyday.

Now 19 years old, Mortal Kombat is one of the most celebrated video game franchises of all time. It also has its place in history as one of the most violent game franchises, which ushered in a wave of Congressional hearings when it was first released in 1992 on Sega Genesis.

"It was a different era back then," said Ed Boon, the creator of Mortal Kombat and the creative director of NetherRealm Studios. "Games were made in a different way and they weren't as sophisticated as they are now. Mortal Kombat was the first game where you saw real characters and real blood."

Boon said that now violence and blood are commonplace in games. And there are games that have surpassed Mortal Kombat in terms of violence. In fact, the last Mortal Kombat game was rated Teen and aimed at a broader audience.

"It's expected that Mortal Kombat games have violence, but I don't think you can shock anyone after doing eight games," said Boon. "When we do it, it might be more realistic because the technology is more sophisticated."
This new game, the ninth in the franchise, is a reboot of the series and returns to the Mature-rated blood and "Fatalities" that fans have come to love.

Boon said that Hollywood films have played a role in the on-screen action gamers have come to expect in the fighting franchise.

"A lot of the fatalities that we had in the beginning that made the game infamous came from movies," said Boon. "Things like pulling a still-beating heart out of your foe came from Hong Kong action movies. We watch a lot of movies and when we see something that stands out we try to add it to the game."

Boon said the new game is trying to recapture that original excitement.

"The goals for this Mortal Kombat was to repeat the first three games in terms of the 2D gameplay and the Mature-rated presentation and to have as deep as a fighting engine as we can," said Boon. "Adding Stereo 3D brings a more immersive visual experience to the franchise. The game plays the same, but you have more layers of visuals between the characters and the camera to take advantage of."

Outside of the new digital video series, Boon said WBIE will take a very aggressive approach to downloadable content once the game ships by adding new characters to the roster for players to download and play with.

This will be the first Mortal Kombat game from WBIE. The franchise was previously owned by Midway Games, which went bankrupt in February 2009.

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