Interview with Mortal Kombat: Legacy II director Kevin Tancharoen

mortal kombat legacy

When Kevin Tancharoen first released the Mortal Kombat: Rebirth fan-made trailer to the public, it went viral instantly and left Mortal Kombat fans aching for more. This led to the live-action web series, Mortal Kombat: Legacy. With that being a success, we’re now entering the second season where we finally get to see the warriors in the MK tournament. We’ve had the pleasure to chat with the director about the second season, the status of the live-action Mortal Kombat movie, and more.

John “Spartan” Nguyen (Nerd Reactor): Mortal Kombat: Legacy II is coming out this Thursday on September 26th. I just read recently that the episodes are all going to be released simultaneously.

Kevin Tancharoen: Yes, we are releasing all of them at the same time because I think there’s kind of a trend now with this whole Netflix and binge watching thing. I personally have watched House of Cards in two days, and a lot of their other original series I’ve watched like five episodes back to back. I think that Machinima wants to test the waters when it comes to doing original series on their channel in that way. Honestly, let’s be real, these are ten minute episodes. I feel like it’s unfair to make fans wait a week for another ten minutes. It would be one thing if they were hour-long episodes. Then a week is warranted, but because they’re ten minutes and when they’re all strung out it’s around 80 minutes, it gives fans a chance to watch it all at the same time. I think that’s the way to go.

Nerd Reactor: Would it be like watching a movie if we’re watching it back-to-back?

Kevin Tancharoen: I think it will still feel like watching different episodes simply because when you’re crafting an episode, you have either cliffhangers or cold opens. In a movie you don’t necessarily do that every ten minutes. So with that said, I actually did do a quote unquote feature cut. That is broken up, but it’s strung out like a movie with chapter markers and things like that. I wonder if that’ll ever get released, but I think when you just put the episode back to back as it is right now, it won’t feel like a movie because the logo will get in the way and will break up the pacing. The hard cuts to black will feel like the end of something and then it’ll just cold open to another character. So it’s it’ll still feel episodic.

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Nerd Reactor: Ever since Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, you were able to create the hype and get everybody excited again. You’re currently working on the movie adaptation. I hear that the script is good, with you just having to figure out locations and budget?

Kevin Tancharoen: The budget, yeah, no it’s in kind of a logistics phase. Everyone’s approved the script and really likes where it’s at. The script is always a fluid thing to me. As you go into pre-production you start rehearsing and finding locations and casting actors then, then the script will shift into a different form. But right now we’re figuring out where I’m going to shoot it and what exactly is the perfect budget for the film, whether it should be in 3D or not. Those are all the questions that we’re kind of dealing with right at the moment while I’m doing concept art.

Nerd Reactor: May I suggest a budget of one billion dollar?

Kevin Tancharoen: That would be awesome considering these two series – Legacy, we do it for little to no budget and it’s kind of for the love of the franchise. Everyone who is on board is just doing it because they’re having a lot of fun playing the characters. It would be great to have a little luxury when it comes to the budget, but it would also make me scared. With a big budget like that comes very, very high expectations, and if you don’t open on that first weekend then it’ll be pretty bad.

Jeri Ryan Sonya Blade Kevin Tancharoen Mortal Kombat Legacy web series

Nerd Reactor: Was there a difference in budget for Legacy 1 and Legacy 2?

Kevin Tancharoen: They were just about the same actually. I know a lot of people thought for season two that we got more money, but that’s simply not the case. It was just about the same or maybe even a little under, I’m not sure. But we were able to shoot it in LA and that helped out a lot when it came to crew and cast and not having to fly a lot of people out. So I got kind of a luxury with that because everyone happened to live in LA and I didn’t have to fly them to Vancouver like last time. So it was much easier to get favors this time around, and go like “Hey, do you want to come play Kenshi for a couple days?” And they’d be like, “Yeah, absolutely!” And so it was just about the same.

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Nerd Reactor: I’m assuming that if you do the movie, it means somebody else would continue on with Legacy III?

Kevin Tancharoen: Well, if the schedules cross, unfortunately I would have to do that, but if not I definitely wouldn’t mind being able to do both. In my perfect scenario I would see Legacy season three hopefully. I think it would be great, if given an opportunity to do longer episodes. This way you can get more of an epic story about the tournament and its combatants, and take a little bit more of a Game of Thrones approach. Who knows if I will ever be able to do that, but I would love to keep Legacy going in that respect, because like Game of Thrones, they are totally able to kill off some of their main characters, and inherently in Mortal Kombat that’s going to have to happen unfortunately. But actually I think that might be kind of a cool to just kind of see who survives and who doesn’t.

Nerd Reactor: If the storyline of the movie is going to be completely independent from the web series, I think some people might be confused. How do you go about trying to separate them and make sure fans aren’t going to be confused about casting and story?

Kevin Tancharoen: That’s something that we’re still carefully trying to figure out. I mean, when it comes to the movie, I didn’t want to have to be dependent on what we’ve already told in Legacy because there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to see the movie who don’t see Legacy. So I wouldn’t want to rely on the fact that they would have to see our digital series. With that said, with the film – and I talked to the game creators and producers – we just feel like it’s the perfect opportunity to not start from scratch, but kind of push the restart button in a way because Mortal Kombat has been around for 20+ years, right? So in the film, we’re going to take the mythology that already currently exists in the current Mortal Kombat universe, but we’re gonna add to it and we’re going to add new characters to it. This way it could live on for much longer. So it was a conscious choice on everyone’s part.

Mortal Kombat Legacy 2 - Scorpion 2

Nerd Reactor: Let’s talk about Legacy 2. What characters and stories were you excited about?

Kevin Tancharoen: Well I’m very excited to continue the Scorpion/Sub-Zero mythology because I think that’s a lot of peoples’ favorite mythology and favorite characters. Beyond that the one I was really excited to do was take a character that I didn’t necessarily gravitate towards, and completely shift him. And that’s Liu Kang. In season one, I was very adamant about not doing Liu Kang just simply because we’ve seen him before, whether it’s from the first movie or the sequel. He’s always kind of been the main protagonist. So I said “You know what? It would kind of feel weird to do it again.” Which is why I made Scorpion the star in my short film because I was like, “Let’s do the antihero. That’s going to be a lot of fun.” So in the same respect when it comes to Liu Kang, I said, “The only version of Liu Kang that I would feel comfortable doing is if the first time we see him, he’s drinking at a bar by himself, and he’s wasted. And then that opened up a whole conversation on what happened to Liu Kang and that’s kind of where we went with the series. So in the first episode, he’s at a bar drinking tequila by himself. And then he kind of slowly realizes what has happened to the Shaolin monk that we always thought was a boy scout and I think people will like. I hope. I hope people will like it.

Nerd Reactor: I do like the added back story, which helps add more depth to Liu Kang.

Kevin Tancharoen: Uh huh

Nerd Reactor: I think fans will be OK with it because without that, Liu Kang is a very vanilla character, very plain.

Kevin Tancharoen: Yeah, I mean, the other version of Liu Kang, it’s just very much an Asian guy with a red headband who does kung fu, right? And we’ve seen that. Ed Boon has admittedly said when they created the game that Liu Kang was essentially Bruce Lee. He was Bruce Lee and I feel like that archetype doesn’t fly anymore. So we tried to create as much depth as possible with a character like that.

Nerd Reactor: Will we be seeing characters like Shao Kahn?

Kevin Tancharoen: Shao Kahn is not in this one because I wanted to save him for something bigger with Goro if I’m ever able to do it.

Nerd Reactor: Ooh, Goro!

Kevin Tancharoen: Yeah. I still want Goro.

Nerd Reactor: Do you have anybody in mind to play him, or are you thinking CG?

Kevin Tancharoen: No, you know I grew up wanting to be in the creature FX department, so I still have big love for practical makeup. I feel like I could find a guy like Nathan Jones (Troy, Fearless, The Protector) and put him in some really great Hellboy-like makeup and have the second set of arms be CG. I just feel like that’ll be more of an impact. Having an all-CG Goro, I’m not sure I’d be able to get away with the kind of martial arts that I gravitate towards. I like The Raid, Donnie Yen and Ong Bak-style of fighting, and I don’t think I’d be able to accomplish that in a completely CG character. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him act though. I’ve only seen him beat people up, and Goro would definitely have to act. I want to utilize him as a story element.

Nerd Reactor: Do you have anyone in mind for Shao Kahn?

Kevin Tancharoen: No, that’s something I’m still thinking about. I’m not sure.

Nerd Reactor: *cough* Dolph Lundgren *cough*

Kevin Tancharoen: Dolph Lundgren – that would be a great return for him, wouldn’t it be? Right, Dolph Lundgren? Thanks for that. I’ll keep that in mind for sure.

Nerd Reactor: Yeah, no problem. How many episodes are there total for the series, and would it be the same length as Legacy 1?

Kevin Tancharoen: It is ten minutes each. It will be around 80 minutes total. A little over 80 minutes total. Some episodes are a little shorter than the others. They max out at around ten, but there’s ten episodes. So you’ll have plenty to watch.

Nerd Reactor: You’ve previously done musicals or movies based on music, and now you’re branching out doing Mortal Kombat. It’s your baby now.

Kevin Tancharoen: I mean I’ve always wanted to do genre stuff. The bands and the music stuff is something I stumbled into when I was very young and kind of just was lucky enough to be successful at moving up. But when I was a kid, I was practicing to be a storyboard artist or a creature designer. I’ve always wanted to do genre movies. Stan Winston and Jim Henson are like my heroes. Pumpkinhead was something I’ve always wanted to build and put in my room. So these genre flicks are things that are very near and dear to me, and I’m very happy to kind of being moving into the genre action world.

Nerd Reactor: So after Mortal Kombat, no more dance and music-type movies?

Kevin Tancharoen: I think it would have to be something specific. I don’t think I would be able to do a “dance movie” nowadays, they only refer to so many things. It’s either Step Up or Battle of the Year. If I were to do something that was in the dance realm, I would want it to be more like All That Jazz that Bob Fosse did. That was basically a story about a choreographer/director in hardcore New York City, and dance was just used as an element. It wasn’t necessarily the star of the movie. Like Black Swan would have been a movie I would have loved to do. Is that a dance movie? No. Is it about ballerinas? Yes. So I think that’s kind of where I would like to. If I were ever to kind of jump into something that felt dance-driven, it would be more in that tone.

Nerd Reactor: Perhaps a Mortal Kombat musical? [laughs]

Kevin Tancharoen: [laughs] You know, that has been suggested, by fans in a funny way. You know, you see Joss do the Buffy musical but you don’t have to go far to find a Mortal Kombat musical. They did an anti-drug tour where they were basically dancing.

Nerd Reactor: Nooooooo!

Kevin Tancharoen: Yeah, if you go on YouTube, you will see there’s an anti-violence tour, back in the day when they were doing that stuff quite a bit. This was like back when Ninja Turtles had a rock concert.

Nerd Reactor: Oh yeah.

Kevin Tancharoen: It was around that era that we don’t ever want to talk about again.

Nerd Reactor: Yeah, let’s just leave it at that.

Be sure to come back when Mortal Kombat: Legacy II premieres this Thursdsay, September 26th. Also, check out our interviews with Brian Tee (Liu Kang), Dan Southworth (Kenshi), Casper Van Dien (Johnny Cage), Ian Anthony Dale (Scorpion), Mark Dacascos (Kung Lao) and Eric Jacobus (Stryker).

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