Interview: Director Kevin Tancharoen Gives Us Something New With ‘Mortal Kombat: Legacy’ Season 2

Actress Samantha Jo in a contemplative moment as Kitana in “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”

The launch of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” Season two kicks off our coverage of new fights (and fighters) for the Machinima web series. Check out the first episode below. Later today, we’ll bring you interviews with some of the stars and creators who’ve brought the battle for Earthrealm to your PC.

Interview: Mark Dacascos (Kung Lao)
Interview: Casper Van Dien (Johnny Cage)

“We didn’t want to give people a carbon copy of what we did last time,” director Kevin Tancharoen tells me about his team’s goals in putting together a second season of the gritty web series, “Mortal Kombat: Legacy.” The first season, assembled on what would be considered an ambitious fan film budget with the participation of actors like Jheri Ryan (“Star Trek: Voyager”) and Michael Jai White (“Black Dynamite,” “Spawn”), set out to assemble a handful of the combatants who would ultimately make their way to the tournament which will determine the fate of Earth. The response was so positive, Warner Brothers, who holds the rights to the “Mortal Kombat” franchise, greenlit a new movie with Tancharoen serving as director–as well as a second season of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy,” which kicks off today on Machinima.

I spoke with Kevin Tancharoen recently about developing the new season as well as the status of the film (it’s still pretty early).

The second season takes place over the course of the latest tournament, Tancharoen explains, with the narrative split between the present and flashbacks to pivotal moments in the lives of the fighters (Tancharoen alludes to the structure of “LOST,” allowing the series to explore both old and new characters).

“You know the challenges are always balancing the creative vision with the budget,” Tancharoen says of the second season of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy.” Action fans might primarily pay attention to the broken limbs and carefully-choreographed kicks, but without too much effort, you’ll notice a lot of single location segments without a reliance on the kind of flashy pyrotechnics you might expect to see in the games. Tancharoen was working with a storyline that crossed generations with a sizable cast of characters made up of seasoned action film performers. Stuntmen like Kim Do Nguyen (Ermac) or martial arts champions like Mark Dacascos (Kung Lao) round out the case of heroes and villains fighting for the prize (and helping make the small screen action look visceral.

That doesn’t mean “Legacy” looks cheap–Raiden still gets to call down the lightning while Kung Lao is able to pull his old hat trick. “I think the visual effects were a challenge for me,” Tancharoen says, “and trying to include as many supernatural abilities as possible without breaking the bank.” It’s a natural trajectory for a filmmaker who once dreamed of being a Stan Winston-style creature designer before getting in the director’s chair.

Costumes, in particular, were something the “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” team was very concerned about getting right. Like your favorite superhero, the challengers in the tournament are all known for their distinctive get-ups which would require some modification for the screen (and further changes still the match the gritty vision which is lighter on fantasy than either the game or previous movie incarnations). “When you don’t have $300,000 for a Spider-Man-style costume, it becomes difficult,” he laughs. “For us, that’s the budget for multiple things.”

If fans are worried about authenticity, Tancharoen says his crew worked with developer Netherrealm and “Mortal Kombat” creative director Ed Boon to approve the vision for the series. That the director of the “Fame” remake or “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie,” it should come as some level of comfort that the man behind the camera on the latest iteration of “Mortal Kombat” is concerned about more than the surface aesthetics.

“I kind of stumbled into the music industry, but when I was 19, that’s when I wanted to shift back to what I wanted to do.” We talked about how some of the big action guys like John Woo harbor not-so-secret ambitions of translating their action chops into musical extravaganzas (Tancharoen points out that Joss Whedon has made no secret of wanting to create another memorable, big screen musical).

Looking at something like Kitana and Mileena’s costumes, Tancharoen admits there was a process of adaptation there, given the unlikelihood of a pair of sisters in a fight-to-the-death tournament prancing around in shiny bikinis. “Beyond that, we make very obvious use of the video games.”

The budget constraints will be on a different scale for the big screen reboot. Tancharoen says they’re playing with the numbers now for the feature. “The ’Mortal Kombat’ movie takes place in its own universe” he tells me, allowing a point of entry for new fans. He describes the planned production, which is currently progressing through its next draft of the script, as a mix of old nd new, grounded with supernatural elements added to all of the fighting–in his words, a “violent version of the X-Men.” “We’re not ignoring the old mythology,” we assures me, “we’re definitely including it and introducing new elements to the ’Mortal Kombat’ brand.”

You can watch the full season here.

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