Mortal Kombat: Rebirth (2010) is a short film made by director Kevin Tancharoen. Larnell Stovall, besides being responsible for the choreography of all the fights, was also responsible for bringing Michael Jai White to the project. Larnell Stovall was also the choreographer for Undisputed III: Redemption.
The film is based on the Mortal Kombat series of fighting video games. This short film “actually was made by the director to sell Warner Bros. on his vision for a reimagined Mortal Kombat film.” Tancharoen’s pitch eventually evolved into the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy.
The short-film features an alternative version of the Mortal Kombat universe. The characters of the game are portrayed with vastly different origins, based on realism. There is no mention of Outworld or any other supernatural elements, although the tournament itself is a main part of the storyline in this short. Tancharoen himself has noted that he wouldn’t shy away from supernatural elements entirely, but they have to be “done in a very tasteful way”.
The film follows Deacon City Police Captain Jackson Briggs as he informs assassin Hanzo Hasashi about the criminals Reptile and Baraka; the latter has recently killed actor-turned-undercover-officer Johnny Cage in a fight. Briggs believes they were both working for a man named Shang Tsung. He asks Hasashi to kill them in a mysterious tournament hosted by Tsung. When offered his freedom in exchange for accomplishing such tasks, Hasashi reveals that he willingly had himself incarcerated—and could free himself at any time. Then Sonya Blade arrives with a folder and informs Hasashi that his enemy Sub-Zero is alive and the one he killed was his brother. It becomes clear to Hasashi that the terms of his participation in the tournament involve killing Reptile, Baraka and Shang Tsung in return for access to Sub-Zero. Since the real Sub-Zero will be at the tournament, Hasashi, now calling himself Scorpion, agrees to participate.
Michael Jai White as Jackson Briggs, a captain in the Deacon City Police Department. On his office door at the beginning of the film, the last two letters of his first name are faded, thus reading as “Jacks”, a nod to “Jax”.
Jeri Ryan plays Sonya Blade, Jackson Briggs’s partner.
Matt Mullins plays Johnny Cage, a former movie star that became an undercover agent after his Hollywood career died. In a short flashback, he is killed by Baraka.
Lateef Crowder plays Alan Zane / Baraka, a plastic surgeon who, after accidentally killing a patient, went on to kill two dozen more. Faced with the shame of being labeled a failed doctor, Zane pierced his face, sharpened his teeth, and surgically attached a pair of metal blades to his forearms. In a short flashback, he fights Johnny Cage, finally killing him with his arm blades.
Ian Anthony Dale plays Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion, the top assassin of the Shirai Ryu who offered himself up to the police for killing the man he thought was his nemesis. In keeping with the video game series, his eyes are completely white and his signature spear weapon also appears. His trademark battle-cry “Get over here!” can also be heard at the ending.
Richard Dorton as Reptile, a mass-murderer born with a rare genetic disorder, Harlequin-type ichthyosis, in which his skin produces too many cells and his eyelids are formed inside out. It is said he likes to devour the heads of his victims, which is a nod to his “Head Eat” Fatality from the video game series.
James Lew plays Shang Tsung who is seen in the photograph on the YouTube video’s primary image preview.
Initially appearing on YouTube, the video was received with confusion by websites such as IGN and 1UP.com, both of which were uncertain if the video was a viral marketing ploy to promote either a new film or a video game. Contradicting reports came from the actors involved, with White’s representatives believing it was an advertisement for an upcoming Mortal Kombat game, while Ryan admitted her appearance was as a favor to a friend and described the video as a pitch for a film.
Director Kevin Tancharoen spent about $7,500 and 2 months to produce Mortal Kombat: Rebirth (2010). Tancharoen is known for his dance and musical productions such as You Got Served (2004) and the musical Fame (2009) and filmed for 2 days in April 2010, using borrowed cameras. Martial artist and actor Matt Mullins knew Director Tancharoen, but had never had the opportunity to work with him. A few months before filming Tancharoen called Mullins, inviting him to participate in a short film he was planning to shoot. The script was sent to Mullins who, impressed with the text and the director’s vision for the franchise, agreed to participate as Johnny Cage. Tancharoen himself admitted that the film was never meant to be seen publicly, it was made as a pitch to Warner Bros, however after uploading the short film to YouTube, he accidentally published it to the public.
Series creator Ed Boon himself has noted that the film was “awesome” and had “no idea it was being made”, though he did opine that it “probably crosses the line” as far as “re-imagining” goes. He later stated that he thought it was “incredibly well done” and that it was “a legitimate alternate universe Mortal Kombat”.