Mortal Kombat Film Producer Sues Midway Over IP Rights

The man who brought Mortal Kombat to the big screen has sued Midway in U.S. Bankruptcy Court over what he claims are his intellectual property interests in the franchise. The suit may interfere with a proposed  $33 million sale of Midway assets to Warner Bros.

In a complaint filed yesteday, Lawrence Kasanoff, through his company, Threshold Entertainment, asked the Court to preserve his IP rights including copyrights to certain MK series characters. Kasanoff also wants to retain the right to create derivative film and television projects based on the popular fighting game franchise.

Kasanoff claims that it was he who made Mortal Kombat more than just a video game:

In 1993, Kasanoff visited Midway… with an idea to launch the Mortal Kombat concept in a totally new direction. Specifically, Kasanoff proposed to develop… a full feature-length motion picture, a television series, and other productions. Midway was initially skeptical, as Kasanoff’s idea was revolutionary at the time…

 

The Mortal Kombat series, as it stands today, is far more a creation of Threshold and Kasanoff than of Midway. Midway’s creative input was almost entirely limited to the videogames. On their own, the videogames provided only minimal back-story and mythology, and only flat, "stock" characters… Kasanoff and Threshold were responsible for virtually all of the creative input that went into turning the videogame concept into a multimedia enterprise.

In his lawsuit, Kasanoff also claims credit for making MK characters like Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Scorpion into recognizable names. The suit estimates that the franchise has grossed more than $4 billion over the years.

In petitioning the Bankruptcy Court, Kasanoff seeks to block the proposed sale of Mortal Kombat assets to Warner Bros.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of Kasanoff’s complaint here.

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38 comments

  1. 0
    MrAnderson says:

    It is simply ridiculous for a studio to make such claims.

    Theshold was given license to make film(s) and animated series about Mortal Kombat.  I have not seen anything new from them. The animate series was released on DVD in 2001.
     
    This is like Sony telling Marvel they cannot sell Spiderman to another company, except Sony might seem a little more justified.  evertheless, it still should not matter when you are licensing an IP that does not belong to you.  If there were terms that we don’t know about, maybe, but from the base case, this is just nuts.
     
    Threshold has no known products in progress with MK IP.  Anyone??  If anything they should maintain the same kind of production rights to projects completed as other production companies maintain when they produce a film or series.  There is no intitlement to future projects as if they own the IP.  
     
    [DIGRESSION: They make Sonia and Lu Kain popular… please… The only thing I liked from the movie was the sound track.  The animated series, I wanted to view but could not find it so I don’t have a developed opinion on it.]
     
    If something like this passes in court it will mean that it might be possible for a 2nd or 3rd party to
     
    strong arm you out of your own IP.  This sense of intitlement must be extinguished.  If it was not in the contract you cannot back track.  Threshold is a small fry imagine what a bigger firm can do with this kind of legal munitions!
  2. 0
    sheppy says:

    I’ll defend the first movie because I thought it was great.  What MK was at the start was basically a game inspired by kung fu movies like Bloodsport.  So when the MK movie basically stole that format to make the MK movie, it fit perfectly.  Sure, there are gripes but I still think it’s one of the best game to movie projects just because it KNEW what the game was and went from there.

    That said, if anyone should get ANY credit for adding to the MK mythos, it’s the writer of the original MK novelization.  He went into HUGE details like how Scorpian came back to life, how Kung Lao lost to Goro, Sub Zero’s ninja clan.  It’s just too bad that majority of this work is lost forever.

    But on the flip side, the mythos and characters displayed in present MK games (seriously, play MK vs. DC) are absolutely NOTHING like their early profiles.  Well, okay, maybe Scorpian is the same but only so much you can do with "I will KILLL Sub-Zero!"

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

  3. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    I had a totally witty response, but everyone here touched on all of everything I was going to say.

     

    Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone’s feelings.

  4. 0
    Speeder says:

    Cool! Someone to save Midway!

     

    It is simple, this nutty guy make a stupid lawsuit, get countersued, pay some million bucks to Midway, and here we go, more time to Midway fix their shit and maybe survive \o/

     

    criadordejogos.wordpress.com

  5. 0
    CyberSkull says:

    Well before the movie (which I never saw in full), everyone was going "Get over here!". Subpoena anyone who was a teen in the ’90s to refute this lawsuit.

  6. 0
    Wormdundee says:

    Haha, this guy is so full of shit. Making the characters memorable? First off, they were already memorable from the very first game. Second, it’s a flippin fighting game! They don’t have memorable stories or characters for the most part.

    I’ve played tons of street fighter games over the years and I know that there’s some connection between Sakura, Dan, and Ryu, but who gives a shit? It’s a fighting game.

    And, even if he was the one to make them famous, how does that give him the rights to those characters? If I license out some obscure character to put on a pair of shoes and they’re the best shoes ever made, and everyone loves them and it makes the character famous, does that mean that I now own the character? Of course not! What kind of crack is this guy smoking?

    I look forward to the court laughing in his face. 

  7. 0
    eston says:

    1993 is the same year Mortal Kombat II came out, and I remember the first game being hugely popular before that. Every kid I knew at the time loved it, and each of the original seven characters (well, 10 if you count Reptile, Goro, and Shang Tsung) were extremely memorable, not only because they were visually well-designed but also because they had detailed backstories.

    MK has been building a rich mythology since the very first game came out, and I remember as a kid being very disappointed when the first MK movie came out and completely ignored some very important connections between characters (Scorpion and Sub-Zero, anyone?). The series continues to build on its mythology, very little of which was even remotely influenced by this guy’s work.

  8. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    I liked the MK1 film it has that so bad so good thing going for it, MK2 sucked though….

     


    I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay’s outside our bedrooms..


    http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com

  9. 0
    sirdarkat says:

     LOL as a sidenote to my own post I looked at the link to imbd this guy has produced mortal kombat movies I have never heard of … I thought there were two apparantly there are 6 of these things with on in pre production cause you know the first two were so good that 4 more are needed.  OMG what a HACK.

  10. 0
    sirdarkat says:

    Ok let’s see I know of Scorpion because of oh yeah Mortal Kombat II not because of some crappy show.  

    I know of Reptile because he was a secret character that was pretty much just SubZero and Scorpion in oh yeah Mortal Kombat II

    I know of Sonya’s cool ass kiss that then kind of kreaked me out when girl’s blew kisses because of oh yeah Mortal Kombat II

    In fact I can’t think of one instance in which I know of a Mortal Kombat character that I don’t think of the video games first.  And since he wants to touch on backstory last time I checked Mortal Kombat has some interesting back stories for  SubZero and even for minor characters such as Frost who only showed up in one game.

    I think douche here just wants free money that he doesn’t deserve in anyway or form.  (Next he will claim that he owns part of Marvel because they bought Malibu which released comics containing his "creations")

  11. 0
    Overcast says:

    Yeah, and after you take a look at the films he’s produced on the IMDB link – you really, really have to wonder why he’s full of himself.

    Although it does make it clear why he’s suing – need money from somewhere if you don’t do so hot on your regular career..

  12. 0
    Overcast says:

    Agredd 100% – I could spend hours playing Mortal Kombat – and I did, was particularly into it on the first and second versions.

    The movie? Never bothered to see it.

    No way – the ONLY reason there’s a movie is because the game was so immensly popular, most certainly not the other way around.

    But it’s not facts that are the issue here – I’m sure the judge on this will have no clue either way – it’s just a matter of paying enough for lawyers to convince the judge that this clown’s spin is ‘correct’.

    Ok pal – do what you want, but all things considered, I’ll skip see that movie or anything else his lameness produces.

  13. 0
    Kharne says:

    "I have to ask.  What multimedia enterprise?  Has Mortal Kombat appeared on anything other than a video game in the last ten years?"

    That’s what I’m thinking, Wasn’t the movies and cartoon crap from the late 90s at best? And it all failed horribly, nothing came of it and the series went back to being games only right? So why the hell  is this guy only *now* raising a stink over it?

  14. 0
    Beacon80 says:

    On their own, the videogames provided only minimal back-story and mythology, and only flat, "stock" characters

    Yeah, because he did such a good job touching on the whole feud between Sub-Zero and Scorpion.  I’m so glad he didn’t turn them into mindless fighters… oh wait.

    I’m not going to even go into the minimal lip-service he gave them during the sequel.

    Kasanoff and Threshold were responsible for virtually all of the creative input that went into turning the videogame concept into a multimedia enterprise.

    I have to ask.  What multimedia enterprise?  Has Mortal Kombat appeared on anything other than a video game in the last ten years?

  15. 0
    Magic says:

    Surely the vast majority of people who saw the movies were gamers themselves – since they had played the games in the first place.

    Imagine if the director of the Street Fighter movie did the same thing!

    What a load of tripe.

  16. 0
    Papa Midnight says:

    The movie that nearly killed off Mortal Kombat.

    My favorite part:

    "’The Mortal Kombat series, as it stands today, is far more a creation of Threshold and Kasanoff than of Midway. Midway’s creative input was almost entirely limited to the videogames. On their own, the videogames provided only minimal back-story and mythology, and only flat, "stock" characters… Kasanoff and Threshold were responsible for virtually all of the creative input that went into turning the videogame concept into a multimedia enterprise.’

    In his lawsuit, Kasanoff also claims credit for making MK characters like Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Scorpion into recognizable names. The suit estimates that the franchise has grossed more than $4 billion over the years."

    Scorpion was a recognizable name from day one. "Get over here!"; How could one not recognize the name of Scorpion? He made Sonya Blade recognizable? Two twin fan blades (one to the chest and one to the head) made Sonya Blade recognizable. And as for Liu Kang? No.

    And there was no limited back story. I got more story out of Mortal Kombat on the Genesis than I did from that crappy excuse for a film. That movie was more terrible than Street Fighter with Jean-Claude Van Dam where, apparently, a Hadouken was nothing more than paper confetti flying out from Ryu’s hands. Let’s face it, Mortal Kombat (the film) sucks and this suit should be dismissed with predjudice on mere principle.

    —-
    Papa Midnight
    http://www.thesupersoldiers.com

  17. 0
    Beacon80 says:

    You’re confusing Sonya Blade and Kitana.  I agree with you, though.  Scorpion’s "Get over here!" line was probably the most recognizable thing in the video game industry at the time.  Long before the movie came out.

    I enjoyed the first movie.  It was corny, campy fun, with some good (for the time) fight scenes.  The second move sucked, though.  It really just failed on every possible level.

  18. 0
    Zerodash says:

    If he had anything to do with the cinematic abortion that is Mortal Kombat Annihilation, then he should kill himself. Seriously the worst film in the history of creation.

  19. 0
    JDKJ says:

    It’s comforting to know that filing lawsuits apparently isn’t subject to any negative effects of the current recessionary climate. If not, there’d be an awful lot of out of work attorneys. 

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