Rave all you want about Julia Roberts: superstar, Oscar winner, self-appointed god. It's her brother, Eric, who has the more interesting career.
Based on the video game franchise, the live-action “Tekken” debuts Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s directed by Dwight Little, whose work includes such films as “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,” “Marked for Death” with Steven Seagal, “Rapid Fire” with Brandon Lee, “Murder at 1600” with Wesley Snipes and “The Phantom of the Opera” with Robert Englund.
R&R: It’s been a while since you’ve done a feature film. You’ve been working a lot in TV, so why “Tekken”? What brought you back?
Little: It was a chance to re-collaborate with Alan McElroy, the screenwriter, who I did "Halloween 4" and "Rapid Fire" with, and he and I have a great, common creative interest and rapport. I thought the “Tekken” world was a great platform for a martial arts movie. I had some success with "Marked for Death" and "Rapid Fire," and it looked like it was in my area of expertise.
R&R: Were you familiar with the games?
Little: Only in sort of a passing way. I wasn't like a hardcore player, but my two boys are into it, so I get into vicariously. There was a mythology about the family and the Tekken corporation I got inspired by, like you get inspired by a short story or a novel. I also love the ever-changing, interactive fight designs — those were so visually interesting to me. I thought it'd be a way to freshen up the genre of a martial arts action movie.
R&R: Did you approach it any different because it was a video game first?
Little: You look at the existing source material and find the thing that makes you passionate or gets you excited. I made the movie like I would make “Rocky” or “Gladiator” — the goal is to make a good movie, not a good video game. You have to commit to the characters to keep viewers actively committed to the story. Poppy visuals are not going to do it for 100 minutes. Alan and I said, "You know what? Jin and his devil wings, and the boxing kangaroo — let's leave that for a CGI or an anime movie. Let's leave these heavy supernatural items on the table."
R&R: Obviously, you were invested in it, so are you disappointed its theatrical release was so small?
Little: Sure, but that reflects the world we live in. This movie, made 10 years ago, obviously would have been released on 2,000 screens. To market and release a movie now nationally is a $35-to-$40-million commitment in marketing. “Iron Man” and those movies can support that, but there's only seven distributors now, effectively. The way that smaller movies come to the marketplace in an era of a digital world — it's exactly the same as the music business. Our world is changing so fast, but “Tekken” will be platformed on Blu-ray, on Redbox, on iTunes, on VOD and Netflix and pay-per-view, and that's how movies go into the world unless it's Warner Bros. and they have that massive marketing muscle. —Rod Lott