Following the events from the first film, the evil emperor Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) has opened a portal from the Outworld to the Earth-realm to reclaim his queen Sindel (Musetta Vander), the long-dead mother of Kitana (Talisa Soto). Kahn threatens to destroy the Earth-realm in six days, so in order to prevent the planet’s imminent doom, Liu Kang (Robin Shou) and his band of fighters must partake in…
MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! “Bum-bum-bum-bum-bam-bum!! Bum-bum-bum-bum-bam-bum…”
Alright! Enough with the music!
When Rayden (James Remar) meets with the Elder Gods to find out why Kahn was allowed to break the tournament rules and force his way into the Earth-realm, he is told by them that the only way Kahn’s hold on the planet can be broken is if Kitana is reunited with her mother Sindel.
Of course, the only way that can happen is if…
MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! “Ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-bum-bum!! Ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-bum-bum!!“
Okay!! We get the point already!
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation somehow achieved a feat I thought was as impossible as impossible could ever get – make me miss both Paul W. S. Anderson and Christopher Lambert.
When even the man who did four Highlander movies says no thanks to just one Mortal Kombat sequel, that’s what I like to call a red flag.
Anyone with at least half a brain could tell you 1995’s surprise box office hit Mortal Kombat would get a sequel. The studios only shelled out $18 million for it, and the film took in a little over $120 million worldwide. While certainly not a masterpiece, or even a good film, it provided a moderate amount of disposable entertainment, and some, myself included, believe it’s the best video game film and also the best Paul W. S. Anderson film (well, at least tied with Event Horizon, which started out good, but then unraveled into a mess by the second half).
Of course, when the bar for those films have been set so low Jules Verne could write a book about it, how hard is to be the “best”?
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation has Anderson stepping down as director and John R. Leonetti taking over the franchise reigns. Primarily a cinematographer, this was Leonetti’s debut as a director. As a cinematographer, he’s actually done fine work. He provided a fitting atmosphere to the first Mortal Kombat, and gave us some first-rate DP work in The Conjuring, one of the better looking horror films of the past few years.
As a director, though, Leonetti makes so many head-scratching horrible decisions here that there’s no doubt if he had Marshawn Lynch as a running back with three more easy down opportunities to score a Superbowl winning touchdown he’d also tell Russell Wilson to just throw a gift wrapped pass to New England’s defense.
Seriously, all you had to do was get Lynch to move 1 yard, 3 feet, 36 inches, however you wanna look at it. As William Hurt once said: “How do you fuck that up… HOW… DO YOU FUCK THAT UP?!”
What is most shocking here is that for a guy that’s proven himself to be a good cinematographer, Leonetti has put together a horrible looking film, and by horrible I mean highly visible green screen outlines of the actors horrible. It’s Syfy is laughing at you horrible. It’s you can definitely tell the rock that Sonya lands on is clearly a plastic prop horrible. It’s this would have looked dated even for a 5th century BC Greek tragedy horrible. It’s a vintage Atari game just uncontrollably diarrheaed all over the screen horrible.
Ironically, the green screen outlines are actually the effects at their strongest.
Yes, I understand that CGI has come a long way since 1997, and it’s not like Mortal Kombat was the standard-bearer for effects-driven movies in the ’90s, but holy hell, it’s Interstellar compared to this. You might as well have had the cast stand in front of an Olan Mills backdrop and started rolling as the actors do what I’m guessing might be fighting. I’m not sure. It kinda just looks like they’re lazily waving their arms around.
To think that they spent $30 million on this. That’s nearly twice as much as much of the budget for the first film, which looked two hundred times better than its sequel.
“How do you fuck that up… HOW… DO YOU FUCK THAT UP?!”
What could’ve made this film decently watchable is if the fight sequences had any sorta style given to them. After all, that’s all this film is – a series of fight sequences that can’t be stretched out to 90 minutes, so the writers throw in these bizarre scenes where people do what appears to be speaking dialogue that concern something that I think is called a plot. As I just said, however, I’m not sure what they’re passing off as fighting, which really is nothing more than stunt doubles doing flips and somersaults. They practically burned away all that money, and all they needed was a group of junior high amateur gymnasts to get what they were looking for.
A crappier version of a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers fight with a cracked out nightclub soundtrack in the back…
It’s not just that the choreography’s bad, but the way its cut will have you laughing so hard the blood vessels in your head will simultaneously burst. For example, one particular fight starts off with a shot of James Remar facing off against Brian Thompson, which then horribly transitions to a shot from behind the stunt double doing a flip in front of an obvious matte painting, which then horribly transitions to a shot from the side of the stunt double doing a flip in front of an another obvious matte painting, and then once again horribly transitioning to a shot of James Remar and Brian Thompson sticking their landing, which is just them simply jumping in front of the camera.
Having the two duke it out cat fight style with manic slappy hands would’ve still been an improvement on par with Enter the Dragon.
It almost seems pointless to bring up the plot and characters, ’cause who goes to a film that’s catered to those with the attention span of a goldfish for the plot and characters? However, it needs to be said just how atrociously drawn these characters are, all of whom lack even the least amount of dimension needed for a tacky video game film. Where the first film learned from the mistake 1994’s Street Fighter made in cramming in as many fan-serviced characters from the game by keeping the character count down to just a few of the more popular ones, Annihilation repeats Street Fighter’s sin by throwing in as many Mortal Kombat characters as they can without any of rhyme or reason as to how they pertain to the plot. Who exactly is Jax or Nightwolf or Jade or that four-armed girl (who’s death occurs solely ’cause, no joke, the filmmakers no longer had the budget to keep animating her arms) and weird centaur dude? I don’t know and I don’t care, but then again neither do the filmmakers ’cause they’re under the assumption that everyone who sees this film must spend hours and hours and hours a day playing this video game.
Then we have the main villain, played by Brian Thompson, who is hellbent on destroying Earth, but still is considerate enough to give the good guys six days so they can prepare in kicking his ass. Why wait nearly a week when you can just destroy the Earth right away? Thompson chews his dialogue so voraciously I’m surprised the rest of the cast didn’t receive spit guards or a designated “Splash Zone” to warn them where the highest chance of getting soaked by his saliva, like a furious monsoon wiping out an Indonesian village, will be. His scripted dialogue may say, “THE EARTH WAS CREATED IN SIX DAYS, SO TOO IN SIX DAYS WILL IT DESTROYED!!!!”, but his over-the-top delivery sounds more like “THE EARTH DERP DERPY DERP DERP DERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRP!!!!!”
Also, pay attention to Kahn’s ninjas. His ninjas are absolutely pivotal to the plot of this film, and Brent V. Friedman & Bryce Zabel’s script makes a big deal of just how crucial they are to Earth’s impending doom within the story… up until they’re completely forgotten by the film’s climactic battle. Maybe they magically disappeared into thin air?
Even fans of the video game may find themselves let down by the returning characters from the first film. James Remar is good actor, but he’s miscast as Rayden (for all Lambert’s faults as an actor, his film experience with the Highlander films equipped him with the appropriate presence for a Mortal Kombat film), who I guess turns into a Britney Spears backup dancer halfway through the film. Sub-Zero shows up at one point, but we find out that it’s Sub-Zero’s brother disguised as Sub-Zero for some reason. And then Scorpion pops up, kidnaps Kitana and screams “SUCKERS!!!!!!!!”
Yep, nothing says you guys are screwed, abandon all hope, middle finger flying in the air to your enemies more than “suckers”.
Sonya Blade, though, will go down as quite a memorable character for this film’s target audience. Sure, she has as much depth as a jellyfish has spine, but she’s clearly going without a bra for the entire movie, so the young pubescent male crowd at least has that going for them…
Which is nice.
Overall, what’s most unfortunate is that it’s rumored the Nationwide kid actually was working on a much better script for this film.
Too bad he died.
It’s not like the first Mortal Kombat raised the bar for action flicks, but between its shallow characters, insipid action sequences and whatever the hell it is exactly that’s being passed off as special effects, the celluloid turd that is Mortal Kombat: Annihilation makes its predecessor look like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, you heard it here. The man behind not one, not two, not three or four, but five shitty Resident Evil movies and Alien vs. Predator made the better film. To actually allow a feat like that to occur means taking shoddy filmmaking to such unthinkable depths of woe, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that a film whose best asset is stunt work that looks like a low-rent acrobatic act you’d expect to see set up shop on a Kmart parking lot reaches those depths like it’s walk in the park.