Mortal Kombat: The Annihilation Reviewby Doug Skiles (rskiles AT mail DOT win DOT org)
November 24th, 1997
MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION Starring: Robin Shou (Liu Kang), Tailsa Soto (Princess Kitana) Directed by: John R. Leonetti, Written by: Brent V. Friedman and Bryce Zabel from a story by Lawrence Kasanoff, John Tobias, and Joshua Wexler. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some strong language and plenty of violence, mostly of the martial arts variety.
Reviewed by Doug Skiles
*Bah-buh-bah-bah-buhbuh, bah-buh-bah-bah-bahbuh, bah-bah-bah-buh-bahbuh, bah-bah-buhbahbuhbuhbah*
Okay, so chances are you've heard that now-famous outcry and the techno music that follows it, either on commercials for the movies, or the video games, or on the soundtracks for the games or movies, or in the movies themselves.
In this, the sequel to the original MORTAL KOMBAT film, titled MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION, that theme music is still intact, and, just like the last time, bolts into our ears right from the New Line Cinema logo. However, it's almost the only thing that's still around from the first film.
In order to review MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION, one must have an opinion of the original, since this essentially just tries to be more of the same.
Okay. I truly liked MORTAL KOMBAT. Yes, I really did. Maybe the plot was sort of basic, but it was *fun*. It was one of the most *fun* movies of the summer of 1995. It had some funny dialouge, some appealing actors (and some not-so-much), some nice effects, plenty of extremely well-choreographed martial arts battles, and a cool, pumping soundtrack. And, of course, it was directed very well by the talented Paul Anderson, who could have a great career as long as he avoids crap like EVENT HORIZON from now on.
Now the sequel is upon us. The martial arts battles aren't as well choreographed, but they're still pretty good. Unfortunately, the directing is nowhere near as good as in the original, and it dilutes the quality of the fights. The villian isn't nearly as imposing, many of the original actors have been replaced for the worse, the effects might have been impressive in 1992, it's filled with extraneous subplots and characters, and, well, basically this movie just plain sucks.
Robin Shou is honestly trying here. You can tell. He wants this to really not suck. Sandra Hess wants to have an acting career, that's obvious... so it's good news for her that she's better than the original actress behind Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson). In fact, she's not bad at all. I wouldn't mind horribly if I saw her again... in some other film, of course.
Talisa Soto seems sort of bored with this. She obviously beefed up her martial arts training, but when she's acting, she's rather stiff, just like in the original. Of course, that's Kitana's character for you, I guess. As a side note, her sudden romance with Liu Kang is utterly ludicrous, and has no place here - it's just another piece of excess baggage for the plot to carry. The only person putting forth anything resembeling effort is Litefoot, who plays Nightwolf, at least for the whopping two minutes that he's on the screen. This guy deserves better. James Remar replaces Christopher Lambert as Rayden, and does a shoddy job. Lambert was perfect for this role. However, Remar isn't given much to work with here, anyway.
Our villian, Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) shouts a lot, but that doesn't mean he's threatening. Kahn's father is more interesting, but doesn't do much.
Johnny Cage, the most fun of the characters in the original, is played by another actor as well (Linden Ashby is having fun doing "Melrose Place" by now), and is killed in the first five minutes. This is pure idiocy at work, people. There's no reason for his death. It just opens up for another comic relief character to appear, Jax, played by Lynn "Red" Williams, previously known as "Sabre" on American Gladiators. He gets a few funny lines, but is no where near as amusing as Johnny Cage was. Williams just tries too hard to be Will Smith. He seems to have some talent buried in him that briefly shines through here and there, but overall, it's not really on display here.
Tons of characters show up for no reason, and bring up sub-plots that have no point. One example is when Sub-Zero (Keith Cooke) appears. He states that the Sub-Zero that Liu Kang killed in the original was his brother, and that a robot, Smoke, has been reprogrammed to go after Kang, instead of original target, Sub-Zero himself. Why was the robot going after Subbie? Why was it reprogrammed? Why did Sub-Zero bother to save Kang? Why did he take up the mantle of his brother? How does he do those cool ice manuvers? Why do none of the writers of this movie care to tell us any of this? Sub-Zero is off the screen about three minutes after he appears, and never comes back. What was the point? Other characters, like Rain (Tyrone Wiggins) and Mileena (Dana Hee), pop up in gaudy costumes and don't even last the three minutes that Sub-Zero does. And who honestly cares about the woman that shows up calling herself Jade (Irina Pantaeva)? This is worse than the "Street Fighter" movie's overflow of characters. What were they thinking?
Considering the advancements in effects since the original KOMBAT, it's also distressing that the effects in this sequel are rather shoddy. In fact, we had some movies that had better CGI effects back in 1992, such as TERMINATOR 2 and ALIEN 3. Oh well. Some things in this movie seemed to be tossed in just because they allowed the chance for cheesy effects. C'mon, did we really need that lame "animality" sub-plot?
At least the soundtrack succeeds in doing what the original's did: it makes hard rock and techno sound good and fun by setting it to martial arts battles, and making those genres of music sound good is not a horribly easy feat. But still, the original's is better.
Overall, this is just another bad sequel. It's about on the level of this year's BATMAN & ROBIN, and that's really a shame. The whole plot is a jumble - it's tough to care much about what's going on. The first one was fun, but this is just a big mess. It looks like 1995's MORTAL KOMBAT remains the only truly *good* video game-based film so far. The mistakes here are so obvious. This should've been better.
RATING: D+, or * (one star)
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