In the early 1990s arcades were faced with some of the greatest fighting games of all time. Sure, they have been eclipsed in playability and graphical beauty, but there is no denying the arcade powerhouses that were Mortal Kombat and Streetfighter II. I was always more of a Streetfighter guy, but here was a definite allure to the bloodshed and real-looking characters of Mortal Kombat. The meteoric rise and sustained popularity helped push this title into the Hollywood eye, this getting it into movie theaters with its first film in 1995, from there they were off and running, or so we thought.
Anyway, 1995 saw Mortal Kombat become a hit on the big screen. That film also introduced us to Paul W.S. Anderson, who has gone on to helm such movies as Event Horizon and Aliens vs. Predator. This first film also featured such stars as Christopher Lambert, Bridgette Wilson, Cary Tagawa, Robin Shou, and Talisa Soto. It is not a good film, but it is certainly an entertaining B movie. With that being true, it would lead one to believe that a second film would be jus as much fun, right? Right?
Well, that isn’t exactly how it went down. Two years after the initial hit, the game series is still going strong and the movie is poised to have a successful theatrical run and bring us even more characters from the series. The problems with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation are many, even before you see the film you have to be concerned that only two cast members return from the first (Robin Shou and Talisa Soto). Beyond that, the directorial reigns were handed to first timer John R. Leonetti (cinematographer on the first film).
Annihilation opens by informing us that the events of the first film have saved the Earth for another generation. Liu Kang’s (Shou) defeating Shang Tsung (Tagawa) assured our safety. However, the calm does not last long as Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) has cracked open a portal between Earth and Outworld so that the two worlds begin to merge, He’ll o Earth, so to speak. It is up to Liu Kang, Sonya Blade (Sanda Hess), Kitana (Soto), and Raiden (James Remar) to stop Kahn and his cronies, which includes Kitana’s mother, Syndel (Musetta Vander)
I would continue trying to explain the plot, but why bother? The movie makes very little sense, characters come and go with little explanation or fanfare, sometimes without even getting named. The main characters are split off on individual missions, Liu Kang is off to find Nightwolf (but is told that Nightwolf will find him), Sonya is off to reunite with her partner Jax, and Raiden is off to confront the Elder Gods about Kahn’s transgression.
What to say, this is B-grade cheese. The plot is nonsensically, the actors look like they are bored and don’t want to be there, the effects look bad (they may have been good for 1997, but they have not aged well), the screenplay is poor, and the action does not look all that hot. On the plus size, it is brightly colored like a bag of Skittles, and goes about as fast.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation gets close to the so bad it’s good line, but not quite. It looks like they tried to cater it to fans of the game with the sheer number of characters they try to cram in. Sadly they missed their mark by not giving many of the characters worthwhile roles, lines, or even names.
Simply put, this is a movie to avoid unless you need something watch with your friends over a healthy intake of beer. It is impossible to take this thing seriously.
Audio/Video$. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and while it certainly looks better than the DVD release, it is not a very good Blu-ray. Believe me, this is not going to be one to use when demoing your system. There are a few moments where the detail looks quite good, usually in shots involving real world sets. The problem is tha when special effects come into play, they look terrible, noisy, spotty, colors that are syrupy looking. The blacks waver from overly black to grey. I was surprised by how fuzzy a lot of it looks, for example, the scene where Kang and Kitana talk to Sub Zero after their fight, which leads right into am ugly effects sequence, not to mention the weak fight that ensues with Scorpion.
The audio does the trick more than the video presentation. The track is DTS-HD 5.1 and it is loud. It is not an immersive track although all channels are quite active. Dialogue gets swallowed a little, but the big loud music that accompanies the multitude of fight sequences. It is a track that lacks subtlety and instead tries to bash you over he head. For the most part this is the right direction to take for a movie as brainless as this.
Extras. The original theatrical trailer is included, as is a trailer for the new Mortal Kombat video game.
Bottomline. What can I say? Fans will likely want to upgrade their DVDs, but I cannot recommend this to casual viewers. The first film, sure, but this one is jus a mess. I will admit to getting some odd entertainment value out of its awfulness. Viewer beware.