People mature as they get older. It’s a fact. How much is up for debate but still it happens. There are certain things you watch or play as a kid that are the best. That certain video game, that movie that is going to drive your parents crazy as you watch it for the 99th time, or that song that is so good you have to play it every hour of the day until someone snaps the cassette or CD in half. For everyone who doesn’t know what those are, welcome! I’m old!
It’s those things that you remember with nostalgia as you get older and sometimes looking back they hold up, but more times than not all is not as you remember. Goldeneye was a crowning point of video gaming in my childhood but playing it now handles horribly. This may be due to having two thumbsticks to use to move around for the better part of two decades. I’ve noticed that this happens with me even more so with movies. I loved Space Jam as a kid and it does still have some good moments but wow is it not a coherent movie. I still have fond memories from it but Michael Jordan’s acting, the Looney Tunes being a little more mean-spirited, and the blatant product placements/MJ comeback movie vibes are really hard to get through now. Ok, internet do your worst.
I could go on and list off many movies that suffer this and take more backlash from every person who disagrees with me, but let’s get to one I unabashedly loved as a kid and have no idea why I did. Every person will agree with me on this. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation; What a god-awful movie. Like really. How did I like this? The acting, the replacement actors, the costumes, the special effects, the story, and pretty much everything that has to deal with this pandering and mess of a movie hurts me now in a way I can only express in a rant of disappointment.
Where to even start…why not at the beginning of the movie? It does what any movie with any sense would do, it looks like they just reused the original’s opening with that amazing theme song. I will never bash on hearing that person yelling MORTAL KOMBAT! and then that techno coming in. That being said, even the Annihilation part of the logo looks worse by comparison. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation had a bigger budget and consistently looks worse than the previous movie. Did I mention that this was the previous film’s 2nd unit director John R. Leonetti’s first film? The new Raiden (James Remar) gives a recap of the better movie. The green/blue screen in this is abhorrent and the blue tinge that saturates the opening is jarring, to say the least.
The special effects across the board look like they were ripped out of one of the early 3D MK games. This is where some of the biggest detriments come into play. The acting, holy crap. I kind of love how some are hamming it up and others are playing it straight but it makes the tone jump around so much. You have Robin Shou and Talisa Soto keeping the previous movie’s tone and then you have the actress playing Sindel who gives a line reading so hammed up you’d swear it was the first take, which it may have actually been. This movie was so rushed after the success of the first and it shows.
There were quite a few replacements for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation as well. Sandra Hess took over as Sonya Blade from Bridgette Wilson, James Remar took over the Raiden role from Christopher Lambert, and Chris Conrad was Johnny Cage instead of Linden Ashby for like 30 total seconds of screen time. I’d also add that even though it was a brief cameo Frank Welker aka the voice of Fred on Scooby-Doo, Megatron, and many others played the voice of Shao Kahn in the original and was replaced by Brian Thompson in the sequel. Lynn Williams also replaced Gregory McKinney as Jax.
Each of these actors is a downgrade and it is mostly not their fault. Sandra Hess was one I always thought had the worst lines and things to do but was impressed how much of her own fighting she seemed to do. The Raiden palate swap was just odd, why not go closer to the game’s version like the new Mortal Kombat reboot is doing? I can harp on all that later but the costumes are just terrible. The budget and rushed production must’ve come into play here because the Mighty Morphin ninja costumes somehow look worse than the movie prior. They honestly look like some knock-off Halloween costumes that someone threw together. Motaro just looks odd considering he looked more akin to a Goro-centaur in the games. Shao Kahn…well let’s just move on because nothing works there.
I loved so much of these things as a youngster. I loved that I got to see so many of the characters from the games, no matter how brief in some cases. Ermac? He’s there. The cybernetic Lin Kuei ninjas of Smoke, Cyrax, and kind of sort of Sektor? They have arrived with honestly the cheapest looking and somehow best-looking costumes too. Jade, Nightwolf, Mileena, Sheeva, Motaro, Rain, Sindel, Raptor, Baraka, and freaking Noob Saibot. I even got a brief and frankly strange appearance from my go-to character in MK3, good Sub-Zero with the eye scar. It was so satisfying to see the characters and it was even more exciting to see them actually doing their signature moves. The first moves gave us this but in scarcity. Sure Liu Kang does his “fireball,” Scorpion does his “Get Over Here!,” and Sub-Zero does his ice but the level of fan service in this one is over-the-top and I loved it. In the first ten minutes, you have Raiden’s torpedo, Shao Kahn’s tackle, Johnny Cage’s shadow kick, and technically Sindel’s scream. Every character does at least one thing from the games and it appealed to the fan in me that loved seeing this on-screen for the first time.
A brief exchange at the beginning sums up most of the dialogue presented to us. Observe:
Liu Kang – I thought our victory in Mortal Kombat closed those portals.
Raiden – What closes can also open again.
Wow, what a revelation in exposition. This was a first pass where they just had to send the pages out in 10 minutes I swear. The dialogue has no redeeming qualities and we can leave it at that. The special effects mentioned before are abysmal and the ending fight has what looks like claymation that was run through an industrial accident. What purpose does the animality claymation serve in the big picture of the story? Nothing at all it doesn’t even end the damn fight. Oh and CGI statues come to life to sometimes eat people too. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, you make me sad.
I want to talk about a specific point in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation that shows some of the best and worst this movie has to offer. It is shortly after the magic hamster balls that transport them across the world…sigh. Liu Kang and Kitana are talking and somewhat advancing the romance subplot that was present in the first movie, unlike the giant leap we got from Sonya warming up to Johnny in the first movie and now apparently has been in love with him since ten seconds after the credits rolled. They are then attacked by the cyborg Smoke.
This starts off a pretty decent fight scene with another hit in the music department that younger me listened to on my cassette of the movie’s soundtrack. Oh yeah, I owned it and the first two tracks were great. The fight choreography was taken over by Robin Shou, who did the choreography for the reshoots of the first movie, and they are all serviceable to great. This gives us Liu Kang vs Smoke and Kitana vs nameless ninjas. Both movies have the issue of having nameless ninjas to fight to pad out the fights. Kitana pulls the fans out, yay fan moment, but looks so uncomfortable using them that I always noticed her squinting while using them. Smoke uses a chest missile (Sektor’s move btw) and Liu Kang does the weirdest looking and unnecessary flip to dodge it. Good guys win when Sub-Zero shows up (me going crazy seeing my favorite character) and ice blasts Smoke.
Sub-Zero has the most ridiculous entrance though. He is either flying or gliding down the ice as he blasts Smoke and then gives a brief, but the game-inspired explanation about how the dead Sub-Zero was his brother. Cool, I’m on board. He says he’ll help the two champions by doing what? Making an ice bridge that’s quickly shown to be unnecessary because they can flip over it. Scorpion then shows up or what I think is Scorpion. These freaking costumes make my eyes hurt, but hey Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero! This is what everyone wanted in the first movie. Cue me losing my damn mind. Fun fact: This is the scene in the movie where the only returning actors are all in a scene together. Robin Shou and Talisa Soto obviously, but Keith Cooke is Sub-Zero in this movie and was Reptile in the previous.
Cut back to the fight. “Get over here”, ice duplicate dodge, and decent to excellent fighting all around. The movies did something that never bothered me as a kid but irked the hell out of me when I thought about it as an adult. They gave Scorpion random lines to say like his trademark “GET OVER HERE.” In the first, it was “GET DOWN HERE” and “COME HERE.” This movie introduces the one that is most offensive, where Scorpion yells “SUCKERS” as he runs away from the fight after kidnapping Kitana.
That is literally all we get of the most popular Mortal Kombat characters of Scorpion and Sub-Zero in this movie. They peace out never to be seen again. No one thought to keep the characters around who most people default to when playing the game? Luckily it looks like the reboot knows enough to put them front and center. This movie is the definition of a backhanded compliment. It does so much that would delight people if it didn’t have the other parts that are straight-up terrible to the viewers.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation no longer holds a place in my heart as it did when I was younger and didn’t realize that sequel didn’t always mean it was the better one. I do still have fond memories of how much my friends and I got into it and played the games and fake fought each other due to this movie. This is a very bad movie that earns all 6% it has on RottenTomatoes. I have hope that the 2021 Mortal Kombat will as good as the original and nowhere near as dumb, lackluster, and painful as rewatching this was. Get outta here.