Judge Mike Rubino ran out of quarters.
"The Earth was created in six days; so too shall it be destroyed; and on the seventh day, mankind will rest…in peace!"—Shao Kahn
When will game developers and Hollywood finally realize that no one plays Mortal Kombat because they like the story? No one. We aren't playing these fighting games because we care about Johnny Cage's life as an actor or Sub-Zero and Scorpion's sibling rivalry. Despite this being fairly obvious, the MK franchise continues, to this day, to spread its wings into the realms of film, animation, and live-action television. It can take a leap into The Pit for all I care.
Facts of the Case
Everything they said in the first movie, about some portal to Outworld being sealed by winning the Mortal Kombat tournament, was a lie. So here's a sequel with more characters and more fighting in hopes of our heroes (once again) closing that dang portal. Oh, and they only have six days to do it.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation may be one of the most faithful videogame adaptations in history, proving once again that games involving two people fighting (just fighting) make for awful movies. Short of me plugging quarters away at the arcade until a much more skilled high schooler challenges me, destroys me, and wrestles the machine from my grasp, the film nails my experience with the Sega-era franchise.
That's not a good thing.
For starters, this Robert Altman-sized cast of characters (most prominently featured in the game Mortal Kombat 3) is not only hastily assembled, it drifts through the film without any focus or development. Sure Liu Kang (Robin Shou, Death Race) is technically the star here—Shou is also one of the few returning cast members from the first film—but most of his time is spent away from everyone else, on a Luke Skywalker-esque journey of self discovery or something. He's got to release that "animality," as Nightwolf (Litefoot, The Indian in the Cupboard) tells him. Just you wait; when he does the mid-90s CGI will melt your brain.
The rest of the fighters (Jax, Sonya Blade, Kitana, etc) just go off on their little adventure, spitting catch phrases and doing superfluous flips. It's all at the direction of that lightning-shooting demigod, Rayden (played with zen-like cheese by James Remar, Dexter), who is perfectly content explaining away the questions of his friends—and subsequently the audience. Why is everyone fighting? Because the Outworld is merging with Earth. I thought we stopped that last movie? Nope. You thought you did, but then the film made too much money, so you didn't.
Annihilation tanked at the box office because it's only generally appealing to fans. The kind that finds phrases like "Finish him!" and "Feel your Animality!" totally believable in the realm of videogameland. That stuff works in the arcade, but doesn't make for a compelling (or even ironically enjoyable) movie. The plot isn't long enough to summarize, the characters are half-dimensional, and the camera work is a confusing mess. Really, this movie, with its nonstop acrobatic fight scenes and Jock Jams soundtrack, is a lot like an episode of Power Rangers, except occasionally someone melts.
Making matters worse, the movie is PG-13 and a decidedly saccharin representation of a notoriously violent videogame. It's like that Super Nintendo version with all the blood edited out. Instead, there are plenty of goofy special effects and off-camera death scenes. The high def Blu-ray transfer highlights these effects to a terrible degree: shots clearly taken on blue screen are filled with fuzzy halos and color mismatches, latex prosthetics (like with the embarrassing appearance by Baraka) are wiggling around like oversized Halloween masks, and the CGI battle at the end of the film is absurd. Just flat out absurd. All of these problems come, however, from the original sloppiness of the film and not the transfer itself, which is making the best lemonade it can. The DTS-HD soundtrack is equally adequate—that killer MK theme song really knows how to fill a room.
The Blu-ray release arrives just in time for the latest entry in the game franchise. As such, the only special features on the disc are a trailer for the game, a trailer for the movie, and a digital copy of the film. There's also a code to unlock a costume if/when you pick up the game.
I suppose it's possible to enjoy this film from a diehard fan perspective. It adheres close to the Mortal Kombat game series, for better or worse. But the acting, effects, and story are just so awful, it ends up being even less enjoyable (even ironically) than Van Damme's Street Fighter or that Double Dragon movie.
Guilty! Now finish him, already!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
Review content copyright © 2011 Michael Rubino; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.