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Videogame movie reviews: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)


Oh boy, here we go.

Hot off the heels of the success of the first movie, Annihilation was released to cinemas two years later, directorial duties passing from previous director Paul W.S. Anderson and onto the choreographer of the first film, John Leonetti. Looking through the guy's work, he's been doing movies for years, and will seemingly coninue to do so, but Annihilation is his only directorial work. With a well-deserved 6% Tomatometer ranking, I can imagine why.

The story isn't directly based off any game, but is most in line with Mortal Kombat 3. Emperor Shao Kahn, unhappy with Outworld's loss of the tournament, just says "Fuck it" and storms the realm of Earth anyway in a bid to take it over. Can our intrepid heroes stop him in time?

You might notice from watching the intro that all of the actors in this film, save for Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Kitana (Talisa Soto), are different from the first movie. Why? A lack of budget, perhaps? The ones that have been replaced were A-list-ish at some point, whereas you'll be starved to recognise anyone here save for James "Ajax" Remar as Raiden. Can these new actors act? Not really.

Shao Kahn loses any sliver of menace he had in the last snippet of the first film, choosing to act like a retard in front of everyone, hamming it up as much as he possibly can. It's even hard tp find it fun or funny; I just had my head in my hands the whole time he was on screen. Most of the others follow similar patterns or are paper thin. Mind you, the actual script that gives the characters their lines isn't much better.

Much of the film is very slow, but still randomly interpersed with fight scenes with random characters from the series. At least the first film often attempted to make their characters more than stopgaps in between our heroes and the climax. But not Annihilation. Apparently, merely splashing a yellow robot that shoots missles from its chest on screen for a short, uninteresting fight is enough to satitiate the fans. Tell that to the aggregate critic score guys.

It's not possible to connect with any character in any way because there are simply too many for there to be any focus. So many scenes are of sole characters doing their thing with other side characters. Each of these is too short, and yet there are so many the movie outstays its welcome very quickly.

But wait! Some of the fight scenes have CGI in them. Sonya and Jax will fight some weird Mileena transformation that never happened in the games because, in a world where fighters get turned into babies, even a skinned duck/reptile/dinosaur thing was too silly. The fight at the end between Liu as a dragon and Khan as...something is incredibly laughable. For fuck's sake, this had money put in to this. Why was the CGI this shoddy and yet so overused? I know this is an old movie, but Jurassic Park and Toy Story were out by this point. There's no excuse.

Sounds terrible so far? Well, it gets worse. The fights are pretty bland and boring, once again failing to use any gore, but at least Mortal Kombat had other elements to compensate. Annihilation is boring as hell and can barely be enjoyed on any level. If it's not even obvious that a film had a $30 million budget within the film itself due to shoddy workmanship all round, you've got a problem.

And as I said, not even ardent fans will be able to dig the references, because they can barely even be called that with how short and shallow they are. Maybe if the film wasn't so straight and threw in a "Toasty!" or two, it could have been saved, but I have to say that this is easily one of the worst films I've ever seen.

The only part I truly liked is when Scorpion's dragging Kitana through a portal, and then he yells to Liu Kang, "Suckkkkeeeeeeerrrrrrr!!" like some dudebro. I should have been offended by the fact that this hardcore, bloodthirsty fighter was doing something so incredibly juvenile and ridiculous, but I was laughing for quite a while and I watched the rest of the film in the hope in that he reappeared and did something like that again. But he never did.

I went into the first movie determined to hate it, but I watch it every year or so now. I hope to never even take a glimpse of this movie again.

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About Lowlander2one of us since 4:06 AM on 05.10.2011

I am an Australian journalism student, currently in his second year. There isn't much out of the ordinary about my upbringing. I'm just a guy wwho has been playing games for quite a while and enjoying them for the most part. My favourite genre is probably the rhythm game genre. Used to be RPGs, but I haven't really connected with any for a while.

I wouldn't consider myself a very theological or philosophical gamer, and I do tire of some of the devates that occure around games. STFUAJPG and all that. That doesn't mean I have nothing to say, just that I'm not the guy you come to for any sort of real opinion on serious gaming issues. My forte is the more spartan, critical stuff, like reviews and lists and what have you. Moost of my blogs have been reviews on game movies at this point, as a matter of fact.
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