Sunday, May 22, 2016


Welcome to another installment of the TRASH BIN, where we watch the worst movies Hollywood has to offer, so you don't have to. This week's pick is the 1997 video game movie sequel...MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION.

Let's get something out of the way right off the bat. The original 1995 Mortal Kombat is an unbridled classic. No, it's not a timeless, flawless testament to the power of cinema like something like Back to the Future or Star Wars, but what it IS is a fun, action packed, campy, in an endearing way, classic of 90's cinema. The Independence Day of 90's martial arts action films perhaps, a movie that straddles close enough to the line of being ridiculous in a bad way that it manages to eek out a classic, almost by accident. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, meanwhile, is what WOULD have happened, and in some ways, maybe SHOULD by all accounts have happened to the original movie. In some respects, the two movies are similar enough that watching Annihilation will almost make you reconsider how good the first movie was (though, nothing a good rewatch of Mortal Kombat can't fix). That being said, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a huge smile on my face while watching this. For all the wrong reasons, mind you.

Whereas the first movie took the plot and characters from the first two Mortal Kombat games, this movie takes strictly from the third entry and its updates. Now, I'm absolutely a Mortal Kombat fan. I've played almost every main entry in the series, so even I have to admit, it's pretty cool getting to see characters like Motaro or Ermac on screen for the first time. That being said, many of them don't really get much to do, so it's bittersweet to say the least. The story follows immediately after the end of the original movie. The evil warlord, Shao Khan, has broken the rules of Mortal Kombat and has begun invading the realm of Earth, and only the Earth warriors led by Raiden and our hero, Liu Kang, can stop him. How is he able to do this? Well, you won't actually know unless you know the games. I know that Shao Khan resurrected his dead wife, Sindel, on Earth, and thus was allowed to cross over to reclaim her, but for anyone who hasn't played MK3, they won't have an answer, since it's only mentioned that Sindel's resurrection is relevant, but never get around to why. Dropped plots are the main entre of this movie. Why does Liu Kang need to "unlock his Animality" to beat Shao Khan? Never explained. Who are some of these new fighters and why do they appear when they do? Haven't the foggiest.

This last question is actually the fate that befalls series mainstays, Sub-Zero and Scorpion. They appear for no explicit reason, have a quick fiight, vanish, and then are never seen or heard from again. It happens a lot. Other MK characters whom that happens to are Nightwolf, Jade, Jax, Mileena, Shinnok, Reptile, and Noob Saibot, none of whom the layman would recognize, some of whom not even fans could recognize, and all of whom have superficial roles at best and glorified cameos at worst. Many characters show up without ever even being named. Out of Shao Khan's four generals, only two of them, the centaur Motaro and the four-armed Sheeva, are ever named. The other two, the red-clad Ermac and the purple-clad Rain, would only ever be recognized by the fans. Not only are the new characters shafted, but the already established ones are too. Johnny Cage, a character from the first movie, not only has a new actor, but is immediately killed off within the first 6 minutes. Raiden, memorably played last time by Christopher Lambert, has a new actor and is essentially reduced to the Exposition Machine. Not that he wasn't that in the first movie, but at least there, he was well served by Lambert's acting chops.

Which is a shame because they don't all look terrible. This is one of the few points where you can see the real potential in some of this. As much bad CG as there is in this movie (and there's a LOT of it), Motaro's centaur make-up and CG actually looks pretty good for the time and even Sheeva's four arms look good. Unfortunately, they're the higher end of the spectrum. The robot characters, Smoke and Cyrax (who are, again, never named), all look awful. Shao Khan, famous in the game for his iconic skull-helmet, has it off for most of the movie, which is actually a good thing because the skull helmet looks awful. It's literally just a rubber skull mask that looks like someone bought it at Party City. The worst is the costume for the monstrous Baraka (who, once again, is never named in the movie). In the behind the scenes for the original video game, I remember one of the creators mentioning how, for the game's original digitized graphics, they'd just gotten a monster mask at the store and glued on some false fingernails for the teeth. This worked for a video game where the digitized live action graphics would mean that you'd never notice. On the big screen, though, the cheapness of the rubber mask shines completely through.

The acting and writing is probably the worst part of this whole endeavor, but it's also strangely the funnest. Every line (all of which are poorly written) is delivered with all the conviction and melodrama of a Spanish soap opera. One of the most infamous lines is so bad that a clip of it on YouTube titled "The Worst Line in Scriptwriting History" has over 7 million views.

And I absolutely adore every second of it. Not because I like it, but because it's so fun to watch and see what stupid thing they'll say next. It's really best to watch this movie as a comedy because honestly, it's actually a pretty decent comedy if you don't take anything seriously. Things happen without explanation and it comes off as hilarious. Especially during the final battle when, without explanation, Liu Kang turns into a dragon and Shao Khan turns into a hydra. Sure, the dragon thing has some grounding in the games, being used as a finishing move by Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat II, but no, Shao Khan has never been known to turn into a hydra, much to my chagrin.

If I may, allow me to go on a tiny nitpicking nerd rant about Mortal Kombat inaccuracies. Laymen can skip this paragraph. So. How does Sub-Zero know that his older brother is dead? Why is Jade a bad guy in this? She's supposed to be Kitana's friend, and yet she betrays her. Why are Raiden and Shao Khan brothers? And what the heck is Shinnok even doing here anyways, this isn't MK4's storyline. Why is Noob Saibot now the doppleganger of Ermac? He's supposed to be the undead spirit of the first Sub-Zero. Why does Jax still have human arms under his metal ones? Did he just get metal arms because he thought it'd be cool? Why are Smoke and Cyrax working for Shao Khan and not the Lin Kuei ninja clan? Barring the fact that Shao Khan doesn't actually have access to robotic tech, it also completely invalidates the reason why you'd have Sub-Zero in this at all. What was the point of including Nightwolf in this at all if all he was gonna do was act like a huge jerk? Why doesn't Shinnok just kill the Earth warriors himself since he's an Elder God? Why point out that Mileena (who is never named) looks like Kitana but never do anything with it?

All in all, I'm actually kinda glad I watched this. It was fun and it gave me a few laughs at the movie's expense. It's not good, my word is it FAR from anything that could remotely be considered good, but this is great if you ever just want to watch something awful with some friends. Preferably after a couple beers.

Tony's Score: 4.5/10

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