Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Donkey: A week had passed. The throbbing of our colons was beginning to subside. Our stomachs were finally beginning to heal from the scorching vengeance known as Diet Vanilla Cherry Pepsi Jazz. The stagnant smell of shame had nearly cleared the room. There could be no doubt that the official premier of Shitty Movie Night had been an unbridled success.
Being inspired by videogames, we decided to follow the natural progression that was laid out before us. Street Fighter II was undeniably the greatest fighting game of its generation, and it inspired a movie that proved to be equally outstanding. But as any former cast member of Perfect Strangers can tell you, one rarely achieves the highest levels of excellence without amassing a fair amount of nemeses. And just as Batman clashes with Calendarman, Hall battles Oates, and Larry the Cable Guy wages a holy war against comedy, Street Fighter is locked in an eternal struggle for fighting game supremacy with Mortal Kombat. Respect must be paid. And wouldn’t you know it, Mortal Kombat just happened to have a couple movies of its own. But as one out of the three or four people reading this may notice, we didn’t actually start with the first film (good catch, mom). No, the first film wasn’t actually all that bad, so it just didn’t make the grade. For the truly shitty experience, we skipped straight to chapter two.
As a side note, anyone out there who is a fan of the SNK fighting games (Fatal Fury, King Of Fighters, World Heroes, etc) who would claim the mantle of official rival to Street Fighter II and argue against giving this much credit to Mortal Kombat, you may just be right. After all, Mortal Kombat games were about as much fun as trying to drag a player piano up five flights of stairs using only your scrotum and an intense love of salsa dancing. We were all there for the fatalities and nothing more. But I refuse to recognize any of the SNK games until a major Hollywood studio picks up my script for World Heroes 2: Pirate Vs Football Guy.
* Our apologies for that, but as demonstrated quite literally in the first 2 seconds of this film, it’s actually a legal obligation to begin anything related to Mortal Kombat with that trademarked scream, whether it’s a movie, article, or simply bringing it up in casual conversation.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation does all that you could ask any truly great sequel to do. Rather than trying to improve on the film that came before it, this movie makes the first one better by being infinitely worse in every way. Mortal Kombat consisted of some mildly entertaining fight scenes set to techno music and strung together with an average, albeit random, storyline. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is a string of exceptionally tedious and entirely unmotivated fight scenes, barely strung together by a plot that seems like it was taken directly from the journal of a fourth grader (so much so that it would have been entirely appropriate if Liu Kang stopped in the middle of the movie and gave a twenty minute long monologue on how girls are gross and homework sucks). But hey, they’ve still got techno music. I suppose that’s…something. Trying to explain this movie’s plot is kind of like trying to sift through your toilet after passing a quarter that you accidentally swallowed; it’s equal parts humiliation and disgust, and no matter what you find along the way, you somehow always end up poorer in the end. But that’s the kind of masochism we’re here for, so let’s just jump right in and plow through this shit heap…
Liu Kang and his troupe of Cirque De Soleil rejects, including Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Princess Kitana were sauntering back to the Temple of Light after just having defeated Shang Tsung, an evil wizard from the land of Outworld, in a once-in-a-generation tournament that determines the fate of the entire world. Snow cones and freshly pressed slacks for all! Of course, we’re not supposed to wonder why there is only one temple of monks who knew about this rather routine threat to our entire world, and why our world’s one hope of survival is conveniently a member of said temple. You’d think something that important would warrant a little more searching than just glancing around at those within a fifty foot radius. But regardless, the orgy of jubilation and rusty trombones was quickly doused in the cold shower of an Outworld invasion.
Shao Kahn, the ruler of Outworld, and his Elder God father unleash their fiendishly confusing attack on our planet by ignoring the results of aforementioned Mortal Kombat tournament and attempting to complete a merger with the realm of Outworld. The portal between the two realms that serves as the vehicle for this plot somehow draws its power from the fact that Shao Kahn raised Queen Sindel, the mother of Princess Kitana, back from the dead. How, you ask, does raising someone from the dead have anything to do with creating or maintaining a portal between realms? Fucked if I know. Growing a fine mustache would be more goddamn relevant, for as we all know it opens the fabled, mystical portal to awesomeness.
In the face of this grave threat to us all, our intrepid heroes decide to split up to achieve vastly different, but equally useless objectives. Sonya travels to find her partner, Jax, to use her passive/aggressive skills to get the help that she refuses to ask for. Lord Rayden visits the temple of the Elder Gods to ask them how any just deities could allow this movie to happen. Liu Kang travels to the middle of the desert so that he can learn how to transform into a GC dragon worthy of a mail order technical institute or art school infomercial. Princess Kitana is immediately captured and rendered useless for the remainder of the film. And Johnny Cage proves to be the smartest character in this entire goddamn movie by dying in the first scene.
After somehow managing to accomplish these tasks in between the aerobic exercise routines that someone thought would serve as fight scenes, our heroes then gather together and travel to the realm of Outworld for the dramatic final confrontation. First they reunite Princess Kitana with her resurrected mother, which is supposed to close the portal between the two worlds. But as it turns out…not so much. You see, if that reunion had actually managed to accomplish what they thought it would, then the invasion would be stopped and the movie would be over. This is fucking Mortal Kombat, people. If they ended the movie with anything but a grand yet mediocre fight scene, then the movie-going public would have left the theater wholly unsatisfied. The slow-witted jocks that came to see the movie for the mildly homoerotic imagery of sweaty, scantily clad men wrestling one another would have had to find their own satisfaction by turning on the pasty, socially inept videogame geeks among them, leaving the other six people that saw this film to flee in terror. The slaughter would have been epic in proportion. And by the way, the explanation as to why the reunion doesn’t close to the portal is explained just as well as the whole idea was detailed in the first place. So by now, this is just another of many reasons why the audience has no idea what the fuck is going on.
The grossly predictable grand finale, therefore, comes when our heroes challenge Shao Kahn and his minions to what is essentially a winner-take-all game of Dance Dance Revolution, interrupted only by a brief and pointless beast battle, where Liu Kang and Shao Kahn morph into creatures that look like they were ripped directly from the Clash of the Titans cutting room floor. Once Shao Kahn is defeated, the portal between the two worlds closes, and our heroes are left to frolic in the sun.
The Case for Greatness (aka The Lowlights):
I think we can now understand the agonizing disappointment of so many women in the world, as the first thing this movie does is threaten to prematurely blow its load all over its audience’s collective faces. Seriously, there is so much awesomeness packed into the eight minutes that comprise the opening scene that it is hard to believe that what is to follow could possibly be anything but a let down. After it summarized the events of the first movie quite literally in 40 seconds, the story picked up right where the open ending of that film left off. It’s so seamless that you’d think that instead of years having passed between the two films, there was merely a commercial break. Of course, if you actually watched the two movies back to back as this implies you should, the first thing you’d be struck by is how few of the cast members from the first film were actually willing to participate in the second one. If you, like any other person with an IQ above that of a particularly salty wad of ham, think that’s a hint as to the severe drop in quality that you’re about to witness, you still have no idea what kind of flaming wreckage you’re about stumble into.
Having spent what has been scientifically proven to be the exact amount of time required to summarize the events of the first movie, the opening scene rolled right along into the invasion of the Outworld forces. But this invasion wasn’t carried out in a way that any defending force could anticipate and counter. After all, waves of tanks or battalions of foot soldiers can’t compare tumbling generic ninjas! That’s right; the invasion consists of an army of shirtless, hooded, greased-up men somersaulting down from fiery portals opened in the heavens above. And as I watched this flood of ridiculousness, all I could think to myself was, “man, this invasion is going to be awesome when half of their forces shatter their legs and spines after falling from that height”. The scene then kicked it up a notch by hitting us with a barrage of outstanding dialogue, which left us reeling like a 12 year old girl mercilessly beaten by a champion prize fighter. Behold.
Shao Kahn’s announcing his intention after spinning down to the ground:
Shao Kahn: “The Earth was created in six days. So too, shall it be destroyed. And on the seventh day, mankind shall rest…IN PEACE!”
That’s just fucking outstanding. Although frankly, I’m somewhat surprised that the leader of an invading force from another dimension would have enough knowledge of Christianity to make a failed attempt at a clever reference.
Liu Kang and Rayden’s reaction to the invasion:
Liu Kang: “I thought our victory closed those portals?!”
Rayden: “What closes can also open again.”
Wow. That’s fucking it?! That’s the most broad, nonsensical explanation for the basis of the entire plot of this film that you could possibly come up with. And Rayden is supposed to be a fucking god?!
Princess Kitana and Queen Sindel, upon seeing each other for the first time:
Kitana: “Mother…you’re alive.”
Sindel: “Too bad you…WILL DIE!”
Fucking genius. Whoever wrote this screenplay should have been immediately inducted into Mensa the moment that shit was heard by human ears (before the oceans of blood started pouring out of them, that is).
Once our combatants had all met in the field of battle and the invaders had voiced their exceptionally comical intentions, it was time for the two leaders to draw a line in the sand. And how else would this be done than Rayden and Shao Kahn each flipping through the air for about fifty feet to meet one another face to face for some brief, amazingly calm and pointless banter? The scene was then finished with the death of Johnny Cage. He leapt in to save Sonya, was who grabbed by Shao Kahn, only to allow his neck to be snapped after being hit all of twice. All that in eight minutes. We were off to a pretty shitty start, gang.
But as much as that opening scene felt like the face full of hot man-chowder that it threatened to be, there was no shortage of staggeringly shitty moments to come. The next being a scene involved the greatest mode of transportation that humanity has ever scene. When our heroes decided to split up to try to counter the invasion, they traveled to their different locations using steel cage balls that travel through a series of tunnels that lead through the center of the Earth. That’s right, you heard me correctly. They traveled through tunnels using the steel cage balls from American fucking Gladiators, only these were powered by hot air coming up from the Earth’s core. But if that wasn’t ridiculous enough for you, they added two finer points to this concept that felt like a two uppercuts directly to the left testicle. First, Princess Kitana explained not only that the balls moved so fast that you reach any destination across the Earth in mere hours, but that they moved so fast that it would appear that they were barely moving at all. Now that’s pretty goddamn fast. So when you’re filming it from the perspective of the people inside those balls, it might make sense that it didn’t seem like they were moving very quickly. But when you’re filming one of the balls moving down the tunnels from an outside perspective, it should have looked like it was moving faster than a shopping cart rolling down a slight embankment. It should have, but it didn’t.
But then one of the balls came to what they called an “interchange” and that second shot to the crotch hit home. The “interchange” in this case was a massive chasm where the ball flew out of its tunnel, sailed through the open air, and attempted to land in the entrance of another tunnel on the other side. Insane, yes, but what made it even better was that in order to land in the appropriate tunnel, they had to steer the ball themselves by leaning in the direction of the tunnel that they were aiming for. Keep in mind that the tunnels weren’t much bigger than the actual balls themselves, so the margin of error here was small enough that you have to believe that the mortality rate of this mode of travel makes it completely worthless. We couldn’t find a better way to create an intersection, especially considering all this takes place directly over a river of molten fucking lava?
A couple of scenes later when we returned to our stalwart travelers, this assault on the audience’s most basic level of intelligence continued. Once Princess Kitana and Liu Kang reached their destination and got out of their American Gladiator hamsterball, they attempted to share a tender moment when they were interrupted by Smoke (also known as Generic-Black-Robot-Ninja) and a handful of standard hooded henchmen, and the first full martial arts fight scene of the film began. And while this fight scene warmed up with the basic problem that Liu Kang attempting hand to hand combat with a metal opponent should have resulted in him breaking his hands, feet, or whatever else he attempted to use, this wouldn’t be the true classic that it is if it stopped there. About half way through the fight, Smoke produced a smaller rocket launcher from his chest and fired on his opponent. This begs the question, if he had a goddamn rocket launcher, why the fuck didn’t he just use that in the first place? Why would you even bother taking to time to program a robot to utilize martial arts when it has a goddamn rocket launcher? And then we got the final coup de grace: as Smoke was about to fire on both Liu Kang and Princess Kitana, in what was sure to be a spectacularly lethal and hilarious explosive death for both of them, Sub-Zero (also known as Generic-Blue-Ninja) quite literally flew into the scene and froze Smoke before the rocket could leave his chest, causing him to blow himself up.
That’s right, he flew in. Flew. When the fuck did it become standard practice for ninjas to fly? And in order to picture how utterly retarded this looked, try to imagine someone flying into a scene like Superman, as Superman would look if the production team was a group of grade nine drama students with ADD. It was absolutely staggering to behold. After that trash and some more pointless dialogue that followed, Scorpion (also known as Generic-Yellow-Ninja) showed up, slapped Sub-Zero around for a little while, and then stole Princess Kitana away when everyone’s back was turned. But really, none of that matters. At that point, the damage was already done and anyone still watching should barely see through the stream of tears.
The cavalcade continued soon after as Sonya reached her destination and looked for her partner, Jax. Sonya ended up finding Jax lying on a table alone in the middle of an abandoned medical research facility, having just had his new cybernetic enhancements attached to his arms. It seemed a little odd to me that he would by there by himself, as you would think that whoever was there with him at the time of the apparent evacuation would have taken a moment to wake him, especially since they had just finished enhancing his strength. Even if you didn’t just rouse him out of basic human decency, he would seem to be a handy guy to have around at that point. No sooner had Sonya and Jax reunited then they were interrupted by Cyrax (also known as Generic-Yellow-Robot-Ninja) and another cadre of hooded warriors. Is this starting to sound familiar yet? This all blended into yet another monotonous fighting scene set to unremarkable rave music. But it was the way that the scene ended that really tickled the prostate into mouth-watering delight. After Sonya and Jax defeated Cyrax, they noticed that his corpse had begun a self-destruct countdown and showed the unprecedented level of brainstem activity that led them to conclude that running away might be a good idea. Once the countdown reached its end, the bomb exploded and we get a very typical action movie shot of the heroes leaping towards the camera, away from the explosion. The problem with this case was that they were leaping in front of what was painfully obviously stock footage of a random explosion of nothing. Not an exploding building, car, or even liquor-filled hobo. This is the Microsoft clip art equivalent of an action scene. A fucking paperclip should have popped up in the corner of the screen and asked us if we’d like to reconsider watching this goddamn film.
The film’s next notable moment of greatness came when Liu Kang made it to the middle of the desert and found Nightwolf, the sort-of-maybe-possibly Native American who was supposed to teach Liu Kang how to achieve his “Animality”, which was basically helping him to become a very bad CG dragon that looked about as dangerous and effective as a dirty hippie going into battle brandishing a pastrami on rye. This sounded like a fairly daunting task, and an accomplishment that would take years to attain…or perhaps a snappy montage scene at the very least. Instead, Nightwolf knocked Liu Kang unconscious with his tomahawk, which in turn caused Liu Kang to have a dream about people telling him he’s a disappointment, doubting himself, and becoming the fabled dragon. Shit, throw in getting caught masturbating and that’s a dream that I’ve had more times than I care to admit…so why the hell can’t I become goddamn mythical creature? During this dream, Nightwolf offered such helpful tips to Liu Kang’s unconscious body as “find that power inside you” and “feel your Animality”. And that’s it. That’s all he did. No shit. Liu Kang traveled half way across the globe to get knocked the fuck out and told two lines of encouragement while he has a bad dream.
Another gem in this bowl of bile came a few scenes later, when we caught up with Sonya and Jax wandering through a barren wasteland. Sonya then wondered off and was attacked by Milena in a scene that was painfully tacked on for the sake of simply introducing another character from the game that served no purpose to the overall plot whatsoever. But at least it was entertaining, right? Nope. There are certainly men out there whom would be stupid enough to find merit in the scene just because it’s essentially just two chicks wrestling around in the mud. But those men can go fuck themselves, and I feel very secure in saying that since most of them are too busy out buying “supplements” for the gym to have taken the time to learn what a computer is, so they’ll never read this anyways. But as arduous as that was to sit through, the scene really ladled out an extra heap of random when Sonya had just finished killing Milena and a terrible looking CG demon burst out of an old statue behind her, only to be beaten back down into the ground by Jax, who came to Sonya’s rescue as he quite literally punched it in the hip repeatedly and finished it off with a single punch to the top of the head. What the hell was that? Why did we witness any of that? What the fuck is even going on anymore? Whoever wrote this deserves a punch in the goddamn face.
By far, one of the finest moments of the film occurred shortly thereafter, once Liu Kang, Sonya, and Jax all met up again and began arguing over whose outfit made them look the most like a backup dancer from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation video (or something like that, but nobody really cared by this point). Suddenly, Rayden flipped into the scene from out of thin air, which looked about as good as every other special effect in this movie (interpretation: like ass). He proceeded to chastise them for arguing and extolled the virtues of hugs and daisies, but not before he stopped and pointed out his new haircut. It’s a very little thing, but this was perhaps one of the greatest things ever to happen in cinema. Say it out loud with me, kids: the Chinese God of Thunder got a fucking haircut. Roll that around on your palette for a while and see how that tastes. If you can’t quite place the flavor, then trust me, it’s a mix of ball sweat and week-old raisin bagels. And on a brief side note, I’d love to get my hands on the memo that specifically states that the role of Rayden must be filled by the worst actor available that’s willing to work for AA batteries. Christopher Lambert put his amazingly confusing stamp on the role in the first movie, leaving anyone who witnessed it to wonder why the hell an underwhelming French actor was playing the role of a Chinese god. Who the hell decided to follow that up by giving the role to James Remar, an American actor whom it would be generous to call the height of mediocrity?
As the movie began with a bang, it was fitting that it should end with a clusterfuck-level explosion, and it did not disappoint. The scene began with the death of Rayden, as he had apparently given up his immortality for the sake of humanity. Not really sure why, but we’ll just go with it. And the moment was handled with an incredible amount of grace, really. I’ve felt more emotion accidentally snapping the tip off my pencil than I did witnessing Rayden’s demise. It was about as remarkable as a tepid bowl of plain oatmeal.
But once the movie had finished tugging on the heartstrings, it was time to get down to the real action. First, our heroes squared off against their adversaries and laid claim to who would be their opponent, trying to make it seem like establishing this was somehow significant. But just like handing a toddler a loaded pistol, the movie then negated its own efforts by turning the pistol around and shooting itself in the face. Jax picked Motaro, Kitana naturally opted to face Sindel, and therefore Sonya was left with Ermac or Rain, or whatever the hell that particular ninja’s name was (we’ll stick with Generic-Red-Ninja to be safe). But instead of trying to make it sound like this would somehow be even a slightly significant pairing, Sonya herself simply said, “leftovers are fine with me”. Why the fuck even bother at that point? If you’re not going to take this seriously, why should anyone else? And it didn’t get any better once we get to the meat of the action. The first great moment came when Jax was slap-fighting with Motaro with very little success. Eventually, Jax got frustrated enough that he ripped off his metal arm enhancers and went old school. That’s all well and good, but if we think back, we should all remember that he was found in a medical facility, having just had those metal enhancers put onto him. So if they needed to be surgically installed onto him, why the hell can he just rip them off like a goddamn jacket? If they could come off that easily, shouldn’t he have been able to just strap that shit on in the first place? Once again the movie couldn’t be bothered to maintain its own shitty logic.
But all of that was just a sideshow to the main event of the final battle between Liu Kang and Shao Kahn. Like the movie as a whole, this fight dropped a Cleveland Steamer square on our chests. It began with Liu Kang getting his ass handed to him by Shao Kahn. But not ready to give up and go back to the Glee Club quite yet, Liu Kang put his thirty seconds of training to good use and invoked his transformation into his “Animality”. Not to be outdone, Shao Kahn did the same, so the final-final battle now became a shitty dragon versus a shitty hydra. This looked so bad that it would have been an improvement if they had done the entire thing in stop-motion filming using Lego characters assembled by rabid baboons. And to put the icing on the cake, the movie once again took something that was badly done and made it completely pointless. After Liu Kang went to all those lengths to learn his “Animality”, it was used for about two minutes. Liu Kang and Shao Kahn grappled for a few moments, fought to a draw, then fell together off a stone plateau and returned to their normal forms once they landed. I know it’s been asked before, but, again, it can’t be said enough; why the fuck was this even in the movie? At that point, Shao Kahn turned to his Elder God father for assistance. But before daddy could help, two other Elder Gods showed up and held him in check, proclaiming that no outside assistance would be given (once again proving that deities are only good for providing no assistance to anyone whatsoever), and the fate of the worlds would once again be decided by…MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!! Yes, the trademarked scream rang out one more time as the final-final-final battle was set to begin. By now even the makers of the movie understand that anyone would be goddamn tired of the whole affair, so the battle was kept fairly brief. As you’d expect, Liu Kang ended up beating Shao Kahn to death and the world was saved.
Once the battle was done, two final things happened. First, Rayden was revived and promoted to the rank of an Elder God. Given the events of this film, one can only assume that this was bestowed upon him as a result of spectacular, blazing incompetence. And finally, the movie ended with everything magically going back to the exact point where the movie began, thus nullifying the events of the entire film. That’s about as satisfying an ending as finding out the whole thing was a dream that Liu Kang had after passing out from auto-erotic asphyxiation while watching the first movie. Fuck, if only I could be magically transported back to a time that I hadn’t seen this film…
When it comes to cinematic accomplishments in the field of crapulence, this movie has rocketed to the upper echelon in an American Gladiator rollerball of hilarious disgrace. Unlike the respective videogame series on which they are based where it is a one sided slaughter, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation swaps blows with Street Fighter: The Movie and almost manages to keep pace. If it could be faulted for anything, it would be simply failing to have Jean Claude Van Damme in the movie. A ridiculous thought, maybe, but why not switch one inappropriate French actor for another and have JCVD play Rayden? It wouldn’t have been any more ridiculous than James Remar. But there is one little detail that balances out that slight criticism. Having received the double pack DVD of Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation for Christmas, I couldn’t help but notice the ratings on the back of the case. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is rated as having, and I’m quoting here, “Non-stop Martial Arts Violence”. That’s the official rating of this movie. Not just some martial arts violence or even a moderate amount. Someone in some position of authority actually thought to categorize this as non-stop. That’s pretty damn awesome. I’m left with little choice but to give the movie five generic multi-colored ninjas out of five.
What We Learned:
The complete and total annihilation of our world can be accomplished with an army of hooded generic henchmen who accomplish little more than somersaulting everywhere, unless one of us has a dream about becoming a shitty dragon. Live in fear, people. The end is nigh.