Although our heroes are supposed to have won Mortal Kombat and hence saved Earth (as seen in the original movie) apparently an Outworld baddie name Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) has other ideas. So the guy opens portals to Earth and sends a bunch of his faceless musclebound extras to chase our heroes around isolated locales. He also begins “merging” Earth and Outworld into one dimension. Seeing as how Outworld is basically a wasteland filled with destroyed cities and eternal night, who can blame Shao Kahn for defying the rules of Mortal Kombat? Outworld ain’t a nice place to live.
“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” opens immediately after the events of the Paul Anderson original. Before you can say, “Hey, wait a minute, so you’re telling me all that fighting in the original was for nothing?” Shao Kahn attacks, kills Johnny Cage (this time played by actor Chris Conrad in a brief cameo), and scatters the rest of the fighters. Liu Kang (Robin Shou), still sporting the worst haircut in cinematic history, ends up with Kitana (Talisa Soto) on a quest to save Kitana’s mother. And oh, the two get all lovey-dovey on us. Meanwhile, Sonya Blade (Sandra Hess this time) seeks out former ex-partner Jax (Lynn Williams — yes, he’s a guy), who has bionic arms, to help fight Shao Kahn’s faceless baddies. James Remar (“Hellraiser: Inferno”) takes over Christopher Lambert’s role as Rayden, who seeks answers among the Gods. We get even more talk of prophecies and destiny and fate and blah blah blah.
The screenplay for “MKA” is even more convoluted than the original, and makes just as much sense — which is little to none. So in those respects, it would be unfair to call “MKA” worst than the original in terms of storyline, since both are pretty much on the lower rungs of what may be considered “quality writing”. The director this time around is John R. Leonetti, who lensed the original. Running at a scant 80 minutes, “MKA” is less concern with plot coherence than it is with staging one fight sequence after another, which it does with aplomb.
Speaking of the fights, “MKA” does have better fights than its original. Whereas it was plainly obvious that nearly all of the cast of the original (with the exception of Robin Shou) had no martial arts training, Sandra Hess, James Remar, and Lynn Williams seems to have gone through some pre-production crash course in martial arts. As a result, they look more convincing than the three actors they replaced, which is a good thing because “MKA” is basically a movie strung together by a series of kung fu fights. Also it should be noted that the beautiful Talisa Soto also seems to have gotten an upgrade in fighting prowess as well.
“MKA” is generally considered as being a terrible sequel and a lesser movie next to the original. Robin Shou, as the film’s pseudo-lead (while the movie seems to involve his character as the “chosen one”, he really doesn’t have a lot of screentime), still can’t act to save his life. And I dare say, Shou’s action sequences this time around aren’t nearly as impressive. This could be because of his lessening screentime, or maybe because director Leonetti had more to work with cast-wise. Whatever the case, I had more time this time around to notice just how bad Shou’s hair and wardrobe were. Someone get this man some help!
Despite the above points, I believe “MKA” is on par, if not slightly better, than “Mortal Kombat”. Here are my reasons: Story-wise, both movies show their videogame roots, meaning the plot and story are silly and inconsequential. Action-wise, “MKA” has more energy and elaborate fight choreography. It’s almost like comparing a Hong Kong fight movie to an American version (with Thomas’ original being the American version). There’s no contest. Although it should be pointed out that the final fight involving two CGI creatures is, to put it mildly, horrendously lame.
“MKA” is no masterpiece. It’s not even a mildly good story. It’s just good for what it is: a fun, highly energetic fight movie with nice production values.
John R. Leonetti (director) / Ed Boon, Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, John Tobias, Brent V. Friedman, Bryce Zabel (screenplay)
CAST: Robin Shou …. Liu Kang
James Remar …. Lord Rayden
Talisa Soto …. Princess Kitana
Sandra Hess …. Sonya Blade