Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

After defeating the evil warlock Shang Tsung in the first movie, the group of martial arts warriors around Liu Kang and the mighty Lord Raiden is immediately confronted with the next otherworldly tyrant. Shao Khan seeks to annihilate the world to obtain infinite power. The heroes are embarking on a series of dangerous quests to find a way for how to defeat Shao Khan in the ultimate Mortal Kombat.

The Wikipedia page for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation categorizes it as a science fantasy martial arts action film. This fuzzy genre classification certainly sounds interesting, and provides a hint that this movie may be an extraordinary affair. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation together with its predecessor Mortal Kombat was among the first adaptations of a video game into the movie realm, with Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, and Double Dragon being released before it.

One thing that these movies have in common is that they were based on games that were almost completely devoid of a plot. This is not the best prerequisite for a feature movie unless you put some real effort into developing the setting and story for it. None of these movies did this, which resulted in a major quality problem of these early adaptations. The first Mortal Kombat still had a decent story, though, and a more or less consistent setting. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation drops all of this baggage and replaces it with a lot of dumb stuff.

Almost every aspect of the movie is fairly abysmal if you look at it isolated. The list includes the dialogues, the acting, set decoration, story and special effects. On the upside, there are some interesting panoramic scenes that look like a strange blend of motives from Mad Max, Conan The Barbarian, and Dante’s Inferno. The fight scenes are also actually decent, the skills of the martial arts actors are certainly visible. The movie is an extremely hectic affair, it feels like almost no shot is longer than one second. This perception is reinforced by a frantic techno/metal soundtrack. I believe the creators attempted to exactly replicate the immersive experience of a video game into a movie. This could be honored as an interesting attempt, but there is no artistic ambition, it’s a purely commercial affair that almost desperately tries to cram as many tropes of the Mortal Kombat universe as possible into its run-time.

The most peculiar feature about the movie is that if you put all the bad pieces together Mortal Kombat: Annihilation becomes a feverish collage that takes on an almost surreal form if you can open yourself up for it. It’s certainly a very colorful and energetic affair. None of this is intended I believe, it’s a side effect of a product that is so wrongly executed in almost all aspects that it achieves uniqueness only in doing so. The best experience you can have with watching it is that you’ll be oscillating between disbelief at what you’re seeing, occasionally enjoying the absurdity, and being able to appreciate the fight scenes.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is a bizarre movie that is strangely captivating for all the wrong reasons.

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