Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (A 25 Days of Shitmas Post from Cinema Crazed's Felix Vasquez Jr.)

While I give Paul WS Anderson’s “Mortal Kombat” movie crap for being a watered down, neutered, and generally cheesy adaptation of the groundbreaking video game, three things are hard to ignore about it. The soundtrack is great, the fight scenes are spectacular, and the final scene is superb. Twelve year old me sat in the theater genuinely in sheer awe after seeing Shao Kahn pop up in the final scene to remind our Earth heroes that the fight had been won, but the war was about to begin. 

Then two years later, in comes “Annihilation.” I remember sitting down to watch the sequel with my brother and after about twenty minutes we were not just painfully disappointed, but bored out of our skulls. “Annihilation” is a piss poor follow up to what is arguably one of the better video game adaptations, as it draws none of the power and charisma from the original film. It instead takes the mild cheesiness from the original, and ramps it up to about eleven.

Apparently the original film’s events were for naught as, despite Liu Kang defeating Shang Tsung, the Outerworld realm opened up enough to allow the evil Shao Kahn to invade the Earth realm and unleash his soldiers for a massive invasion. So—wait, what was the point of the tournament? Who gave the tournament, Shao Kahn or Shang Tsung? Did Shao Kahn establish rules and then just decide he didn’t have to listen to himself and invaded anyway? And if Shao-Kahn’s father broke the rules to enter Earth, why hasn’t he tried that before and completely skipped over the whole tournament illusion? While Shao-Kahn and his army prepare for a siege, Liu Kang assembles the remnants of his troops as well as bringing on some new heroes.

This includes Sonya Blade’s friend Jax who has cybernetic arms (Well why not?), and a beautiful Asian woman named Jade. Rayden also decides to step in to combat, battling new foes with his group, and leading Liu Kang to fight Shao Kahn. Yes, it’s twice the characters and even less emphases on the core heroes. Are you perhaps a fan of ninja clone Rain and Ermac, the robots Smoke and Cyrax, the monstrous Baraka, Motaro, or Sheeva? That’s too bad, because they do nothing and are reduced to nothing. Hell Reptile had more to do in the original movie than Ermac here.

Let’s face it, they were injected in to the games to top Goro, but here they’re literally just canon fodder played by stunt people who make them even less appealing than the games. None of the characters murdered are written off leaving the audience wanting more. Once they’re gone, they dissipate from our collective memory faster than the bits on a Genesis game. Shao Kahn and Sindel have literally every inch of their mystique and personas destroyed as they’re transformed in to shrill, obnoxious villains. In the game and the final scene of “Mortal Kombat,” Shao Kahn looks imposing, horrifying, and an absolute menace that could snap his fingers and control the Earth realm. 

Here—well—Kahn is placed front and center and given humongous screen time with an oversized helmet that makes him look like he has an overbite. It is a vast departure from the mystery and mystique Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa brought to the character of Shang Tsung in the first film. Shao Kahn and Sindel are now a whiny married royal couple while Kahn is basically reduced to a warrior god with a daddy complex. Is it too late to revive Shang Tsung? Meanwhile we meet Kitana’s evil sister, Rayden turns in to James Remar who looks like a Billy Idol cosplayer, there are two Sub-Zeros now—apparently, and Liu Kang has to learn to transform in to a dragon by way of a Native American shaman who can turn in to a wolf, and it’s crucial to his fate because… it’s in the games.

Thank goodness we never got a chance to see part three where Kang learns the intricacies of Babality. While a lot of “Mortal Kombat” relied on some well choreographed fights that often were pretty break neck in speed and editing, “Annihilation” makes odd use of the slow motion effect, which tends to drag down any momentum, however minimal, that the film builds. What little appeal the original film had is destroyed in literally the first ten minutes. John R. Leonetti directs the movie like a cheap music video, entertaining anti-hero Johnny Cage is recast and then murdered abruptly, while Sonya is also recast. Her personality is insanely wooden, incidentally allowing Talisa Soto to conveniently step up and steal the show.

The martial arts to the special effects are just bargain basement, and shockingly everything about it is just inexplicable and baffling. The entire production is backwards, resulting in a movie that has almost twice the budget of the first film and oddly enough looks cheaper than ever. This is supposed to be adapting “Mortal Kombat II,” and yet John R. Leonetti squeezes in characters we’re not supposed to see until much later in the mythos. He doesn’t even consider if certain character would even fit in to the narrative of a “Mortal Kombat” movie at all. 

Sure the “Tekken” live action movies suck, but they didn’t include the fighting panda and kangaroo. Some characters just don’t translate to cinema, because video games are given a lot of leeway to be silly, absurd, and over the top. Characters are literally tacked on to the story, serving no purpose but to diminish their importance and be brought on screen as literal cannon fodder. So if you were big on Cyrax in the nineties, he’s really just a henchman who is taken out in a lame fashion after a pretty dull fight. And it just gets worse from there. 

Fans of the game series will be disappointed to see some great characters with potential to be menacing foes reduced to absolutely nothing but leaping and flipping punching bags included for the sake of padding a paper thin albeit convoluted narrative. For a movie about how fighting a tournament that virtually had no effect on the invasion of Earth, Leonetti seems to be working with a screenplay of thirty pages, and tries to fill in the holes whenever and however he can. Considering the long time span between movies, it’s mind blowing how “Annihilation” is awful as a sequel and a movie.

The Trailer for  "Annihilation"!

New Line quite obviously cobbled together a script that had little intent to extend the narrative from the original film. Either that or the studio wrote themselves in to a corner and had no idea how to continue the mythology from the first film. Usually movies series stall at part three, but “Annihilation” effectively squashes any potential at sequels and an extended universe with such a sheer embarrassing follow-up rendering it the “Batman & Robin” of the “Mortal Kombat” live action movies.

-  Felix Vasquez Jr.
Cinema Crazed

Merry Shitmas From Outworld!

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