Let us ask this question from the start: Is it a good thing that Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is the most accurate video game to film translation ever? Every costume, every line, every fight, and every location seems ripped from the classic digitized fighters that became infamous for their violence. Actually, the movie misses the whole violence thing, but hey, it’s Hollywood. PG-13 sells.
Knowing that, and taking into account that this incomprehensible sequel is easily one of the worst major studio theatrical releases of the ’90s, what does that say for the game? Nothing, actually. If anything, the film proves a point, that the artistry of the video game lies in the play, not the narrative. For a video game narrative to work, it needs a video game attached. They’re structured differently, something no one involved in Annihilation seems to have understood.
The film just sort of starts after a brief flashback recounting of the first movie, Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) descending from a purple sky that shows clear computer generated polygon seams, starts mouthing off, and the world is destroyed… or something. He wants to rule it, yet destroys it. Smart. Everyone starts fighting before character’s names are even introduced, the whole thing more awkward than a drunken one night stand, and no on here is having sex. Certain characters don’t even have names here despite speaking roles, fans of the game the only ones with even a shred of comprehension going into this thing.
Our leads, including Liu Kang (Robin Shou, the only one reprising a role) roll around the bowels of the Earth inside some American Gladiator balls (!), somehow picking the only locations on the planet where Shao Kahn minions happen to be, and ready to fight. These confrontations sort of happen, a few lines of dialogue and then *BAM*, time to rumble. Maybe it’s for the best, the actors here stiffer than their video game counterparts, and they were animated. Awkward choreography, obvious stunt doubles (hey, that’s Ray Park!), and amateurish camera work from cinematographer John R. Leonetti ensue for 90-minutes. Well, not quite. Someone padded this with 11-minutes worth of credits after the abrupt ending.
Don’t take all of this the wrong way. This is the height of cheese, but cheese with a $30 million gold plating. It will forever remain a mystery as to how (or why for that matter) this movie actually happened, the closest explanation being that execs thought anything with the Mortal Kombat name would sell. As such, this one goes out to theaters hysterically unfinished, or at least, that’s what everyone should hope was the case. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Movie]
Warner issues this shoddy sequel without a care in the world, and for once, can you blame them? It’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Let’s assume though you’re the one person in the world who wanted to understand, or maybe even appreciate, the CG work in all of its hi-def clarity. You’re the one who needs to be ready for disappointment. It’s obvious Warner didn’t do much of anything to this one, the disc given a master that is obviously outdated, oppressively soft, and murky on its best day.
Detail only comes into play when Leonetti is shoving the camera in the actor’s faces, mostly just Robin Shou. He has the brunt of the facial detail, resolved in a so-so manner that skirts the acceptable line. The grain is is noticeably limited for much of the running time, likely a result of mastering this one for DVD a while back and trying to help the outdated codec. This AVC effort didn’t need the help.
Everything in Annihilation is given this atrocious, gaudy color scheme from the opening moments. The sky turns purple and everything takes on this vomit-worthy purple and orange tinge that has to be seen to be believed. Fire and random blue lights flicker perpetually, sapping the flesh tones from any sense of normalcy, and that’s how it’s always been for this one. Rock crevices, shot somewhere in Jordan, always have this oversaturated red hue to them, much like Shao Kahn’s lair. There’s no sense of color control exhibited here, giving this one its own appropriate overcooked flavor.
Black levels hate shadow details, that or the shadow details didn’t want to be exposed for fear that someone would see them in this movie. Contrast is controlled by the ceaseless, seizure-inducing flicker of lightning that somehow manages to find its way indoors too. On the plus side, the print itself looks good, Warner probably shoving this thing in an air tight can once they were done with it and never opening it since it was digitally mastered the first time. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Video]
As relentlessly stupid as this movie is, it’s audio track is trying to outdo itself with every action scene. Even the opening logos are boisterous, proudly proclaiming their introduction with surround tracking and bass that is flat out ridiculous. Everything carries that same weight, explosions boomy and thunder finding a way to always hit the sub. Punches have great reverb to them, and the non-stop barrage of flying bodies always pan overhead as realistically as you can expect them too after being punched in the stomach.
The aggressive main theme hammers home the bass too, as if the overly excitable finale wasn’t gratuitous enough. Towers collapse, portals are opened, and the worst CG dragons ever conceived battle it out, all in the glory of this DTS-HD track.
Where Annihilation turns south is dialogue, a mess of inconsistency that covers the entire quality spectrum. Every scene carries with it some new hallmark, whether that’s muffled or way too bright. Some lines are clearly recorded on set, others dubbed over. At least something in the audio matches the abysmal quality of the film. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Sadly, no, director John R. Leonetti did not offer a commentary track here. No one did. Nobody was apparently filming behind-the-scenes either, that or they cursed the footage they did shoot and buried it at sea. As such, there’s a trailer for the movie and another for the recent (and superb) video game, and that’s it. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]