Film review: Mortal Kombat Annihilation

Published: Saturday, Nov. 22 1997 12:01 a.m. MST

Movie sequels rarely live up to their predecessors, so you'd probably guess that "Mortal Kombat Annihilation" would have it made — it didn't have much to live up to in the first place.

You'd be wrong.

A dopey, badly acted and headache-inducing bore, the movie actually makes 1995's surprise hit "Mortal Kombat" look masterful and makes its original inspirational source — the ultragory video game of the same name — look almost substantive.

It also asks the question, "Why would audiences pay movie prices to see this when they could simply rent the video game (and probably cheaper)."

The sequel picks up where the first film left off. Victorious fighters Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Sonya Blade (Sandra Hess) and Johnny Cage (Chris Conrad) — as well as their chief allies, the immortal, Rayden (James Remar), and Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto) — have just returned to Earth following an intradimensional fighting competition.

But they're quickly confronted by the evil Emperor Shao-Khan (Brian Thompson), who tells the heroes to prepare for another "kombat" and quickly kills Cage before boasting of his universal takeover plans.

On the run from Shao-Khan's execution squads, the fighters recruit new allies, including the cybernetically enhanced soldier Jax (Lynn Red Williams), the beautiful but deadly Jade (international fashion model Irina Pantaeva) and American Indian shaman Nightwolf (Litefoot).

Plotwise, if that's an accurate description in this case, the film meanders almost without a point or reason, until arriving at the finale — a computer-generated fight "spectacular" that unintentionally pays homage to the "Godzilla" films (one transformed character looks perilously like the nuclear-powered dinosaur, while his opponent could be Ghidrah, with more heads.)

Surprisingly, first-time director John R. Leonetti, a former film cinematographer who should have known better, shoots some of the fight scenes in angles that make it impossible to see what's going on.

In fact, his lack of experience might make you wonder why the producers don't enlist better directors (say, expatriate Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark) instead. But given the awful script (five different people get writing credit), maybe that's not so peculiar.

Lookswise, the movie appears to be a badly lit version of the "American Gladiators" TV program. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising, since two of that show's "gladiators" — Williams, better known as "Sabre," and Deron "Malibu" McBee — turn up as supporting characters.

"Mortal Kombat Annihilation" is rated PG-13 for violent action, brief gore, a couple of profanities and one vulgar gag.