In the first installment of “J & K Give it a Watch,” Stropse’s resident film buffs, Jose Nateras and Kirsten Carey, subjected themselves to all of the ‘90s glory that is the original Mortal Kombat film from 1995. It turns out that this first silver screen adaptation of the iconic fighting video game is actually quite a fun romp, and most gamers agree it’s one of the more successful examples of the genre. However, its direct sequel, 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, is an entirely different case.
J: New Line Cinema, “MORTAL KOMBAT!”
K: I’m so relieved they started right off with the best thing about the previous film.
Wow, an anime recap in a movie. Impressive.
J: This movie came out in 1997. Two years after the last one. New Sonya. Shorter hair, even though this was supposed to start right off after the last one ended. New Johnny Cage, played by the guy who was young Jason on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Young Hercules.
K: These effects are trying so, so hard, and I appreciate them deeply. Yet I’ve never heard a dramatic, evil declaration shouted with such a lack of emotion.
(K: I deeply appreciate that this video is called “The Worst Line in Scriptwriting History.”)
K: Wow, what a shitty mom.
J: I’m pretty sure Queen Sindel, aka Kitana’s mom, canonically has been brainwashed by the emperor or something. She might even have died and come back as an evil zombie.
K: Aw, I kinda liked the shitty mom angle.
J: Haha, fair enough. That guy in the skull mask is Shao Kahn. He took over Outworld where Kitana is a princess and, like married the queen and “adopted” Kitana, but is all evil and shit. He’s played by Brian Thompson who I always remember as the bad guy from the first two episodes of Buffy.
K: He has one of the least intimidating chins I’ve ever seen. It really undersells the intended effect of the mask.
** Johnny Cage just frickin dies **
K: Wow, killing the main character of the last film within the first five minutes. Ballsy move, Annihilation.
(Note – later, I attempted to fill in my partner on this development: “They killed Johnny Cage in the first five minutes.” “Maybe they couldn’t afford the actor?” “Totally different actor.” “… Huh.”)
J: Haha yeah. I mean, he was definitely one of the three central protagonists of the first one. I don’t think I ever saw the entirety of this one.
“My mother, resurrected. How is that possible?” Yeah, so she is dead and came back, all evil like.
K: I’m really disappointed they didn’t call this film The Wrath of Kahn.
J: Hahaha, a missed opportunity, to be sure.
I’m annoyed that, even though they changed the actors, they also changed their looks. Like, if you’re gonna change their faces, can’t you at least keep their costumes?
K: But they still didn’t change Kitana to look like… you know… Kitana.
K: “Seek out the one called Night Wolf. You will not find him; he will find you.” Then how the hell are you supposed to seek him out, Raiden, old pal?
J: What the hell is up with these weird hamsterball things? They’re not particularly sexy, so the whole “Hold on to me” thing seems forced.
K: It was the only way they could make it sexy.
K: Liu’s lost… “everything”? Did he like Johnny that much?
J: Hahah, I mean, his brother, I guess? But he literally juuuust won Mortal Kombat so…
K: I mean, yeah, he wasn’t going around the last movie like, “I lost everything.” He was like, “Oh man my brother died and I blame myself whyyyy.”
ThE fAnS! sHe GoT tHe FaNs!
J: Yeah, it’s about time she got those fans.
Scar bearing Sub-Zero, brother of the evil Sub-Zero.
K: Naturally. But we’re just going to keep calling him Sub-Zero, because I guess that’s how this works?
J: It’s definitely canonical to the games. And so is that Snow-Double move. I feel like this movie is all about trying to cram in as much stuff from the games as possible.
K: Ah yes, the classic Video Game Movie Thing To Do. Although, I suppose, this might have been one of the first ones to carve out that misshapen niche?
J: It’s interesting because, when they were making the first one, they got the note that it didn’t have enough fights, so they did a bunch of reshoots to incorporate more fights, such as the one with Reptile and the extended Scorpion battle, and those ended up being some of the best ones in that movie. I feel like this movie has been like, ‘Yup, we’ll take the note’ and crammed a loooooot more fights in right off the bat.
K: As a sound effects editor, whoever is editing the servos on Jax’s arms is doing a lazy as hell job. Go big or just leave it out and no one will notice, friend.
J: Hahah. Fair. That slow-mo reaction to the glass breaking was superfluous and absurd, in a hilarious way.
Also, Jax’s daughter is another main character in MK11. They actually have an interesting storyline.
FYI, the all-black Robot is Smoke, the Yellow is Cyrax.
K: Cyrax looks like Bumblebee from Transformers.
Did Cyrax… just emit… bumblebees?
J: Haha, he emits a lot of stuff. I love how they weirdly managed to incorporate Sonya’s deadly kiss move thing in that weird blowing of flammable dust.
K: Obligatory “jumping from an explosion” shot.
J: Sheeva is Goro’s sister.
K: Not gonna lie, she’s cool as hell.
J: Compared to what Goro looked like, she looks badass. Crazy what two years and a large budget can do for you, special-effects-wise.
J: Wolf P.O.V. “Pretty cool, huh? It’s my Animality.”
K: Sorry, just dove down a Wikipedia hole trying to figure out who the hell everyone is.
J: Fair haha. They’re just dropping names and not explaining relationships.
K: This Night Wolf guy feels…. Uh…….. Like he does not particularly hold up to 2021 standards. If there were good enough standards.
J: I mean, yeah. Haha, at least he’s played by an actual Native American actor. Gary ‘Litefoot’ Davis. Also played the Indian in Indian in the Cupboard. And he’s a rapper.
K: I mean, considering that’s still a mistake many movies presently make, there’s some credit to be given there.
I don’t think I’ve heard the word “ANIMALITY” said so many times in such short succession.
K: Did I… miss something?
J: No? Just a weird jump. Must be a dream?
“Is this just another dream?”
K: “I JUST MET YOU. HOW DARE YOU NOT HAVE SEX WITH ME.” Additionally – “HOW DARE YOU BE SO DRAWN TO IMMEDIATELY HAVE SEX WITH HER?”
J: Just a test. Okay. Cool.
Jade is one of the characters I typically like to play as.
This movie has a bunch more female characters but it also sexualizes them a lot more too. It’s like… come on.
K: Yeah, I mean, to introduce Jade as a temptress is just kinda… sigh.
K: Did Shao Kahn just call Kitana, a full grown-ass woman, a “child”?
J: A full grown woman who is also, like, a thousand years old.
K: So, yes, a “child.”
J: I guess, technically he’s her step-dad… so?
Now, this fight…. Is against Mileena, and the coolest thing about Mileena is that she’s a clone of Kitana crossed with a Tarkatan, so she has this rad, like, lizard mouth thing… but they don’t show it?! AT ALL?!? Like, what a waste!
K: I mean, considering the special effects this movie has demonstrated so far, I’m somehow not surprised they’d chicken out on that.
K: Hell yeah, Jax! Punch that out-of-frame physical object!
J: “You do look good in mud.” Like, what the hell.
K: Poor Sonya. All these dudes say the weirdest pick-up lines to her, and she’s working with them so she just has to grin and bear it.
J: Considering the fact that Johnny said the weirdest shit to her last time, maybe it’s fitting he died in the first five minutes of the movie.
K: Hahahaha, pick-up karma.
J: I can’t help but look at Raiden 2.0 and remember his arc on Sex and the City as one of Samantha’s lovers.
Ugggh, eyeroll. “You’ve got an incredible set of legs… for kicking I mean.” Come on Jax.
K: The very male-gazey pan up from Jade’s legs certainly didn’t help.
J: Seriously. This movie is a lot more focused on satisfying the male fan base. It was directed by John R. Leonetti. This was his feature directorial debut.
K: Raiden’s entrance is one of the most awkward entrances I’ve ever seen. And even he’s saying awkward pick-up shit? “Can she fight as good as she looks?!” That doesn’t even make syntactical sense, Raiden.
J: Queen Sindel’s sonic scream attack and cool hair attack make her pretty awesome as a character. But I feel like she’s said, like, three lines.
This movie does not pass the Bechdel Test. I mean, neither did the last one. But, still. This one has more female characters, so technically it should be more feasible, but….
K: “Looks like this babe’s having a bad hair day?” *facepalm*
J: In the last one, Sonya was definitely calling out and reacting to Johnny’s sexist BS in a way that showed he was being a dick. My biggest issue in this one is that all these comments aren’t being judged ‘in movie’ in the same way, they’re all presented as normal, even “funny”/”cool” things to say, and it’s grody.
K: Totally, like even the way Jax puts his arm around Jade. Like, maybe I’m projecting, but Jade didn’t look super comfortable, but it’s all just whatever.
J: I mean, he was commenting all, “I guess she did come in handy after all” or whatever is hella-dismissive and condescending, so to juxtapose it with him putting his arm on her shoulder like that is just… bothersome? Is that the word I’m looking for?
K: Bothersome definitely works. Meanwhile, Jax beat the shit out of Mileena off-camera I guess.
J: I’m pretty sure Sonya took care of Mileena, but Jax beat up that weird CGI monster thing. This weird-looking guy is Baraka. He’s a Tarkatan. That mouth is supposed to be what Mileena had under that pink mask.
K: How did we get to… this scene…?
J: Does this exchange count as a conversation between two female characters that isn’t about a man?
K: Technically, yes!
J: Okay, MK Annihilation, way to surprisingly pass the Bechdel Test after all.
K: For… like… 2 lines.
K: Also… man, I remember Liu Kang’s acting being much better in the previous movie. The way he screamed, “How could you do this to us?” really demonstrated my own confusion and lack of excitement over Jade’s betrayal.
J: Yeah, I mean… I think part of that literally has to do with the script and direction. An actor can only do so much.
Did that CGI monster just… belch?
K: And… like… a super corny 90s “I just ate a bag of Doritos” belch at that.
K: “What do we do?” “You will do your best.” I feel like this has been pandemic societal gaslighting in a nutshell.
J: Hahahah. Too real. “I will pray for you all.” Come on… that’s like… not helpful.
And also, doubling down on the “Liu as the ‘chosen one’ thing” feels doubly unoriginal in the direct sequel where he had to save the world once already.
K: A Chosen One’s work is never done, I guess.
K: The way Sindel’s cape was wildly flapping around made me really reflect on how capes can truly be a dangerous hindrance.
J: Seriously. Edna Mode doesn’t include them in her designs for a reason.
K: Thank you for intuiting my unspoken reference.
J: Haha, my pleasure.
That guy is named Shinnok and I don’t think they ever say his name in this movie.
K: Nope, definitely not.
J: That was some unnecessary slow-mo for Liu to jump down three feet to land at Raiden’s side.
K: Right, you would think Raiden flying in the air would be the opportune slow-mo movement. He kinda did a little when he hit the ground?
J: The Sub-Zero looking guy in Red is named Ermac. They also don’t name him. Don’t know if they ever say Motaro’s name. He’s the horse guy.
K: “I’m gonna make you eat that thing” is perhaps one of the least badass things you could possibly say when you’re about to fight a centaur,
J: Haha, seriously. I mean, epic one-liners are one of my favorite things about this kind of action movie. The first movie had a bunch (“‘Give me a Break’ — ‘Ok’” & “This is where you fall down”) and this one… just doesn’t.
K: Right. It’s almost impressive how bad they are.
J: The more Sindel and Kitana talk to each other, the better, I guess.
K: Wait. The robotic arms were just… like… a thin skin?
J: In this version, yeah. Jax getting his arm in this movie isn’t canonical.
K: I was expecting some Barrett from Final Fantasy-type coolness. But why would I expect coolness from this film at this point?
J: This Dragon Animality is legit the wrong kind of Dragon.
K: “ANIMALITY.” “ANIMALITY.” “ANIMALITY.”
J: You have wings Dragon Liu Kang, fly for fucks sake.
J: Sure, I believe the Elder Gods are these middle-aged white people. (Note the sarcasm.)
K: Having “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!” come in with the score in the middle of a line was perhaps the most jarring thing that has occurred in this generally very jarring film.
J: That’s a good way of putting it. Jarring. The rhythms of the storytelling are off. Along with, like, a lot of other things about this movie.
J: They did the weird prism thing from Superman haha.
K: Yeah, that and the weird dragon thing together. What a time. What an occasion.
J: Hahah. Well put.
K: Ah, yes, death isn’t permanent. They are very chill about Raiden coming back from the dead.
J: Are there any other kisses in these movies? Liu and Kitana might have a kiss in the first one, but I think they were just weirdly flirty. Am I wrong?
K: Nope, they were definitely just flirty. But the way Raiden said, “You’re a family now,” I was like, “…Is Kitana pregnant or something?”
J: END OF MOVIE! So abrupt.
J: It’s obviously not as good as the first one. Markedly worse.
K: I am legitimately impressed with how terrible Annihilation was. I feel like I have embarked upon something truly spectacular. Thankfully, it was the kind of bad movie that’s fun to watch and make fun of – although, if I were a more die-hard fan of Mortal Kombat, I would probably feel differently. Still, I’m optimistic that the new film will at least clear this bar.
J: Yeah, as a movie, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is just kind of a mess. You can almost feel the pressure from the studio for a quick turnaround and to cram it full of characters and fights. It’s so obvious that they were looking to capitalize off the success of the first movie and just wanted to give fans of the games all the things they wanted that didn’t fit narratively in the first one.
It’s kind of a shame considering how the first movie is proof a decent and entertaining adaptation of the games is possible. I suppose when you have a different director, different screenwriters, and even different actors, you can’t expect to achieve the same success, but… considering there was a live action TV show, a cartoon series, comics, another later live action web series, and now the new movie coming out—not to mention the continued video game series—this shitty sequel wasn’t enough of a disaster to damage the franchise overall.
This has been “J & K Give it a Watch!” We’ll be ‘giving a watch’ to more video game movies and shows, providing some commentary and info. In fact, our coverage of the brand new, 2021 movie version of Mortal Kombat comes out, is forthcoming, so… Stay Tuned!!