Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat: Annihilation – The Old Switcheroo

After the abominable trip down memory lane led by the Street Fighter review, and a lot of time spent recently cranking up old consoles and listening to the Streets of Rage soundtrack whilst running on a treadmill (as well as the Kid Chameleon soundtrack, which was hard to find and is shit, but also now haunts my dreams), I thought it might be time to tackle another Blockbuster special based on a video game.

Mortal Kombat, if you know me, seems like a very obvious choice, so in the interest of repressed memories and enjoying something I couldn’t recite back to you as a one woman show, I thought I’d have a look at some other options. You can guess how that worked out for us all, since you are sitting here reading a Mortal Kombat review…

I’m not going to hack into our word count too much talking about the diabolical shite I have watched lately, or ruin future horrible surprises, suffice it to say, whilst the infuriating Playstation memories of Lara Croft’s cone tits and constant drowning in pixelated underwater caves was vaguely amusing, I had forgotten the film was so bad that I had to turn it off after 10 minutes. And I enjoy all sorts of terrible crap. Shame on you, Arnold Rimmer.

Join me for Christmas, 1995. Mortal Kombat 3 has been out in the world for 6 months, but thankfully we don’t go to a posh enough school where anyone can afford that shit with paper round or pocket money, so haven’t been subject to second playground reports, or sitting in some kid I don’t actually like’s bedroom watching other kids play it.

Don’t forget the struggle, Kombat Zone: The Street

One year, I got the Turtles blimp for Christmas, and my little brother snapped the ramp off it. I’m sure we’ll pretend it was an accident, and he’ll deny any memory at all, but that happened. Christmas 1995 was the revenge I had been waiting for.

I can’t remember what I got, but my brother tore the Woolworths wrapping paper off a Super Nintendo with Mortal Kombat 3. In years to come, the console would be used to threaten, blackmail, and punish each other, and from the second it got unwrapped, I never ceased to be reminded that “IT’S MINE, NOT YOURS”. This was it, this was Blimp vengeance. This was his comeuppance, in the shape of a video game the previous two instalments of which we had only ever been able to read about in Gamesmaster magazine (we actually had the below copy, I remember reading it about 17 fucking times on a holiday to the Norfolk Broads), or play once in an arcade on holiday because it cost 50p a go and caused us to fight each other in the street, much like anything else did. Much to his chagrin, my mother insisted we play each other right off the bat, rather than give him any time alone with his new toy. I suspect largely because it was 6am and she wanted us both to shut up so she could put the turkey in and go back to bed for an hour, but she said he would have to share. I can still see the frown burning on his 10 year old face, and so she set it up, disappeared, and we got set to play.

I’m not gonna pretend I know or remember a whole lot about the character history of Mortal Kombat, and a recent perusal of it’s current incantation shows me that there are now 10,000 pointless looking characters, and Scorpion wears NORMAL MAN CLOTHES AND SHOWS HIS FACE. Bullshit. But I knew 1, 2 and 3, and at the time I knew enough to know that the third version boasted more characters, more blood, different fatalities, babalities, and animalities, plus the brand new possibility of uppercutting your opponent through the ceiling of your current stage, and continuing the fight in a different setting. Probably before ripping out their spine, or turning into a dragon and eating their head. The little things…

One of the new characters was a screeching goth whirlwind of a harpy called Sindel. Resplendent in purple leotard, knee high boots, white hair and (the single most terrifying thing any beat ‘em character can boast) all white eyes with no pupil, I knew she was my girl. I beat my brother straight off the bat by screaming in his face until all his energy disappeared, then FINISHED HIM in the second round by screaming in his face until his skin melted off. He lay on the floor and cried, heartbroken that he hadn’t been the first one to win at his own game. The Blimp was avenged. Merry fucking Christmas to me.

Despite all our cruelty to one another regarding this delightful gift our kind mother had purchased (sorry Hilary), we were at least united in our excitement a few months later when, yes, you guessed it, grab your chow mein, the movie filled the top shelf of the action section down Choices video. Here we go.

Like all this horrible shit I force you to revisit with me, I really looked forward to seeing this film. Of course I did. The one video game I’d come into contact with that really did seem a little too much for tots. Granted, Street Fighter, Final Fight, Double Dragon, it was all causing us to try and spin kick each other through the patio doors, but Mortal Kombat was something else entirely. You wanna rip someone’s head off and watch their spine flap in the wind? Sure. Play a woman with four arms and trample a man to death? Go for it. Cube someone up into chum with a laser net? Absolutely!

There is not one drop of blood in either of these films. Not one. No spines. No trampling. Not the slightest whiff of evisceration. Sure, various fatalities are touched on. Sonya with her killer handstand, Sektor’s heat seeking missile, Cyrax and the net, but the only melting is depicted through the use of absolutely diabolical CGI, and all that happens is everyone groans and winds up looking like corned beef. But look, I’m getting ahead of myself. Although if you stop reading now you know there isn’t so much as a smudge of claret, I can’t really blame you.

The first movie opens on a club. That’s right, one of those scenes you only get in 90s action movies, with Sonya Blade and her SWAT looking mates storming through a mosh pit to shoot up her arch enemy, Kano. No one in club appears at all fussed, mainly because Mutha’s Day Out are playing. Were Mutha’s Day Out really that popular at the time, or were Ugly Kid Joe asking more than the budget would allow? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Nathan Bean. My first and only experience of this band was through this soundtrack, which I still have in my mother’s house on CD. Type O Negative, Sister Machine Gun, Napalm Death, the same Gravity Kills song that plays in the club in Bad Boys, and of course, Fear Factory. Just fight music. Or techno. Or both. Scrolling through the playlist, a lot of my musical inclinations are starting to make sense to me.

Anyway look, Sonya is unsuccessful in accosting the poor man’s Jason Statham playing Kano, and is dragged to a magic boat. Johnny Cage thinks it’s a ruse to get him some acting work, and Liu Kang is basically told to go by Raiden, played by Christopher Lambert, resplendent in the wig I think they later used in Titanic when the old version of Kate Winslet throws the necklace in the sea out of spite. Old lady night time hair. The sort of hair they give old women when they need to imply she used to be a beautiful young tearaway. That’s the wig Christopher Lambert is wearing.

Highlander just taken his hot rollers out.

Kano is on the boat, so is a man called Art, and no one else you need to worry about. Shang Tsung is funding this death cruise, straight to Outworld, so he can defeat Earth’s greatest warriors and own all the worlds. Or something. Something evil. He’s a pain in the ass, holding a princess called Kitana hostage, and trying to murder everyone using his zombie warriors Sub Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, and if they make it so far as the final battle, they’ll have to deal with last year’s winner, Goro. Goro is a Shokan fighting half dragon with a high ponytail and four arms who looks like he’s been made out of plasticine and reminds me of that biker rabbit at the beginning of the Moonwalker film. Creepy sentient plasticine faeces man.

Sonya breaks Kano’s neck after he asks her to “gimme a break”, Johnny Cage explodes Scorpion after he peels his face off and bleeds lava to a Fear Factory soundtrack, and Liu Kang throws Goro off a cliff. He can’t hold on cos he only has three fingers on each hand. After sucking everyone’s souls into his eyeballs, Shang Tsung decides he’s had enough, puts his hair in a ponytail, and challenges Liu Kang to the final fight. Liu Kang pushes him into a pit full of metal spikes, and he does that corned beef melty thing. All the souls of the warriors he captured are set free, including Liu Kang’s little brother, and Art. The whole thing kind of looks like in Casper when Christina Ricci can see Devon Sawa. You get the jist. Ghost mist.

I’d love to go back and tell you about all the other fights they have with various shiny men in Prince of Persia face masks, but there’s no time. Also the Emperor turns up so they know they are not done. Utah Saints plays, credits roll.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation picks up EXACTLY where the first film left off. In the very instant. EXCEPT ALL THE FUCKING ACTORS ARE DIFFERENT. I’m not kidding. Only Liu Kang remains, and everyone else is heavily name checked in the first 10 minutes, presumably to make up for any confusion literally every single person who saw the original is swamped by. Sonya even has a different hair do. It’s mental. Christopher Lambert Raiden has been replaced by Richard from Sex and the City Raiden. Johnny Cage is another blonde white guy with a chiselled jaw. Doesn’t matter anyway because he immediately has his neck broken by the Emperor, a Conan rip off played by Brian Thompson. You will know him as either Russell off AWOL/Lionheart, or the Master’s sidekick from Buffy. Not much else matters. That is who he is to me. And now he is Shao-Kahn, evil Emperor of Outworld who is picking up where Shang Tsung left off. But topless and wearing skull on his face.

I honestly can’t believe that they switched out basically every single actor and started it from the second the last film finished. I know I just mentioned it, but fucking HELL, they could have at least given replacement Sonya a wig. Where do go to get a bob cut in down Outworld? They don’t even have toilets.

Anyway, Shao-Khan comes down with a whole new host of bad guys, including Motaro, a Centaur with a weird hair do, Sheeva, the female Goro in a red PVC bather, and Sindel, the goth mum I mentioned earlier. She reminds me loads of Rita Repulsa and her wig is as bad as Raiden’s in the first one. Like black string with talc in it.

After Johnny is killed, Sonya, who has suddenly decided for no reason that she’s heartbroken, goes to collect help in the shape of her partner Jax, also played by entirely different actor to the original, and recently upgraded with those good terminator arms. They smash up Sektor and Cyrax in a science laboratory which has no doctors in it, and everyone else gets sent off to complete different tasks in some sort of cosmic hamster ball serving at Outworld’s public transport. Ridiculous. Most notable of all is Liu Kang’s mission to find Nightwolf and learn about his Animality. He does this after being knocked out and going on a weird martial arts peyote/acid trip where a woman called Jade fights him in the desert because he won’t snog her. Progressive.

In the meantime, Sheeva has been made general, and put in charge of looking after Sindel. I’m not going to lie to you, I looked at my phone a bit, and when I looked up again, Sheeva was dead. Maybe she wasn’t dead. I actually have no fucking clue where she was. She just wasn’t in the final baddie line up. She must have got waxed by someone, but I honestly couldn’t tell you who. I’m sorry. I can’t have looked away for more than 2 minutes, and she was just in the bin. Absolutely mental. The woman is half dragon, who bumped her off that quick?

Sorry I didn’t notice you died, Sheeva.

Sonya fights Mileena in the desert whilst Pitchshifter plays, Jax knocks out Motaro, Raiden shaves his head, and Liu Kang turns into a cartoon dragon and kills the Emperor. Raiden gets to be kind of god, and it’s never explained why they’ve made him shave his head. I genuinely think it might be because the wardrobe department needed their “dignified older woman” wig back.

There’s so much I’ve missed out, but there simply isn’t room. And let’s face it, whilst I don’t like saying that to you, there really is no need to give Mortal Kombat: Annihilation it’s own 2,000 word review. Even if it does feature a woman killing men with a fan made of plastic knives.

There is so much wrong with both of these films. I imagine there’s even more wrong with the television series Mortal Kombat: Legacy which I actually haven’t been able to bring myself to watch yet. But despite the terrible jokes, swapped out actors, cereal box costumes, Poundland wigs, and CGI that looks like the Microsoft paper clip helped you animate your Year 2 art project on monsters, there is absolutely loads of actual fighting, done really well, most of the characters are featured in a reasonable and veritable manner (ahem, “Dr. Dhalsim”), and both soundtracks feature the perfect balance of 90s industrial metal and EDM. Speaking of which, if any of you ever want to meet me down Tesco car park at dusk whilst the Mortal Kombat theme plays at full volume and a camera pans around me in a circle as I stand in the wind and look determined, I will happily smash you up to death. Treat yourself and have a listen. Okay bye.

2 thoughts on “Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat: Annihilation – The Old Switcheroo

  1. Orbital ending in MK was SICK; only to be interrupted by the Emporor and MK theme song. Makes me pull my hair out everytime Halcyon On & On is interrupted by that stupid fuck in his mask blaring EDM

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