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Why “Mortal Kombat Annihilation” is the Worst Video Game Adaptation

Why “Mortal Kombat Annihilation” is the Worst Video Game Adaptation

See Why No One Wanted to Come Back to the Fighting Tournament

With recent successful video game adaptations such as The Last Of Us (2023) series and the Sonic movies, one could almost forget the history of bad adaptations. Whether it be the original Super Mario Bros. Movie (1993), the recent Halo (2022-Present) show, or any video game film directed by Uwe Boll, video game adaptations did not have the greatest reputation. With that being said, though, none of these previous adaptations come close to the crown achievement of bad video game adaptations; Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997). 

The Fight Choreography is a Step Down From the Original Film

With the Mortal Kombat games being all about hand-to-hand combat, naturally this is expected to be seen in an adaptation. The original ‘95 film did a pretty good job with this, with the filmmakers actually getting some actors with a martial arts background, such as Robin Shou, who played Liu Kang, and Chris Casamassa, who played Scorpion. However, in the sequel, Annihilation, many of the fight scenes involve actors jumping or flipping in the air on obvious wires or doing spin kicks that aren’t hitting anyone. Now, of course not all the actors have a martial arts background, so the filmmakers needed to make sure the cast was safe performing these fight scenes. Thing is, there is another solution they could have used: stunt doubles. They could have digitally inserted the actor’s face onto the double who were doing the fight scenes. This was achievable by ‘97. But as is, it feels more like a ballet of Mortal Kombat rather than a serious action film. 

The Movie Adapts Elements From the Game with Underwhelming Results 

The movie’s plot is loosely based on the game Mortal Kombat 3, with Shao Kahn (Brian Thompson) invading Earthrealm with his forces from Outworld after Liu Kang won the Mortal Kombat tournament. However, the film takes some creative liberties. Raiden (James Remar), Shao Kahn, and Shinnok (Reiner Schöne) are all related, despite not being a thing in the games and ultimately plays very little into the film. Characters like Nightwolf (Litefoot) are in one scene and never mentioned again, with other characters like Stryker getting name-dropped but never appear, and some key plot points happen off-screen. It feels like the filmmakers were going through a checklist of things in Mortal Kombat without understanding what made them special in the first place. There are a dozen characters from the games in the film, yet barely any of them leave an impact. At least when studios like Marvel have a bunch of characters in a film, they’re given moments to help flesh out their characters. Here, characters go from point A to point B and hardly anything is discovered about them.

Why “Mortal Kombat Annihilation” is the Worst Video Game Adaptation

The Script Has Some of the Worst Dialogue in a Motion Picture 

One of the more infamous aspects of Annihilation is its dialogue, which some have considered so bad that it makes Attack of the Clones’ (2002) writing look Oscar-worthy by compassion. Whether it’s Scorpion (J.J. Perry) yelling “Sucker” to Liu Kang, Shao Kahn shouting “The Merger has begun. Earth is under attack, and it is glorious!”, or the iconic exchange “Mother, you’re alive,” “Too bad you, will die” -Kitana (Talisa Soto) and Sindel (Musetta Vander). Apparently actors Chirstopher Lambert and Linden Ashbly, who played Raiden and Johnny Cage in the original film, respectively, hated the script so much they told the writers to change it, and when the writers refused, the two quit the film, resulting in both of their characters getting recast. It feels as if the writers were trying to capture the sillier aspects of the games in the movie. Thing is, what works in one medium may not always work in another. The original film’s script wasn’t perfect either, but there was still some sense of charm to it. This sequel’s script feels like first draft material that should have been heavily rewritten. 

The CGI is Bad Even for 90s Standards

A common thing unfortunately with Hollywood is the mistreatment of VFX companies by doing things such as rushing their effects and giving them little money to work with, resulting in unpolished work. Sadly, Mortal Kombat Annihilation is no exception. Despite the movie having a 39% increase in the budget from the previous movie, to say the film’s effects are rough is being extremely generous. There are CG creatures that move more robotically than the actual robotic characters in the movie. The graphics from the games look more realistic than this film. According to the film’s producer and co-writer Lawerence Kassanoff, executives from New Line Cinema, the movie’s distributor, saw the film was testing well despite the effects not being fully rendered yet and told the filmmakers to just release the film as it was, because in their own words “It’s gonna be a hit.” So, the movie was purposely released with unfinished CGI because the studio basically thought no one would care. To say this film was not a hit would be an understatement. 

The Future of the Franchise

After Annihilation failed critically and financially, a third film was canceled, with a reboot coming in 2021 and a sequel currently underway. So far, the reboot series seems to be course-correcting from this film by doing a better job at balancing aspects of the game while also doing its own thing. Hopefully, the franchise moving forward keeps the momentum of success. As for Annihilation, the movie can be summed up by one of the characters, Johnny Cage (Chris Conrad); “This is not good.” Mortal Kombat Annihilation can be streamed on Max.

Why “Mortal Kombat Annihilation” is the Worst Video Game Adaptation

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am from Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University majoring in Film Production with a minor in Media Production.

Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.