Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage are given an opportunity of a lifetime. Each of them has a personal quest they are trying to complete and somehow their prayers have been answered by an invitation to a mysterious tournament. Each of the three fighters are met by a mystical warrior, Raiden, with the power to control electricity. Lord Raiden explains to the fighters that the tournament is more than an opportunity to win fame and fortune, but a battle between the realms. Their entry is meant to serve as Earth’s selection for its salvation. Standing in their way are a slew of skilled competitors, including the murderous Kano, ice-manipulator Sub-Zero, undead Scorpion and four-armed beast Goro. At the head of the tournament, Shang Tsung awaits his opportunity to steal the souls of the fallen and take over Earth’s realm for the Outworld.
Starring: Robin Shou (Liu Kang), Christopher Lambert (Rayden), Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Tsung), Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (Sonya Blade), Talisa Soto (Princess Katana), Trevor Goddard (Kano), Chris Casamassa (Scorpion), Francois Petit (Sub-Zero), Frank Welker (Goro)
The first film’s cast is led by some rather fitting actors to bring the game characters to life. Robin Shou gives Liu Kang the somewhat soft-spoken but strong spirit, along with his trademark martial arts talent. Bridgette Wilson-Sampras highlights a sense of determination that adds to her character’s fighting spirit. She is a bit unlikeable, as she never gives herself much of a sense of humanity over obsession with taking out Kano. Linden Ashby delivers all of the necessary cockiness and chauvinism necessary to make Johnny Cage seem like a pompous movie star. Christopher Lambert anchors the cast with his sense of calm and wisdom, tempering some of the awkward cheesy acting by the rest of the cast. Talisa Soto has a cold persona as Princess Katana, always giving a sense of being untouchable. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa may come off a little strong but he gives his character the obsession with domination necessary for the style of the movie. Frank Welker also supplies the voices for Reptile, Goro and Shao-Kahn.
On the heels of Liu Kang’s victory in the tournament, another Outworld leader, Shao-Kahn, arises and begins the merging of the two worlds in spite of the tournament’s outcome. Surprised by the onslaught of Outworld warriors, Johnny Cage attempts to fight back at a great personal but ultimately worthless cost. In order to build their strength, Raiden helps Liu, Sonya and Kitana escape to find additional fighters to take on Shao-Kahn and his army. Along their way, Liu meets Nightwolf and Jade, who both help in his continued journey, while Sony reconnects with her former partner Jax, who has upgraded his fighting ability with new technology. To aid in the hostile takeover, Shao-Kahn’s army includes the cybernetic Smoke, Cyrax and Ermac, as well as his generals Rain, Sheeva, Motaro and Sindel.
Starring: Robin Shou (Liu Kang), James Remar (Rayden), Chris Conrad (Johnny Cage), Lynn Williams (Jax), Sandra Hess (Sonya Blade), Talisa Soto (Princess Katana), Brian Thompson (Shao-Kahn), Musetta Vander (Sindel), Keith Cook (Sub-Zero), Irina Pantaeva (Jade), Deron McBee (Motaro), Marjean Holden (Sheeva), Lifefoot (Nightwolf), Reiner Schone (Shinnok)
While some of the cast continued from the first film, much of the actors changed with the introduction of a number of new players. Robin Shou and Talisa Soto were the only two characters to return, both playing their roles in a similar vein to the original. James Remar replaces Lambert as Rayden, as a new mortal and less confident in his wisdom and guidance. Sandra Hess also takes over as Sonya, taking a character that was cold and rigid and making her more whiny and stubborn. Though introduced briefly by another actor in the first film, Lynn Williams give Jax a playful, energetic presence, making him possibly the most likable character of the film. Though Welker served originally as his voice, Brian Thompson gives him a personality, albeit a less enjoyable one that Tagawa’s Tsung. He seems much more like a kid looking for his father’s approval. Musetta Vander serves as Sindel, though she quickly becomes the most annoying character of the film (and not because of shrieking voice).
There are some distinct differences between the two films and a lot of it comes down to the directing. Mortal Kombat, directed by Paul WS Anderson, has a better linear plot than its sequel. The characters have a single path but each have individual trials they must go through to meet their goals. The fight scenes are a little more controlled with the concept of the tournament and the rivalries between characters have a little better significance. There is also better continuity between character issues introduced at the beginning and resolutions toward the end. In contrast, the sequel includes a number of rushed elements and incredibly cheesy dialogue. John R. Leonetti allowed his version of the game-turned-film to struggle with trying to add too many individual characters and feel more grandiose that the quality of the fight scenes and the rivalries lose much of their purpose. While there was promise with the use of certain fighters (specifically Nightwolf and Motaro), most of them are either defeated too easily or in somewhat pathetic and unimpressive ways.
The series was never meant to be a high quality adaptation of the game, but the first one succeeded much more than its sequel. Still, it makes one wonder what the adaptation would have looked like if they had waited until there was better technology available to bring the Mortal Kombat universe to life.
Mortal Kombat:Dan’s Rating – 3.0/5
Mortal Kombat Annihilation: Dan’s Rating – 1.5/5