Success can always lead to greater things, while the expectations can be higher, it can also mean the opportunity to showcase more ideas or discarded concepts, that could be included in the first run. As the profits roll in the investors double down for greater returns the ideas and expectations rise exponentially. In 1997, the fictional martial arts tournament got a bigger upgrade, with the help of a greater budget, and an even bigger threat in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
Continuing right where the first film left off. We find out heroes staring at the visage of the menacing reality conqueror, Shao Khan. His impressive assault has quickly overwhelmed Earthrealm’s defences. The group have six days to stop the complete annexation of Earthrealm by Outworld’s twisted forces. While it appears that the ancient ritual of Mortal Kombat has been circumvented. While Raiden gets to the bottom of this, the heroes of the last film are demoralised, and the odds feel ever greater against them. Will their efforts be too little against the might of Shao Kahn?
You may notice that the principal cast of the original has changed a lot in the two years between films. In short, they have been recast, which might disappoint returning fans. All is not lost; the newcomers do a great job in filling in the larger gaps left behind. Robin Shou does return and is still a good fit as Liu Kang, and Kitana too, providing at least some continuity between the old film and Annihilation. But with the new film (and a couple more videogames since then) the opportunity for new characters to present themselves. Most notably the likes of Jax, Nightwolf and Shao Khan, offering cinematic introductions to the franchises more famous fighters. They all get the time in the spotlight, showing their iconic moves and personality, to a potential new audience.
Recognisable locals like Angelsea offer fitting substitution as Outworld locations, as the return of C.G.I. and real-life locations return to provide more backdrops for the fights. There’s still a lot of fisticuffing action is ever present, now with more animalistic elements. The depiction of the nightmarish consequences of Earthrealm’s and Outworld’s exposure is a fun concept. A lot more of the harder sci-fi influences, that were absent in the first film, make their way into the sequel. Most notably the cybernetic ninjas, and the origins of Jax’s arms. The scheming and Machiavellian machinations of Shao Khan’s generals is another nice touch of intrigue that the sequel keeps from the first film.
Like Jax, most of the original human charm is here but like Jax’s mechanical arms, the film finds plenty of ways to upgrade, and revisit the original elements to keep the martial arts action fresh. It is a relief that the tantalising sequel thread got a nice conclusion, and the film can introduce a whole host of colourful characters without feeling overcrowded. Mortal Kombat offers fitting brutality to up the stakes and provides a satisfying ending to the 90s Mortal Kombat franchise.
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