Following up the rather splendid, and let's face it, rather surprising success of the first Mortal Kombat film, New Line Cinema was quick to churn out a sequel.
Maybe a bit too quick!
The film takes place immediately after the very first movie ends, and we once again follow the adventures of Liu Kang, Raiden, Sonya Blade and Kitana as they join forces to fight the evil Shao Khan. As mentioned before, the first film stunned audiences by being really quite good! Some quality sets, well timed humour, and some pretty cool fight scenes along with a really swish visual style made audiences walk out of theatres in 1995 feeling thoroughly satisfied.
The movie earns it's first black points by falling into the sequel killer trap by re-casting. Yep, Raiden, Sonya, and Johnny Cage are all played by new actors now, and they don't even look that much like the old ones either. Robin Shou and Talisa Soto reprise their respective roles as Liu Kang and Kitana and are the only returning cast members of the original film. Rumour has it that the studio was in such a hurry to capitalise on the success of the first film they rushed a script into production not thinking that the original cast and crew may have other projects lined up. Director Paul W.S. Anderson is replaced by John R. Leonetti - the cinematographer from the original movie, and it's really obvious that his inexperience in storytelling is weighing the movie down.
The sets are somewhat reminiscent of the original, and the lighting is near identical, which is what you would expect with the aforementioned choice of director. However, the rest is just plain shit. Wobbly walls and floors, obvious stunt rocks that people bounce off off causing the rock itself to move, and just uber uber cheapness all round.
The special effects are honestly, truly, hand on heart some of the worst I've ever seen in a film. They are terrible! The green screen is horribly obvious in every single scene, and the actual composition and resolution of the effects and footage sometimes don't match. What this means is that more often than not you are left with a crisp image of an actor with a really blurry background. As for the practical surroundings, imagine the Batman & Robin wobbly ice type sets and combine them with a PC game from 1995. That's basically what's on offer here. The CGI looks like it was made using the same engine as the one used to create the shitey renders of Malebolgia in the Spawn move (funnily enough also from New Line Cinema and released in 1997)
The biggest surprise of the cast though came when 30 minutes or so in to the film I realised that the new actor playing Raiden was none other than James Remar.. James has starred in a number of top notch films, and has portrayed one of the best and most unstable motherfuckers on screen in the form of Albert Ganz in the gritty Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte film 48. Hrs. He has also done TV work in popular shows such as Dexter, Sex and The City, and even voice work on various Batman animations. Why the hell he is in this complete spunk rag of a film is beyond me, and one can only assume that his agent received a swift boot in the willy immediately after production on the film wrapped.
This film is generally nothing more than a mess of monumental proportions, but what about the positives? Yes the film does indeed have one or two redeeming points, and fair being fair, they have to be mentioned. For a start, the film features (at the time) probably the biggest assembly of Mortal Kombat characters from the games ever seen on screen. Sindel, Motaro, Cyrax, Sheeva, Scorpionm and many others put in an appearance making it pretty geek tastic for fans of the games. The actual character designs and some of the make up are pretty cool too, and it's nice to see Keith Cooke back, albeit this time as Sub-Zero, who crops up to help our heroes at one point although is strangely never see again.
Surprisingly, I have to actually give a big shout out to Musetta Vander as Sindel, the mother of Kitana. Vander is just having an absolute ball here. Her dialogue is delivered wide eyed with the gusto of a drunk pantomime dame, and every line is minced into the vortex of pure shit that she envelopes around her performance. She is SO over the top that I found myself really enjoying her performance, because unlike the others she looked like she was having amazing fun in what she was doing. That was incredibly infectious, and I give full props to Ms Vander for being possible the only reason that the film is anywhere near watchable.
This film makes Street Fighter: The Movie look like The Shawshank Redemption in film quality comparison, and perhaps the best thing about it is that it gave actors and crew paid work for a few months.
It's worth watching at least once for Musetta Vander's superb ham, because that honestly was really enjoyable. Aside from that though, there's no real reason that this film should be viewed under any kind of sobriety.
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.