Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was a terrible sequel in many ways, but one of its worst offenses was recasting many characters from the original. There are many reasons fans of Mortal Kombat are looking forward to the upcoming movie reboot. Its R-rating promises the gory fatalities that went sadly missing in 1995’s otherwise entertaining but PG-13 rated movie. The characters look to be well-cast, and appropriate to their video game counterparts. It’s been over two decades since the last time Mortal Kombat was adapted for film. Most importantly though, it might finally wash the sour taste of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation away.
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After the first Mortal Kombat movie was a box office hit and earned a sizable following – which it retains to this day, despite critics trashing it – fans turned with eager anticipation to what seemed like an inevitable sequel. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation arrived in 1997, and to call it worse than its predecessor in every single way would almost be an understatement. It included more fighters, but gave most of them nothing to do. Its story was simultaneously overly convoluted and too rushed through. And perhaps worst of all, many characters fans loved had been recast.
Not all of the actors brought on to play these roles were necessarily bad choices, and perhaps the script for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was so awful that the best actors alive couldn’t have made it work. Either way, one is unlikely to find many fans who prefer the Annihilation version of any Mortal Kombat movie character.
Raiden (Original: Christopher Lambert, Annihilation: James Remar)
- 1 Raiden (Original: Christopher Lambert, Annihilation: James Remar)
- 2 Johnny Cage (Original: Linden Ashby, Annihilation: Chris Conrad)
- 3 Sonya Blade (Original: Bridgette Wilson, Annihilation: Sandra Hess)
- 4 Scorpion (Original: Chris Casamassa, Annihilation: J.J. Perry)
- 5 Sub-Zero (Original: François Petit, Annihilation: Keith Cooke)
- 6 Jax (Original: Gregory McKinney, Annihilation: Lynn “Red” Williams)
- 7 Shao Kahn (Original: Frank Welker, Annihilation: Brian Thompson)
In Mortal Kombat 1995, Raiden, god of thunder and protector of the realm of Earth, was portrayed by Christopher Lambert, who’s probably best known for playing immortal warrior Connor MacLeod in the Highlander franchise. For Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, James Remar took over the role. Remar is certainly a talented performer, playing memorable roles in Dexter, Gotham, and many other shows and movies. This is a case of him just being given awful lines to read, that are hard to take seriously. He also plays Raiden in a completely different way than Lambert, which coupled with the awful decision to give Raiden a new look, really hurts the character.
Johnny Cage (Original: Linden Ashby, Annihilation: Chris Conrad)
In Mortal Kombat 1995, cocky actor turned tournament fighter Johnny Cage was played by fairly prolific character actor Linden Ashby (Teen Wolf, Resident Evil: Extinction). Ashby’s smooth, witty version of Cage proved quite popular, and remains so today. Chris Conrad, soon to appear in HBO’s Peacemaker show, actually looks a bit more like Cage’s video game counterpart in Annihilation than Ashby did, but the character is only around long enough to be killed off and quickly forgotten, so it’s hard to judge his performance. Cage had died in the games as well, but tellingly, he was brought back due to popular demand.
Sonya Blade (Original: Bridgette Wilson, Annihilation: Sandra Hess)
Bridgette Wilson, who was a Hollywood mainstay in the 1990s, played badass special forces operative Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat 1995. Some of Wilson’s other well-known roles include Veronica in Billy Madison, Elsa in I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Fran in The Wedding Planner. Sandra Hess played Sonya in Annihilation, and while she’s had a respectable enough career, her work in Mortal Kombat‘s sequel is much flatter than Wilson’s take on Sonya. The character is also hurt by her ridiculous inclusion in what amounts to a wet t-shirt mud wrestling match with Mileena, although that’s obviously not Hess’ fault.
Scorpion (Original: Chris Casamassa, Annihilation: J.J. Perry)
Real-life martial artist Chris Casamassa played fiery undead warrior Scorpion in Mortal Kombat 1995, and later returned to the role on the Mortal Kombat: Conquest TV show. Despite seemingly being killed for good by Johnny Cage, Scorpion returned in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, this time played by martial artist/stuntman J.J. Perry. Perry also played Cyrax and Noob Saibot for good measure. Notably, Scorpion’s voice in both movies was provided by Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon.
Sub-Zero (Original: François Petit, Annihilation: Keith Cooke)
This technically isn’t a recasting, but for those who’ve only seen the movies and haven’t played the games, that’s worth explaining. It’s glossed over quickly onscreen, but the Sub-Zero in Annihilation, played by Keith Cooke (who actually played Reptile in the first Mortal Kombat) is the younger brother of the Sub-Zero from the first film, who was of course killed by Liu Kang while under the control of Shang Tsung. That first Sub-Zero was, oddly enough, played by François Petit, who would go on to spend much of the 1990s as a trainer and physical therapist for WWE.
Jax (Original: Gregory McKinney, Annihilation: Lynn “Red” Williams)
This is one recasting that Mortal Kombat fans may not have even noticed, and could be easily forgiven for doing so. Jax appears very briefly in the first movie, played by actor Gregory McKinney, looks nothing like his video game counterpart, and were he not called Jax by Sonya, who he was wouldn’t even be clear. Sadly, Jax’s treatment wasn’t much better in Annihilation, as while Lynn “Red” Williams’ version gets a bigger role, the lines he’s given to read are dreadful. His bionic arms also look cheap and fake.
Shao Kahn (Original: Frank Welker, Annihilation: Brian Thompson)
Shao Kahn’s recasting is a bit of a bizarre example, as while it technically does qualify, the circumstances are very strange. At the end of the original Mortal Kombat movie, Raiden, Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Kitana, and Sonya Blade are confronted by Outworld’s emperor, who explodes out of a building and is apparently as tall as the sky. Kahn there is actually a CGI character, voiced by legendary Megatron actor Frank Welker, who also voiced Reptile and Goro. Brian Thompson plays Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, now normal-sized and with a much different voice. Thompson has made a career of playing imposing villains, and wasn’t a bad choice for the part. As with everyone else though, the terrible script did his performance no favors, leading to many laughable sequences.
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