As they say in Mortal Kombat, welcome back to the stage of history! By now you’ve probably already purchased Mortal Kombat 1 and have spent hours enjoying sharp gameplay and a continued inexplicable use of the letter “k” instead of “c” as a branding exercise. Also, Mortal Kombat 1 is actually Mortal Kombat 12 because it reboots the series in canon. Also, Mortal Kombat 9 was just called Mortal Kombat because it also rebooted the series in canon. So if you’re keeping track, there have been three different Mortal Kombat 1 games: Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat, and Mortal Kombat 1.
Just like the devious shapeshifter and weirdly cool hang Shang Tsung, Mortal Kombat loves reinventing itself. Whether you’re tearing someone’s head off in an enchanted forest or punching someone’s head off in a haunted forest, Mortal Kombat has long explored the diverse world of two people hurting each other in a quasi-spooky place. And, you know what? It’s worked for them. If only all of us could find the peace in our hearts that Mortal Kombat has found ninjas throwing different elements at one another.
With the success of the series, Mortal Kombat has spawned three theatrical releases, in this article referred to as “movies.” Two of those “movies” (or “films” as they’re also called when trying to impress someone on a date who’s losing interest fast) were successes! The first of those successful movies was called “Mortal Kombat.”
The other successful movie was called, and this is going to throw you for a huge loop, “Mortal Kombat.”
If you’re a fan of Mortal Kombat, I’ve got great news: These movies are, in fact, based on that video game series. They have action. They’ve got excitement. They’ve got credits at the end with fun music. I don’t want to spoil it, but our old friends Sub-Zero and Scorpion appear! And they’re both so cool. One throws ice and the other is all about fire but he throws a rope. They’re so cool, mom. Oh, and Reptile is cool too! Acid spit!
Between the two talkies called “Mortal Kombat,” filmmakers decided to try something original and created one called “Mortal Kombat Annihilation.” Whether it’s a good movie or not is lost to time, which means it’s absolutely not a good movie. It turns out that the key to the success of a Mortal Kombat film is having a “story” rather than just pointing to random characters from the video game series while going, “This guy? Right? You remember him? Cool, huh?”
None of the last four hundred words are important.
What’s important is that Mortal Kombat Annihilation has a middle grade novelization that includes pictures from the movie! Whoa! It’s like being able to own the movie before it leaves the theaters! All the disemboweling of the games, but now Ms. Teiss can yell at you for doing a book report on it. What do you expect my parents to do? They bought me the book! It’s their fault, Ms. Teiss!
Mortal Kombat Annihilation is a 59-page-long book. That might not sound like much, but the book is actually way bigger than you think because it includes eight pages of color photos from the film! The crazy thing? They don’t even count as pages. Those 59 pages are all meat. There’s not a wasted moment in the book. Nobody here is trying to fill space here to hit a specific word count to get paid for the assignment. Nobody would ever type a redundant sentence to hit a specific word count to get paid for the assignment. Personally, I find it offensive that someone would type the same idea three different ways while routinely clicking “tools” and then “word count.”
The important thing to know is that Mortal Kombat Annihilation is a direct sequel to the movie “Mortal Kombat” but entirely unrelated to the movie “Mortal Kombat.” That latter “Mortal Kombat” is a reboot that isn’t in canon. It all makes a lot of sense if you’re chugging a bottle of turpentine and slamming a car door on your head.
Chapter one begins with the haunting lines:
The next couple paragraphs specify what “Earth” is, which is nice for people who don’t keep up with video games and/or consciousness. It turns out that, while Liu Kang and Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage had stopped Shang Tsung, that was only the beginning! Shao Kahn has refused to accept the terms of the tournament and now Outworld is invading Earth!
Also, I wanted to make fun of the Rayden/Raiden thing, but the games seemed to also jump back and forth so I can’t really give you anything on that front.
If you’re a fan of Mortal Kombat, you know this means that this story is supposed to be an adaptation of Mortal Kombat 3, which is weirdly called that because it was the third Mortal Kombat game. I don’t get it either. But it also means that Mortal Kombat Annihilation features kameos from some of the koolest kombatants you kan konsider.
Fortunately, an entire interdimensional war based on three and a half games of a long running series can be pretty well reduced to 59 pages. And the space is well used. Here’s a passage that, when you break it down, is about 2% of the entire book’s length:
I’m not critical of the writing. It’s just impressive that that’s genuinely a good sized-portion of the book. If you read that one passage about 50 or 60 times, it’ll have taken about as much time as reading the entire book. And since people on TikTok tend to talk more about how many books they’ve read rather than quality or content, this is an easy one to throw on the list to impress strangers who would gladly plunge their hand into your stomach like it’s the movie Saw for a key that unlocks success.
Speaking of success, I have to take my hat off, then put it back on, and then walk out the door like Grandpa Simpson for the way they write Jax. Jax is black. Which means he has to be written like Gary Coleman was auditioning to play Mr. T. Jax isn’t a bad character in the games. But you do get a sense that whoever wrote or edited this book really… lacked cultural experience. Is that a way to put it? Lacked cultural experience?
Speaking of lacking cultural experience, this book loves telling you who’s beautiful. Jade. Sheeva. Heck, we all know Kitana is supposed to be Liu Kang’s love interest despite the fact she’s clearly better for Bo’ Rai Cho. Mortal Kombat Annihilation has a confused mid-puberty-like horniness. This author really wants to kiss Kitana so much, just right on the face.
What makes this book a delight to read, besides that it ends, is just how weirdly hard it tries to shovel in every Mortal Kombat character possible. To be fair, that is part of the movie. On the other hand, it makes for stellar passages like:
My only note would be that I wished there was an even greater ratio of talking about fighting to actually fighting. That said, it would probably make this book longer than 59 pages, which would ultimately turn it into something closer to a war crime than a middle grade book for children.
Mike Drucker is an Emmy-nominated comedian, author, and television writer. He’s written for some shows you probably liked. He’s written for some shows you probably didn’t like. He also worked as a localization editor for Nintendo of America and wrote an entire book on Silent Hill 2. His desperation is only matched by his loneliness.
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