`Kombat': You Could Just Go To The Arcade

------------ Movie review ------------

X "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," with Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, James Remar, Sandra Hess, Brian Thompson, Lynn Red Williams and Litefoot. Directed by John R. Leonetti, from a script by Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler and John Tobias. Auburn Cinema 17, Bella Bottega 7, Everett 9, Grand Cinemas, Issaquah 9, Kent 6, Kirkland Parkplace, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Puyallup 6, Renton Village, SeaTac Mall. 93 minutes. "PG-13" - parental guidance advised because of violence.

The end of the world is nigh! Neither Patriot missiles nor plucky Russian diplomats can save us!

No sir, our only hope is two lovely actresses, a hulking American gladiator with an endless supply of comic relief, and Hong Kong action film star Robin Shou. The fate of the universe must be decided as it should be - in "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation."

With "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," the world's fate might be in question, but the box office isn't. Like its predecessor, this movie is based on one of the most popular - and violent - arcade games. That means a guaranteed audience of teenagers and twentysomethings.

Why bother picking it apart? Are you going to complain about the quality of fast food? Probably not. Similarly, none of the game's fans seemed to mind that the first movie amounted to little more than elaborate sets, so-so digital effects and talent-deprived actors.

Rest assured, "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" is better, but that's not saying much. Apparently the first film's returns left them with enough money to buy some martial-arts lessons for Talisa Soto and even more nutty computer graphics.

Plot? What's that? Oh, you want a story, too. Basically, there's this freaky place called the Outworld that the evil Shao Khan (Brian Thompson) rules. He breaks the code of Mortal Kombat by attempting to merge the Earth realm and the Outworld realm. The Eiffel Tower pops up in another dimension, the Golden Gate Bridge is eaten whole, cats and dogs start living together . . .

Anyway, a band of stalwart fighters has six days to stop all this madness before the Earth is consumed by Outworld.

But enough with "plot." Here's what you have to look forward to:

-- Super slow-motion flips, falls and kicks by the truckload!

-- That perennial family movie favorite, mud wrestling!

-- A seizure-inducing soundtrack by George S. Clinton!

-- An evil sorceress who spins like Wonder Woman!

-- Great dialogue! Some samples: "You sure look good in mud." "Pretty cool, huh? That's my animality."

Underneath the fisticuffs and computerized eye candy, "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" has a moral for the impressionable youths in the audience: Believe in yourself and anything is possible. In Liu Kang's case, that means he can turn into a dragon, which has got to be a good influence for children who suffer at the hands of bullies.

The video game is much more fun, of course. Nonetheless, if you're going to stuff your money into a little slot and not have anything to show for it except a grin, "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" is as good for a guffaw as anything in the arcade. As films go, however, it's more of a fatality than a flawless victory, but hey - at least you'll get more than a minute for your dollar!