Mortal Kombat: Annihilation: About The Production

Buy this video from

Books from
Buy The Book.

Music from
Buy The Soundtrack.

"Everything we wanted to do in the first movie and couldn't, we did in this one," says producer Larry Kasanoff, chairman and CEO of Threshold Entertainment, the company responsible for managing the $3 billion Mortal Kombat franchise. "This is not a sequel -- it's the next bigger and better chapter in the adventures of a group of phenomenally popular characters in a universe called Mortal Kombat."

Even more visually groundbreaking and action-packed than the first film -- which earned more than $23 million its opening weekend and achieved the second highest August opening in film history -- Mortal Kombat Annihilation is a true extension of the original motion picture that will both satisfy and electrify those who have eagerly awaited this new saga.

Ever since the first Mortal Kombat hit theaters worldwide, the Internet has been a-buzz with rumors and speculation about how the characters from the phenomenally popular film would evolve. Following on the first film's huge success, the Mortal Kombat Web site debuted as one of the top ten most-visited sites on the Internet. Since then, 300 unofficial Mortal Kombat Web sites have been working overtime trading speculation about the characters' further development in Mortal Kombat Annihilation.

Returning from the original film, Mortal Kombat Annihilation features Liu Kang (ROBIN SHOU), the brave leader who triumphed in the Mortal Kombat Tournament by facing and fighting his greatest fear; Sonya Blade (SANDRA HESS), a special forces member who is Earth's fiercest female warrior; and Johnny Cage (CHRIS CONRAD), a Hollywood action hero whose courage was tested in life-and-death battles on a South Seas island and in the grim reaches of Outworld.

Their chief allies are still Princess Kitana (TALISA SOTO), a beautiful refugee from Outworld, and Rayden (JAMES REMAR), the God of Thunder and Lightning and protector of the Earth realm, who assists his hand-selected warriors by instructing Earth's champions in the ways of a hostile universe.

The newest members of the team include Sonya's partner from her days as a special forces member, Jax (LYNN RED WILLIAMS), whose arms are equipped with cybernetically controlled titanium strength enhancers; Jade (IRINA PANTAEVA), another beautiful refugee from Outworld; and the Native American shaman Nightwolf (LITEFOOT).

Aligned against Earth's champions are their new foes, including the Emperor Shao-Kahn (BRIAN THOMPSON) and his fantastic and fearsome legion of generals: Sindel (MUSETTA VANDER), once a beautiful queen, now a ghastly vision of living death; Sheeva (MARJEAN HOLDEN), a four-armed female fighting machine; Motaro (DERON McBEE), a monstrous centaur; Cyrax (J.J. PERRY), a cyber-Ninja with a rocket launcher built in his chest; and Mileena (DANA HEE), Kitana's evil twin sister.

Also returning from the first film are Sub-Zero (KEITH HIRABAYASHI) and Scorpion (J.J. PERRY), deadly opponents whose most lethal enemy is each other.

Adding to the scope and wonder of Mortal Kombat Annihilation are the far-flung, foreign locations that the production uses as a global backdrop -- locales ranging from a temple in Thailand to an abandoned copper mine in Wales to a lost city in the Jordan desert. Not only were the locales exotic, sometimes they were historic. It was the first time that a production had shot in this Jordanian city, and the first time that filmmakers unified a Jordanian and Israeli crew to work together.

Beyond this epic, truly global backdrop is an extraordinary cache of state-of-the-art special effects created by two of the industry's foremost innovators, Chuck Comisky, (Terminator 2 3-D, The Addams Family) and Alison Savitch (Mortal Kombat, Terminator 2.)

John Leonetti, who served as director of photography on Mortal Kombat and The Mask, makes his directorial debut on Mortal Kombat Annihilation. His brother Matthew Leonetti, who shot the hugely successful Star Trek: First Contact, replaces him behind the camera. Brent V. Friedman and Bryce Zabel ("Dark Skies") wrote the screenplay from a story by Lawrence Kasanoff and Joshua Wexler and John Tobias. Alison Savitch, Carla Fry and Brian Witten are executive producers, and veteran effects maven Chuck Comisky serves as visual effects supervisor. World-renowned stunt coordinator Pat Johnson steps behind the camera as a second unit director and Kevin Reidy is co-producer and production manager.

"Mortal Kombat Annihilation is about self-empowerment, but it's also about being a family," says producer Kasanoff. "The team behind the cameras is really a family, too. That's why we've moved so many people up on this production."

The Leonetti brothers, who come from one of Hollywood's leading technical families, helped their famous father, Frank Leonetti, develop the Ultracam 35. Seasoned in the ways of digital magic by his experience on The Mask and Mortal Kombat, John Leonetti also learned about the art of directing from the likes of John Frankenheimer, the veteran director for whom he shot "The Burning Season" and "Against the Wall."

"I wanted to flesh out the characters and give them more depth," Leonetti explains when asked what he wanted to accomplish in his directorial debut, "and I wanted the fights to be consistently bigger and better."

An admirer of Hong Kong films, Leonetti wanted to push the envelope by using his technical know-how and proficiency with cameras to create "a new genre of American martial arts film." To achieve this, he experimented with different techniques and discovered the benefit of using wide-angle lenses close to the action in fight sequences and taking lots of point-of-view shots. Leonetti explains, "when an object approaches a wide-angle lens, it gets bigger quicker than with other lenses, which makes the action much more exciting -- almost three-dimensional. The only problem is that you don't want the object to hit the camera." Even that caution was thrown to the wind in a couple of shots where an insulated camera took blows like a stunt man.

A very important technical innovation in Mortal Kombat Annihilation was a motion-capture system which enabled Leonetti to direct the first fight sequence between a CG (computer generated) character and an actor in real time on the set, rather than directing the actor solo in front of a blue-screen and putting the CG character in later.

Whether developing unique ways to utilize camera lenses or developing ground-breaking motion-capture techniques, Leonetti and his crew strove for and achieved what many industry observers thought impossible. At every juncture of production, the Mortal Kombat Annihilation team pushed the envelope.

Perhaps one effect that captures this spirit is General Motaro, the half-man, half-beast warrior from Outworld. Actual filmed motion of a tiger's tail was used to help create the motion of Motaro's own tail. The result is a heightened realism as well as a jaw-dropping effect that illustrates the lengths the creative team went to develop fantastic characters.


"We never do a movie where we know how we're going to achieve more than 80% of the effects," Kasanoff said. The other 20% was achieved by Kasanoff and Comisky, the wizard who put together the film's bag of digital tricks, who work with a team of technicians from all over the world, eager to break new ground.

In addition to Motaro, other special visual effects technology made it possible to create Annihilation's four-armed Amazon, Sheeva. "The sky is the limit with 'motion- capture' and the other new techniques," says Comisky, who believes that the possibilities for creating realistic CG characters will be determined only by the "painting" skill of the technicians.

Motion-capture, a cost-effective computer animation technique that harkens back to the days when Disney animators would film animal movements to help create characters, refers to the technique of capturing movement or motion on a computer, rather than on film. The motion, whether it is from a human, an animal or a mobile object, is then applied to the CG character in the computer. This process almost entirely replaces the need for the traditional frame-by-frame animation of the past. Also, the "on-set" motion-capture technique allows the director to look at the movements of the CG character and his interaction with the live actor to help the director determine if it's going to work within a minute of shooting the scene.

This unique blend of visual effects and filmmaking was combined with one of the most popular film genres of all time, martial arts cinema. Created in Hong Kong, American-trained director Tsui Hark first experimented with techniques that combined the traditional artistry of combat with supernatural special effects that were within the limited capacities of the Hong Kong studios. Kasanoff took the genre to the next level with Mortal Kombat, which marked the first fusion of martial arts with state-of-the-art effects technology in a science fiction environment, and Mortal Kombat Annihilation raises the bar even higher in this area as well.

After conducting a three-year search that ranged through North America, South America, Asia and Europe, Kasanoff assembled the most accomplished team of martial artists ever used in any movie. The team includes the 1988 United States Olympic Medal Winner in Tae Kwon Do, Dana Hee, along with several world champions. Almost 20 different forms of martial arts -- including Wing Chun, Tae Kwon Do, Ninjitsu-Do, Capeira and Wu Shu -- come together in Mortal Kombat Annihilation for the first time ever to create a new style of martial arts: the Mortal Kombat style.

Legendary stunt director Pat Johnson was promoted to second unit director on Mortal Kombat Annihilation, and Robin Shou, the young Hong Kong star who again plays Liu Kang, choreographed the fights.

"For the first film I choreographed the fight scene between Johnny Cage and Scorpion and Liu Kang against Reptile," said Shou, "and it turned out so well that they asked me to choreograph the sequel."

He adds, "Each fight scene has a different style and flavor. But they all incorporate the Mortal Kombat style, which is very fast and in your face."

"Fans are very attuned to the characters in the game in terms of the moves that each can do," says Chuck Comisky. "In this film, we're taking those moves, which had already evolved in the other movie, and carrying them further with digital technology."

He adds, "Thanks to motion-capture, we now have world-class martial artists battling CG characters. In this movie, we'll also be doing advanced martial arts, including lots of exciting aerial maneuvers and flying kicks, which will subsequently be digitally enhanced."

The success of the first Mortal Kombat film has also permitted the filmmakers to search out the kind of truly exotic locations needed to take the spectator on "an adventure you've never had before," says Kasanoff. Starting on the soundstages of the U.K., traveling to Jordan and then returning to Thailand, which served as a location for the first film, the production truly went around the world.

"If people have half the adventure watching the film in theatres that we've had making it," says Kasanoff, "then we've achieved our objective."

Back to "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation"

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.