Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for the 2021 Mortal Kombat movie and Cole Young’s identity.
The world of Mortal Kombat is full of a variety of interesting characters, yet the 2021 film adaptation is largely centered around a new champion of Earthrealm: a common cage fighter named Cole Young (Lewis Tan). This left many followers of the franchise wondering who he is, why he is an important character, and whether or not they will see Mortal Kombat’s Cole Young in-game. Indeed, despite the franchise’s many established combatants, why did the 2021 reboot focus on Mortal Kombat’s Cole Young character?
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A number of interesting theories were suggested by fans who couldn’t believe that the filmmakers would center the story of a Mortal Kombat movie around an untested new character. One of the more popular theories was that Cole Young would prove to be the real name of action movie superstar Johnny Cage in the reality of the film. It was also suggested that Cole Young might be the true identity of either Sub-Zero or Scorpion.
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All of these theories were disproven, and Cole Young was revealed to be simply Cole Young after all. However, the movie does reveal that Cole Young has a connection to one of the most popular fighters in the Mortal Kombat universe, paying off a scene that was teased in the film’s trailer. It remains to be seen if Mortal Kombat’s Cole Young character will be introduced into the reality of the video games, but it can be stated that he proves his worthiness to stand among Earth’s greatest champions over the course of Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat’s Cole Young Character: A Chosen One/Earthrealm Champion
One question the game’s mythology never answered was just how champions are chosen to compete in the Mortal Kombat tournament. Invitations are presumably sent to the leaders of various orders and clans with instructions on where to send their best warriors, but the rules of the first tournament also allow the entry of warriors like Sonya Blade, who stumbled across the tournament by accident while chasing after her nemesis Kano. The 2021 Mortal Kombat addresses this with the idea of Chosen Ones and the distinctive dragon-mark birthmarks which indicate that they are destined to represent Earthrealm in the next Mortal Kombat tournament.
Cole Young is completely ignorant of this as the movie opens, thinking that the mark of the Chosen Ones is an odd birthmark that just happens to resemble a dragon. After Sub-Zero’s first attempt to kill Cole and his family, he is rescued by Jax, who has the same dragon mark and tells him to seek out Sonya Blade. It is Sonya who explains the history and purpose of the Mortal Kombat tournaments and sets Cole Young on the path towards his destiny.
Scorpion’s Bloodline Thrived After His Murder
After arriving at the Temple of Raiden and beginning the training to discover his inner power and develop the unique supernatural abilities that could only be accessed by a champion of Earthrealm, a despondent Cole finds out that he is Scorpion’s descendant. As Cole is not making any progress in his training, Raiden explains to him why he is in fact a Chosen One. Raiden details the story of Hanzo Hasashi, a legendary ninja who died over 400 years earlier at the hands of his rival, Bi-Han, who later became the monster Cole Young knew as Sub-Zero. Rather than being a simple orphan from the south side of Chicago, Cole Young is the last scion of Hanzo Hasashi’s bloodline, which Raiden had taken steps to protect after saving Hanzo Hasashi’s infant daughter. It is not confirmed that Cole Young is the last surviving member of the bloodline, but it is heavily implied by other events.
Related: Mortal Kombat Retcons Kano & Sonya’s Backstory For The Third Time
How Cole Young Fits With The Other Champions
One thing that Raiden does not explain to Cole Young is revealed to the audience in a title card following the film’s opening sequence depicting the death of Hanzo Hasashi and his family: There is an ancient prophecy which foretells “a new group of champions will be united by the rise of Hanzo Hasashi’s blood.” It is this prophecy that spurs the forces of Outworld, commanded by the sorcerer Shang Tsung, to begin hunting down and killing the Chosen Ones of Earthrealm before the next Mortal Kombat tournament can officially begin within the next month. They do this in spite of Sub-Zero’s certainty that he completely destroyed Hanzo Hasashi’s clan 400 years earlier and the fact that Outworld seems to have a clear advantage in the Mortal Kombat tournament after nine straight victories.
This raises an interesting point that the film does not go into regarding just how the Elder Gods go about selecting the Chosen Ones and why the dragon-marks can transfer to unworthy agents who kill a Chosen One. It is suggested that the champions of Earthrealm are largely chosen from the bloodlines of great and legendary warriors. Apart from Cole Young, the Chosen Ones of this generation include the monk Kung Lao, who proudly notes that he is the “descendant of the Great Kung Lao” in addition to being the Grand Champion of the Order of Light. Indeed, Kung Lao’s history is well-known among long-time players and viewers of the Mortal Kombat franchise. That said, it is also suggested that the followers of Raiden seek out those who are proven warriors with noble hearts and bring them into the fold once they have proven themselves. This is shown through the story of Liu Kang and how, like Cole Young, he was an orphan, though he was adopted into the Order of Light and, upon graduation, sent after a child trafficker who had acquired a dragon-mark.
What Cole Young’s Bloodline Means For Mortal Kombat’s Future
Cole’s connection to Hanzo Hasashi proved to be the deciding factor in the battle to stop Outworld from gaming the system and killing Earth’s champions before the Mortal Kombat tournament could begin in earnest. Before sending the surviving champions to face Shang Tsung’s followers, Raiden gave Cole the blade of Hanzo Hasashi, which had been used against him to take his life. Raiden explained that Hanzo’s spirit would fight with him if he used the weapon in the battle to come. When Sub-Zero sought Cole Young, seeking to end the bloodline of his rival once and for all, Cole Young drew the blade, summoning his ancestor to Earthrealm to fight by his side in his new form as Scorpion. After Cole and Scorpion defeat Sub-Zero, Scorpion thanks Cole for releasing him and asks him to care for their family’s bloodline. Scorpion then departs before Raiden and the others arrive at the scene.
The film ends with Shang Tsung swearing that he would return to Earthrealm with armies rather than fighters and an impressed Raiden noting that the prophecy had been fulfilled and that they must gather more champions to fill their ranks before the next Mortal Kombat tournament. This seems to be Cole Young’s immediate focus at the film’s conclusion, as he informs his manager that he’s done with $200 a night cage fights and that he’s heading to Hollywood, before walking past a poster for a Johnny Cage movie. Beyond acting as a recruiter for the defenders of Earthrealm, it seems likely that Cole Young will retain the blade of Hanzo Hasashi, allowing him to call upon his ancestor once again if he is needed.
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Will Netherrealm Include Mortal Kombat’s Cole Young In-Game?
Netherrealm Studios, the video game developer behind the Mortal Kombat franchise, currently has no plans to include Cole Young in its roster of combatants, but the success of the 2021 movie reboot could see this change soon. In future installments of Mortal Kombat, Cole Young’s in-game abilities would be informed by his onscreen feats, instead of the other way around, which is the norm for any other combatant. This presents various interesting new development dynamics that could help evolve one of the longest-running fighting game franchises in history. For instance, apart from Cole Young’s cage-fighting abilities, Cole could use the blade of Hanzo Hasashi to perform Scorpion’s classic “Toasty!” Mortal Kombat fatality. Mortal Kombat 2 will no doubt add more moves that could potentially be used in Cole’s in-game arsenal. This could only happen, though, if Netherrealm makes a game inspired by elements from the live-action reboot.
Mortal Kombat 2 Should Focus On Existing Characters
Mortal Kombat features many of the franchise’s most recognizable characters, but it also notably does not include heavyweights like Shao Kahn, Quan Chi, Kitana, and Noob Saibot, all of which could feature heavily in the sequel. Apart from these four, it would also be interesting to see how the sequel would flesh out combatants such as Baraka, Jade, Kintaro, Smoke, Nightwolf, Cyrax, Kabal, Sindel, Sektor, and Stryker. These original characters are who the people came to see, so Mortal Kombat 2 needs to dive into their stories within the reboot universe. This is especially true since the first movie’s events seem to set the sequel up for diverging from the normal Mortal Kombat tournament format. This could allow the reboot to introduce a truly new style and structure to the franchise. Cole Young’s destiny is a crucial new addition to Mortal Kombat lore, and in Mortal Kombat 2, Cole’s story can and should be intertwined with these missing existing characters.
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About The Author
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Matt Morrison has been writing about comics since before the word
“blogging” was coined. He got his start writing for the
legendary DC Comics digital fanzine Fanzing,
before receiving his own column, The Mount. Since then he has gone on
to write for over a dozen websites, including 411
Nexus and The Cult of Nobody. He holds both an MS in Information
Science from the University of North Texas and a BFA from the
University of Texas at Arlington. Known as a font of comic book
history trivia, he has delivered lectures on the history of American
Comic Books, Japanese Manga, Doctor Who, and Cosplay at over a dozen conventions
and served as an Expert In-Residence for a course on Graphic Novels
for Librarians at the University of North Texas. In addition to his
work for Screen Rant, Matt is currently the Editor In Chief of
Kabooooom.com and writes reviews for No
Flying, No Tights – a graphic literature and anime review site
aimed at teachers and librarians. He also maintains a personal blog –
My Geeky Geeky Ways –
which hosts his extensive episode guide for the television series
making up The Arrowverse as well as his
comedic Let’s Play videos. What little spare time he has is
devoted towards acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You
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