'Mortal Kombat' trailer explainer: Great Kung Lao, Cole Young's true identity and more

Jonathan Lee
·6-min read

Whether you’re a hardcore fan or a lapsed gamer, a Mortal Kombat explainer might be in order. Like the Uncharted movie, the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie is sure to be packed with Easter eggs and throwbacks.

Here are five big questions from the Mortal Kombat trailer that you should keep in mind before going into the movie.

Cole Young’s birthmark is a nod to his greater purpose. But does it point to more?

The original Mortal Kombat movie in 1995 featured Robin Shou as Liu Kang as the lead character. In the upcoming Mortal Kombat, Lewis Tan stars as Cole Young, a struggling MMA fighter who is thrust into the role of one of Earth’s chosen defenders.

After being attacked by assassins from a different dimension, Cole learns about the grand tournament Mortal Kombat. Throughout history, Earthrealm (or simply Earth) has sent its greatest warriors to Mortal Kombat to keep the hostile forces of Outworld at bay. Think of it as a really gory version of the Olympics where the grand prize is not being targeted by a horrifying demonic invasion for the next 50 years.

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And it turns out Cole is special. Far from being a bum, he’s actually a transdimensional contender thanks to his mysterious “heritage,” as the official Mortal Kombat website cryptically describes.

mortal kombat explainer
Credit: Warner Bros.

You see, Cole has a birthmark that resembles the iconic Mortal Kombat dragon logo. That means he was always destined to fight in Mortal Kombat.

But it could also suggest a big twist about his real identity. More on that later.

The trailer referenced the Great Kung Lao, Earthrealm’s first and greatest champion.

In the scene where Sonya explains to Cole how different cultures throughout Earth’s history have referenced Mortal Kombat, we see a mural depicting a bald fighter standing victoriously over his opponent.

mortal kombat explainer
Credit: Warner Bros.

This is almost certainly the Great Kung Lao, Earth’s first representative in Mortal Kombat and a legendary figure in the game’s universe. The Great Kung Lao broke Outrealm’s nine tournament win streak by defeating Shang Tsung and ensuring Earth’s safety for the next 50 years.

He’s also the ancestor of several other prominent Mortal Kombat characters such as Liu Kang and Kung Lao, both of whom appear in the movie trailer.

mortal kombat explainer
Credit: Warner Bros.

Is that Johnny Cage fighting Goro?

One of the trailer scenes features a big four armed unit about to put the hurt on someone. This is obviously Goro. Goro is one of the big bad villains in the first Mortal Kombat game and the reigning champion of Mortal Kombat after his victory over the Great Kung Lao.

But the menacing Prince of the Shokan took all the attention away from his opponent. Who’s that guy he’s pouncing on?

mortal kombat explainer
Credit: Warner Bros.

Well, if we go by precedent, that unknown fighter could be the B-list movie star Johnny Cage. In the first Mortal Kombat movie, Johnny shocks Goro by dropping down into a split and slamming a hard right straight into an area that would be very illegal to strike in any other tournament.

Ouch.

Since Mortal Kombat is a reboot of the 1995 movie, there’s a good chance Johnny Cage is set to appear. It also seems to throw a wrench in the fan theory that Cole Young is actually Johnny Cage — again, more on that later.

Did the trailer foreshadow Noob Saibot?

A ninja who appears to be Sub-Zero walks out from a thick cloud of smoke. Astute Mortal Kombat fans will notice that this seems to be a nod about the character’s future.

Credit: Warner Bros.
Credit: Warner Bros.

In the Mortal Kombat series, there are actually two people who share the name Sub-Zero. The first is an assassin named Bi-Han who appears as a villain in the first game. Bi-Han is eventually killed by Scorpion, a vengeful revenant who mistakenly believed that Bi-Han was responsible for the murder of his family and ninja clan.

Bi-Han also returns from death as a revenant named Noob Saibot. Another fun Mortal Kombat fact: Noob Saibot is named after the two creators of Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon and John Tobias.

After Bi-Han’s death, his good guy younger brother Kuai Liang takes up the mantle of Sub-Zero. This leads us to our final big question and possible reveal.

Is Cole Young actually the next Sub-Zero?

At first, the “Cole Young = Johnny Cage” theory seemed pretty on the nose. Like Johnny, Cole seems to be an outlier among the otherwise fantastical cast. Cole is a downtrodden MMA fighter whereas his peers are warriors from ancient monastic orders, highly trained special forces soldiers and even a god.

Heck, he’s even a cage fighter. Wink wink. That’s exactly the type of cheese that Mortal Kombat thrives on.

But given what we know now, all of that appears to be a red herring. It’s much more likely that Cole Young is Kuai Liang, the second Sub-Zero.

Credit: Warner Bros.
Credit: Warner Bros.

When we consider the facts, it makes a lot of sense. Cole grew up on Earth being completely unaware of his secret heritage. Similarly, the Sub-Zero brothers were unaware of their true ancestry until Kuai Liang discovered that their father was actually a Cryomancer, a race of people from another realm who have the ability to manipulate ice.

Perhaps as a nod to this, Lewis Tan himself is mixed race. Cole being Sub-Zero would fit in beautifully with the concept of a character who is a man of two worlds.

In the video games, Kuai Liang is characterized as a mysterious loner who appears when the heroes are in great need. From what we’ve seen, that sounds an awful lot like Cole’s story.

If Cole is Kuai Liang, it would add drama to the fact that the Sub-Zero hunting him is actually his long lost brother, Bi-Han. That’s a neat twist — and not to mention, a great set-up for a sequel where Cole becomes the new Sub-Zero.

And there you have it. Consider yourself officially prepared for Mortal Kombat.

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