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Who is Cole Young in Mortal Kombat?

Everything you need to know about the Mortal Kombat movie’s original character

Lewis Tan as Cole Young holds up his wrapped fists in Mortal Kombat Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The new Mortal Kombat movie hits HBO Max and movie theaters April 23, bringing Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Raiden, and a dozen other classic (and not-so-classic) kombatants back to the big screen. Mortal Kombat, directed by first-time feature filmmaker Simon McQuoid, also makes a big swerve: The movie introduces an entirely new original character to the mythology named Cole Young.

Cole’s introduction to the Mortal Kombat franchise was controversial from the start, when his character was revealed in early casting leaks, but he plays an important role in the new film. He effectively replaces series veteran Johnny Cage as Mortal Kombat’s audience insert. Like Cage, he’s in over his head, but Cole does not enter a mystical multidimensional tournament for ego-driven reasons. Cole is a failed mixed martial arts fighter who unwittingly finds himself the target of forces beyond his understanding and must fight for Earth alongside Liu Kang, Raiden, Jax, and Sonya Blade.

And, as teased in Mortal Kombat’s trailers, both overtly and subtly, Cole has connections to series mascot Scorpion. Here’s everything you need to know about Cole Young.

Who is Cole Young?

At the beginning of Mortal Kombat, we learn that Cole Young (played by Lewis Tan) is a past-his-prime MMA fighter who picks up the occasional $200 check by competing in sketchy fight cards. He has a wife and daughter, a killer uppercut, and a birthmark in the shape of the Mortal Kombat dragon logo on his chest. As revealed in the trailer, special forces soldier Jax tells Cole the dragon mark he was born with means he’s been chosen to defend Earth (aka Earthrealm) in Mortal Kombat. But Cole doesn’t know why he’s been chosen to fight alongside superhuman fighters in the ancient, world-shattering-consequences tournament.

[Warning: Spoilers for Mortal Kombat follow.]

Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) appears in a swirl of flame in a still from Mortal Kombat (2021) Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

Why is Cole “chosen” for Mortal Kombat?

During the prologue of the film, the man who would become Scorpion, Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), battles Bi-Han (Joe Taslim) centuries before the latter would become the ninja known as Sub-Zero. Hasashi’s daughter survives the attack, is rescued by Raiden, and carries on the bloodline. Cole is a descendant of Hasashi, but the two have a blood bond that goes beyond a simple ancestral relationship. In fact, Cole is key to a prophecy that Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung and Sub-Zero are very, very concerned about. While Cole is not the only hero of Mortal Kombat — this is a true team effort — he earns his place alongside the likes of Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Jax.

Is Cole Young secretly Johnny Cage?


Is he secretly some other famous Mortal Kombat fighter?

No. (At least not yet. Who knows? Maybe he’ll become Cyrax if they make Mortal Kombat sequels.)

What are Cole Young’s powers?

Cole’s powers — known as arcana in Mortal Kombat — manifest in a life-or-death situation, granting him supernatural body armor and a pair of arm blades. Here’s how Lewis Tan described Cole’s arcana in an interview with Polygon.

“They were described to me by [director Simon McQuoid] as a protection over the heritage that runs through the bloodline of Cole Young,” Tan said. “In the beginning of the movie, if you look carefully at the basket that his great-great-great grandmother was placed in, you can see though the same webbing/cross-hatching that’s on [Cole’s] suit is the same thing that was on that basket. It’s the same design. [It’s] not only the design that saved this baby, but it’s a design that saved his bloodline, and it’s a design that’s physically protecting his body.

“On top of that, he has a blade, similar to the kunai that [Scorpion] has, that can come out of his arm. And he can use that blade and he can swing it around. The weapon’s called a tonfa. But it’s bladed — that’s not usually how they look. So it’s like a spin on that weapon. His arcana is his family, his bloodline, and his identity. And the whole film, he’s searching for that. So when he finally finds it, not only is it the thing that saves his life and his family, but it’s also deeply connected to his heritage and who he is.”

Is Cole a good addition to the movie?

Sure! Not only is a Cole a capable fighter, thanks to actor Tan’s martial arts chops, he’s the solid, human center of the film. He also gets to make the movie’s “Shouldn’t Kombat be spelled with a C?” joke.

“We knew obviously it was a little controversial to add a new character,” Tan told me in an interview. “[But] it’s not really out of line with Mortal Kombat, because they add new characters a lot. But we knew it was going to be a topic that people were going to talk about, so I was willing and ready to take that on and deliver an authenticity with the martial arts and deliver a good emotional performance that could carry the film — and could earn Cole his spot in the Mortal Kombat universe. [We want to] have people not just like the film, but actually be interested in the character, his backstory, how he fights, and who he is.”

Will Cole be in future Mortal Kombat movies?

If they make a sequel, almost assuredly. At the end of the film, we see Cole heading off to Hollywood to find more fighters for the next Mortal Kombat tournament, specifically in-fiction actor Johnny Cage, the only character on the original Mortal Kombat roster who doesn’t appear (in the flesh) in the film.

Will Cole be in future Mortal Kombat games?

It’s possible. Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm Studios hasn’t announced any plans to bring Cole to Mortal Kombat 11 — and you’d think that, if it planned to, the developer would have done so around the release of the Mortal Kombat movie for optimal synergy. But the game studio has also said that it’s not done with MK11 just yet, even after the release of the Aftermath expansion. And NetherRealm has paid homage to Mortal Kombat’s cinematic past in MK11, so maybe it’ll do something similar for its present.