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The Ending of ‘Mortal Kombat’ Explained

The newest addition to the Mortal Kombat universe teases a sequel in the best way possible.
Mortal Kombat Ending Explained Scorpion
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on April 25th, 2021

Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we explain the ending of Mortal Kombat (2021).

When a new movie in the Mortal Kombat franchise comes out, most people assume that it is going to contain an epic showdown between Outworld and Earthrealm, (otherwise known as, you guessed it, a Mortal Kombat). The reality of Simon McQuoid’s newest addition to the Kombat Cinematic Universe, though, is a little different.

McQuoid’s film provides some background of the classic Mortal Kombat tale, while also indulging in its modern-day continuation. To make a long story short, the rivalry upon which the franchise is predicated starts in 17th century Japan, when Sub Zero (Joe Taslim) kills a family that belongs to the rival Shirai Ryu clan. He messes up, though, and accidentally leaves the bloodline intact by failing to kill Hanzo Hasashi’s (Hiroyuki Sanada) baby. 

Flash forward to the present. Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a floundering MMA star and descendent of Hanzo, is sought out by Jax (Mehcad Brooks) because they have the same marking. Jax explains to Cole that people are after him because of the markings. And he doesn’t know why. So, Cole is tasked with finding ex-special forces badass Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) so that she can take him and the few others with the same mysterious markings to their mission. And what is this mission, you ask? Oh, only to defeat the evil forces of the Outworld – which includes a man named Sub Zero who literally freezes people’s limbs off and turns them into weapons. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong. It turns out that the Outworld is pretty intent on winning their tenth Mortal Kombat tournament in a row, and they’re not afraid of breaking the rules to do it. But the Earthrealm crew splits up to defeat the Outworld, which ends up being a lot more effective than trying to take them on as a crew. In the final showdown, Hanzo – now known as Scorpion – joins his descendant Cole as they take on Sub-Zero in an icy cage match. Together, Cole and Scorpion defeat Sub-Zero and send him to Hell (from which he will almost certainly return in future sequels).

In the final scene of the movie, some sense of normalcy has been restored. But Cole makes it clear that he isn’t going back to his normal life anytime soon. He quits his job in the MMA arena and tells his ex-boss that he is heading out to Hollywood. The film ends with a shot of the poster for Citizen Cage, starring Johnny Cage. Seems like we’ve got a brand new character to look forward to in the imminent sequel.

As soon as Mortal Kombat’s trailer came out, fans were commenting on the strange absence of Johnny Cage, who has always been an integral part of the franchise. The character is a martial artist who becomes an action star who does his own stunts. When people start to doubt that he is actually pulling off those outrageous movie stunts, he joins the Mortal Kombat tournament, but, of course, gets himself wrapped up in a universe he is not quite prepared for.

The beloved character’s tease isn’t the only part of Mortal Kombat that hints at a sequel. After Sub-Zero and Scorpion’s epic showdown, Earthrealm enemy Shang Tsung (Chin Han), declares that next time, the combat isn’t going to be man-on-man. It’s going to be army-on-army. “Death is only another portal,” he says, if we weren’t convinced. And, while that’s what a lot of people expected would be going down in the film, it certainly makes for pretty solid sequel bait.

Ultimately, Mortal Kombat is a nudge at what’s to come. Ironically, it actually doesn’t have any mortal kombat in it. And, while that might be disappointing for some fans, it can put others’s minds at ease. That simply means that there is going to be a whole lot of follow up to this installment of the series and that the story is far from over. We are bound to see many more epic showdowns between Scorpion and Sub-Zero, as well as Sub-Zero’s army, who vanish into black smoke after they’re “killed,” which suggests that death for the Outworld isn’t quite as permanent as the Earthrealm would like it to be. 

In addition, as he was the protagonist of this film, we are likely going to see Cole rise up to be the very best of the very best. We are also going to be introduced to a whole lot of new characters and we haven’t seen the last of Johnny Cage. Of course, the meantime should bring an endless supply of fan theories to keep us occupied. One thing is abundantly clear: the world of Mortal Kombat is only just getting started.

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Aurora Amidon spends her days running the Great Expectations column and trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the best movies of all time. Read her mostly embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon.