After trial and tribulation, Mortal Kombat’s Cole Young unlocks his latent arcana power, but the nature of this ability was teased in his first scene.
Cole Young awakening his arcana is one of the biggest moments in 2021’s Mortal Kombat movie, but his golden armor transformation is foreshadowed well in advance. Simon McQuiod’s Mortal Kombat draws plenty of inspiration from the iconic video game series, but does make a few notable deviations along the way, and aside from the introduction of Cole Young as an original character, the addition of arcana powers is perhaps the most significant. As explained by Liu Kang at Raiden’s Temple, the dragon mark doesn’t simply denote a champion of Earthrealm; it also bestows awesome supernatural powers. Kang himself throws fireballs, Kano is delighted to get a laserbeam in his right eye, and Kung Lao wields the terrifying power of “frisbee hat.”
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Despite training diligently, Cole struggles to unlock his arcana at Raiden’s Temple, and as the fateful tournament approaches, the thunder god chooses to send his cage fighter student home. Unfortunately, the villainous Shang Tsung doesn’t care, and sends Goro to rip out Cole’s spine anyway. As his family come under threat from the multi-armed monster, Cole’s arcana finally awakens, taking the form of a sturdy golden armor that wraps around his body. Not only does this power allow Cole to absorb even more punishment than usual, it also supercharges his own strikes.
While every arcana is unique, Mortal Kombat gives the audience a major hint as to Cole’s during Lewis Tan’s very first on-screen appearance. After the impressive flashback prologue between Sub-Zero and Scorpion, Mortal Kombat moves into the modern day, with Cole waiting eagerly for a last-minute cage bout. The first time Mortal Kombat shows Cole, his wife, Allison, is wrapping her husband’s fists in gold combat tape, ready for the big match. Although the scene appears insignificant at first glance, it takes on a whole new meaning following the reveal of Cole’s arcana.
Just as Allison wraps Cole in protective tape during his Mortal Kombat introduction, it’s the motivation to save his family that wraps the golden arcana armor around Cole in the fight against Goro. In both cases, Allison and Emily are metaphorically “with” Cole when he enters battle, protecting him while he fights to protect them. Mortal Kombat‘s tape symbolism is emphasized further by the CG design of Cole’s golden armor. When Cole transforms, rather than the arcana clanking into place like a metallic chest plate usually would, the gold manifests from Cole’s forearm, wrapping itself around him like the tape from before – almost as if that small, protective act of love before the cage fight has evolved into something much more powerful (and, frankly, more useful).
Mortal Kombat teases Cole’s arcana form in other ways too. Throughout Mortal Kombat, various characters refer to Cole as a human punchbag, only good for taking hits. There’s a sweet irony that his arcana would be a suit of armor that turns being knocked around into a tactical advantage. Mortal Kombat also makes no effort to hide that Cole’s family will ultimately be his arcana trigger. But where these are more obvious allusions toward Cole’s future transformation, the opening image of Allison wrapping his forearms in gold tape is a smarter, more subtle foreshadowing of events to come, setting Mortal Kombat apart from the usual video game action fare.
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