Lewis Tan’s Cole Young might be the studio-mandated protagonist and audience surrogate, but the real driving force of the Mortal Kombat reboot is arguably Hiroyuki Sanada’s Scorpion, despite the fact that the actor’s Hanzo Hasashi is killed by Joe Taslim’s Bi-Han in the very first scene of the movie.
Cole experiences visions that see Scorpion bound by the fires of hell, and after several lengthy exposition dumps, we discover that the failed MMA fighter is a direct descendant of Hasashi, which is why he carries the dragon birthmark that looks suspiciously like the Mortal Kombat logo. It’s a decent enough spin on the ‘Chosen One’ trope in theory, but the film also makes it clear that the mark can be transferred from one person to another by defeating them in battle, and doesn’t really explain why there are so many people with the mark or what makes Cole in particular the most chosen of all the chosen ones.
In any case, Scorpion ultimately ascends from the bowels of hell just in time for the final showdown opposite his archenemy, but if you’re not overly familiar with the extensive lore of Mortal Kombat, then it seems to happen a little bit out of nowhere. It’s evidently nodding towards the Netherrealm, though – basically the franchise’s version of hell – in which reincarnation is entirely possible. Scorpion is bound to both life and death by getting revenge for the murder of his family, and that’s presumably how he manifests his physical form having been absent since the prologue.
As ScreenRant explains:
He is bound to life by his revenge, and the death of his family [at the start] of the movie suggests this franchise is following the same logic. In a broader, sense, the idea of vengeful reincarnation is a parallel of the Chinese belief in the dead returning if they have unfinished business. That compulsion is what brings Scorpion back in Mortal Kombat too.
In the game lore, Scorpion became a vengeful specter in the Netherrealm, when he was killed by Sub-Zero, but was never evil (nor was he good), suggesting that like the games, in Mortal Kombat, Scorpion is cursed in death to live in one of the higher levels of Hell. That would fit with his claim that he harnessed the fires of Hell, as the higher levels allow the damned to withstand torture far easier. Add his vengeful spirit and Scorpion had significant inspiration to find his way back to the land of the living.
Essentially, pain and fury are what brought him back, and while he slinks towards the fiery depths after turning Sub-Zero into a charred piled of nothingness, you can guarantee we’ll be seeing Scorpion again when the inevitable Mortal Kombat sequel arrives.