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Why Sub-Zero From 2021's Mortal Kombat Movie Looks Familiar

In mid-February 2021, the first trailer for a new film adaptation of the Mortal Kombat video game series appeared online. This new incarnation of Mortal Kombat will feature plenty of familiar faces from the Mortal Kombat video games, including names like Scorpion and Raiden. It's Sub-Zero, however, who appears first, in the trailer's opening scene.

Sub-Zero (also named Bi-Han in the film, canonically the first incarnation of Sub-Zero) fights with ice, hence the title. In the new trailer, Sub-Zero is shown using his powers to create an ice sword out of thin air that he uses to fight against Scorpion. After inflicting a wound on Scorpion, he then freezes his blood into a new blade. Thus, Sub-Zero's ability to manipulate ice is capable of use in the ultraviolet action for which the series is known.

In this and other scenes, the only visible identifier of Sub-Zero is a slot in his mask through which only his eyes appear. Some eagle-eyed viewers may nevertheless have found those eyes familiar. They belong to actor Joe Taslim, known particularly for his skill as an action movie performer.

Joe Taslim fought his way through The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption was a landmark for action cinema upon its release in 2011. Its relatively small budget and cast of then-unknown Indonesian actors ultimately influenced some film industry heavy-hitters, including J.J. Abrams in his reimagining of the Star Wars universe. Joe Taslim had appeared in two Indonesian films prior to The Raid, but it was his ability to hold his own among The Raid's famously noteworthy action performances that secured him a career in Hollywood.

The action in The Raid is now remembered as among some of the most epic in film history, alongside sequences from films directed by the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. Taslim was able to make his mark on audiences from among the heavy-hitters in its cast and stunt crew thanks to proficiencies in a number of martial arts, including Wushu, Taekwondo, and Judo. Thus, Taslim was able to pull from his real-life fighting experience in portraying a skilled martial artist.

Joe Taslim took a villainous turn in Fast & Furious 6

Only two years after his career-making turn in The Raid: Redemption, Joe Taslim appeared as an antagonist in Fast & Furious 6. By that point in the extensive story of Fast & Furious, the series' protagonists have become millionaires. Of course, that isn't enough to keep them from taking on another dangerous job. The villains in Fast & Furious 6 are all from a rival crew of racers/criminals led by a mercenary named Owen Shaw (played by Luke Evans). Among Shaw's crew is Jah, portrayed by Taslim.

Whether the character came first or was tailored to the actor, Jah is something of a role that makes full use of Taslim's skillset. In addition to being a skilled racer and assassin, Jah is a martial artist. Taslim was therefore able to pull once again from his real-life experience in hand-to-hand combat scenes versus some of the Fast franchise's heroes.

Joe Taslim became part of Star Trek in Star Trek Beyond

After his Hollywood debut in Fast & Furious 6, Taslim returned as a villain in a big-budget action movie once again in Star Trek Beyond. While between the two roles was an Indonesian film titled La tahzan, his two consecutive Hollywood performances as action movie villains seem to have established something of a niche for Taslim.

In Star Trek Beyond, Taslim portrays Manas, a member of the film's trio of villains. Leading that trio is Krall (played by Idris Elba), and rounding out the group is Kalara (Lydia Wilson). All three characters were once humans serving in Starfleet. Following an accident that left them stranded on an alien planet, they willingly mutated into new alien forms in order to survive. It's as aliens that they encounter the members of the USS Enterprise, set on revenge for the incident that stranded them.

Now, as the villainous Sub-Zero, Taslim is adding yet another role to his developing filmography of superpowered villains proficient in hand-to-hand combat.