Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Scorpion From 2021's Mortal Kombat Looks So Familiar

A long time in the making, the release of the upcoming live-action Mortal Kombat film is almost here. As an extremely popular video game franchise with over 20 games to its name, the first Mortal Kombat film adaptation came out in 1995. While it was relatively successful, the 1997 sequel was a flop, leading filmmakers to stay away from the franchise — until now. We are currently under two months away from Mortal Kombat's release date of April 16, 2021, and fans can't hold in their excitement.

The new movie adaptation of Mortal Kombat will center around an original protagonist named Cole Young (Lewis Tan). According to Warner Bros.'s official site, Young is an MMA fighter with a special heritage of power that he understands nothing about. To make it worse, "Outworld's Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down." This leads Young to a group of warriors that share a marking with him and exhibit supernatural abilities.

Many fans of Mortal Kombat are psyched to see their favorite characters like Sub-Zero, played by Joe Taslim, and Raiden, played by Tadanobu Asano, on the big screen in all their glory. But the one character they're most excited for might just be Scorpion, portrayed by an actor named Hiroyuki Sanada. Scorpion is the alias of Hanzo Hasashi, a warrior in feudal Japan who is murdered in a battle between rival clans. He returns hundreds of years later to hunt down the man who killed him and his family, now known as Sub-Zero.

Many movie fans, especially those who love superhero and action flicks, will probably recognize Sanada. But if you can't quite place where you know him from, let us help you out.

Hiroyuki Sanada's first big role was playing Seibei in The Twilight Samurai

Sanada began training in martial arts long before he got into acting, but once he started his movie career, Sanada was able to combine the two passions into one for many of his roles. One of his first big roles came in the form of 2002's The Twilight Samurai, directed by Yoji Yamada and set in the mid-19th century in Japan.

Samada's character is a man named Iguchi Seibei, a samurai of lowly status with two young daughters, newly widowed. While he simply wants to spend the rest of his life watching his daughters grow up, he is forced into a duel that complicates things for his clan. While he'd prefer not to fight, Seibei is a skilled martial artist. In order to make up for the trouble his duel causes and protect those he loves, he must goes on one last mission to assassinate a samurai from a rival clan.

The film was extremely well-received by audiences. At the Japanese Academy Awards, The Twilight Samurai won a record breaking 12 awards, and was later nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The Twilight Samurai has a score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 70 reviews, with many praising the quiet but brilliant film and Sanada's performance as Seibei.

Hiroyuki Sanada portrayed Captain Kaneda of the Icarus II in Sunshine

As one of his first major Hollywood film roles, Sanada ventured into the science fiction genre with Sunshine. Directed by Danny Boyle and released in 2007, the film also stars Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, and many more familiar names. Set in the year 2057, Sanada plays Kaneda, captain of the Icarus II, a crewed spaceship flying on a mission towards the Sun, to jumpstart it with a bomb. After the first attempt aboard the Icarus I failed for an unknown reason, Kaneda and his crew are Earth's last hope.

As they get closer and closer to the Sun and the key moment of their mission, the crew receives a distress signal from the supposedly destroyed Icarus I, which lost contact with Earth seven years earlier. Kaneda and the team must decide whether to divert and search the spaceship or continue on their decided path. As the clock ticks down, they change course and head towards the Icarus I, and what they find there is unlike anything they could've ever imagined. 

The film was well-reviewed by critics and continues to be seen as one of the best science fiction films ever made, ranked alongside similar hits like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon.

Sanada took on Logan as the ruthless Shingen in The Wolverine

In 2013, Sanada made his first — but not his last — jaunt into the world of Marvel, playing a character named Shingen Yoshida in The Wolverine, which starred Hugh Jackman as the title character. Shingen is the son of a rich CEO in Tokyo, Ichirō (Hal Yamanouchi), who is dying of cancer. When his father names Shingen's daughter Mariko (played by Tao Okamoto) as the head of the company after his death instead of him, Shingen hires the Yakuza to kill Mariko. Developing feelings for the young woman, Logan (Jackman) does everything in his power to protect her. 

Lord Shingen, who also goes by the last name Harada, is a character from Marvel Comics who has a long history with Wolverine. He is a part of the Japanese Yakuza and the head of his clan, facing deep disgrace for his family when he transitions to a life of crime. Shingen is also the father of two very important characters, Wolverine's one time fiancée Mariko and Keniuchio Harada, also known as the Silver Samurai. Played by Will Yun Lee in The Wolverine, the film adaptation changes the story of Keniuchio, making him an ex-lover of Mariko, not a half-sibling like they are in the comics.

Avengers: Endgame featured Hiroyuki Sanada as Yakuza leader Akihiko

Recently, Sanada made a return to the superhero genre playing another Marvel character, but this time as a part of the MCU, not Fox's X-Men films. In 2019's Avengers: Endgame, Sanada plays Akihiko. Not that dissimilar from his The Wolverine character, Akihiko is a Yakuza boss who becomes victim to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) during his murderous rampage as Ronin. He appears early on in the film when the Avengers travel to round up the rest of the heroes. They find Barton in Japan working as a deadly vigilante, hunting down anyone who he believes doesn't deserve to be alive after the Snap.

Like Shingen, Akihiko has a history in the Marvel Comics, but it's very small and mainly deals with his association with the Yakuza. Despite the small part, Sanada's appearance is a memorable part of the film, and he even gets to do a little fighting in the scene. Thankfully, fans we will get to see more of Sanada's fighting skills in the upcoming R-rated Mortal Kombat movie. Based on the recently released trailer, it looks like it's going to be a epic and brutal adventure.