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Movie Review: "The Karate Kid, Part III" (1989)
By the end of "The Karate Kid, Part II", it seemed as if both of our main characters, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi, had achieved a certain level of wholeness and completion in their character arcs over first two 'Karate Kid' movies. Mr. Miyagi had rekindled an old romance, Daniel Larusso had found himself a new girlfriend whom he had performed a special tea ceremony with. Larusso was pretty much a fully grown man from an emotional standpoint, if you look at it.
Daniel Larusso learned to utilize his karate skills in a real life situation, he saved many lives during a dangerous storm, and he even helped patch up an old rivalry between Miyagi and a corrupt business man, thus saving an entire Japanese village. What more did this extraordinary young man have to prove at this point? That he has to go through everything all over again in a third 'Karate Kid' movie?
One thing's for sure, "The Karate Kid, Part III" doesn't show us anything that we haven't seen before nor does it teach us anything new.
1. Over the Top Villains
In "The Karate Kid, Part III", we're introduced to two very over the top villains. The main villain, Terry Silver (played by Thomas Ian Griffin), looks like an evil version of Steven Segal and is extremely wealthy. His student and Daniel's new opponent, Mike Barnes, is basically a newer version of Johnny Lawrence from the original movie.
However, Johnny seemed to utilize more moments of self-control at certain times and we were shown this (i.e. the moment he saw Daniel walk into Kreese's dojo and the dirty trick he pulled at the ballroom dance). This new guy Barnes can't seem to keep a lid on his testosterone it seems. My advice to him is to lay off the drugs.
2. Plane Ticket to Tahiti vs. "The Karate Kid, Part III"
So the big kicker that sets off the plot in "The Karate Kid, Part III" is the moment in the beginning where Terry Silver proposes his revenge scheme to John Kreese while he sends his good friend on a nice vacation to Tahiti, all expenses paid for. Mind you, Silver has never met Daniel Larusso and has no idea what he's like and Kreese is certainly ready to move on with his life at this point ("You really don't have to do this", Kreese tells him), but no... Silver is really anxious to enact his revenge plan and continues to woo-woo Kreese into agreement.
But what if John Kreese remained persistent and just said no? What would Terry have done then? The biggest issue here though is that Silver doesn't know Larusso, it would have probably made more sense for Kreese to be the one seeking revenge and he goes to Silver for help and he would be the reluctant one. But I digress, this is the moment in the film where Kreese should have asked himself "Should I go forward with Silver's plans for a horrible 'Karate Kid' sequel or should I just go to Tahiti and forget about it?". Why invest all his financial efforts into enacting revenge when Silver could look into setting his buddy up for life?
3. Back to Square One
Someone pointed out to me that "The Karate Kid" series is like the teen version of the "Rocky" movies. We had the first one which is a classic. Part II was the highest point in the series, kinda like what "Rocky IV" did for its own franchise -- The character had reached his highest emotional and physical state of mind, so where else do you go? Well, "Rocky V" took the series right back to scratch, taking everything away from our titular character.
"The Karate Kid, Part III" does so in a similar fashion. We're back to square one all over again. Could this get any more boring? First off, Larusso and Miyagi return to the States only to find that they're being evicted. Then we learn that Kumiko, Daniel's Japanese girlfriend from Part II, has moved on to some stupid Broadway show in Tokyo and no longer has time for him. Gee, that was quick, they met in Part II, he saved her life at the end and they seemed happy, but no... in the blink of an eye, she's like "I have a Broadway show in Tokyo that I need to dedicate my time to, see ya!". And now Daniel has a new girlfriend, Jessica, played by the gorgeous Robyn Lively.
To top it all off, Larusso comes up with this stupid idea of investing his hard-earned cash into a tree store for Miyagi. However, the old man is against this and suggests it would be better suited for his college expenses. But Daniel is too stubborn to see this through.
4. Here We Go Again
Now that the story is set up with the revenge plan and taking everything away from our characters, the wheels are set in motion and what we get as a result is pretty much a rehash of the original 'Karate Kid' movie and nothing more. I mean they're fighting in the same stupid tournament at the end of this flick, what gives?
This is the same formula -- Boy meets girl, bullies bother boy and girl, old man trains boy, boy fights lead bully in tournament and wins using a special trick up his sleeve. The end. At least "The Karate Kid, Part II" gave us something totally different. There was no tournament involved in that film and the rivalry between Larusso and Chozen was completely based around estranged Miyagi family ties in Japan. Larusso also progressed a lot as a character in that film compared to the original.
5. What Should Have Been Done
I think the next logical step for this series would have been a college setting. Daniel is stuck attending classes in America and the long distance is putting a strain of sorts on his relationship with Kumiko who is still in Japan, she could probably even visit him once during the movie for a date.
Because of college, Daniel is also distanced from Miyagi who is very sick. The main plot should probably involve Daniel befriending a troubled student who is being bullied by a new nemesis who is different from Johnny and Chozen from the first two movies. Daniel is forced into the position of a mentor and a teacher for his friend and is having trouble standing on his own two legs without Miyagi, especially since he's not doing so well.
About halfway through the film, this troubled youth ends up befriending the bad guy who takes him under his wing and brings him down the wrong path, turning him against Daniel. Towards the end, Daniel's friend ends up getting killed by the bad guy and Daniel is forced to once again put his karate skills to good use in a brand new life-threatening situation to take this baddie down.
Going one step further, perhaps the college that Daniel is attending should be within an urban city environment and the bad guy could be part of some kind of drug ring. Of course, the loose ends with Daniel's girl and Miyagi's condition would have to be resolved as well, but I haven't worked that out. However, one has to admit, all of this sounds much better than what we actually ended up with.
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