Why the Original Karate Kid is Still the Best
A Good Movie
Last night I watched the Karate Kid (2010) version with Jaden Smith and thought it was a good movie. It wasn't quite the original, but Jaden Smith carried himself well. He had a great amount of attitude and personality. You could tell he was Will Smith's son.
Then you had some great shots of China. The movie featured Jackie Chan doing the type of movie Kung Fu he's done for nearly 40 years. I also had to appreciate that while I wasn't too hot with the idea of a kid that young having a love interest, at least the parents of the love interest weren't total snobs like in the original, but had a reason for our hero not to be allowed to see here. While the film was not perfect, it was a good movie.
After the film, my wife said it was as good as the original My jaw nearly dropped. To quote that great 1980s icon, "What You Talking About Willis?"
She suggested that my preference for the original, was just because I liked old stuff. I actually havesome good reasons for saying that 1984 is better than 2010. I have three good reasons and several minor reasons that when added together make a fourth good reason.
Reason #1: Mr. Miyagi Was Better than Mr. Han
Is there any contest as to who the better mentor is? In Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita made Mr. Miyagi one of the most memorable characters in film: His mix of good humor, kindness, and a touch of hidden pain made us connect with Miyagi. It made the dynamic between Miyagi and Daniel so memorable and beautiful. The portrayal of that relationship drove our interest in the character. There were things said where the characters expressed their feelings, but there was so much that didn't need to be said.
Chan as Han was a little more surly and world-weary. Chan was passable in the role in the same sense that many Karate Kid knock-offs have had passable mentor figures. But Miyagi he wasn't. The chemistry between Chan and Jaden Smith was simply not as powerful. There was far more verbally said, but I didn't feel the connection as much.
Pat Morita was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Miyagi, Chan got no nomination for Han, and there's plenty of reason for it.
Reason #2: Where's a Wild-eyed Crazy Guy When You Need Him
Okay, I hate to make another casting complaint, but here it goes. In the original, Martin Kove played John Kreese, the intense wild-eyed sensei of the Kobra Kai. He was menacing, brutal, and charismatic. There was a villain. What do we have in this movie?
Well, we have a guy who all of his lines are given to us with subtitles and his voice tone doesn't sound out all that menacing. He doesn't look all that menacing. In fact, you could change the subtitles from having him tell the kid to break our hero's legs to having him tell the kid to go down and get a Big Mac from the Beijing McDonalds after the match and we couldn't tell the difference.
Reason #3: GIve Me a Truly Memorable Scene
What are the memorable scenes of the original Karate Kid? There's Wax On, Wax off, Paint the Fence, Sand the Floor, There's Daniel's Halloween costume where he goes as a shower. There's the scene where Daniel is jumped by the Kobra Kai and Mr. Miyagi leaps into action in what is a surprising scene. There's sweep the leg, Johnny. The music, both what's actually sung and the score did a perfect job of setting the tone for the movie. Take the sequence towards the end where after being knocked down, Miyagi rubs his hands together and a sound like a gong is heard. Back on the mat, the trophy's about to be handed out. The gilfriend runs and whispers to the announcer who in shocked excitement announces, "Daniel LaRusso's going to fight!" The announcer's excitement fuels our own as Daniel steps onto the mat. Our blood is pumping, we are ready for Karate!
Now tell me, what scene in new Karate Kid movie is so memorable that you'll remember it a year from now? Two years? Ten years. Even today, if you say, "Wax on, wax off," many people will know what you're talking about. Does anyone think "Drop the jacket, pick it up, and put it on" will reach that level of cultural consciousness? I think not and I can't think of anything in that film that will.
Reason #4: My Nitpicky Reasons
Herein goes some miscellaneous points why I didn't think it was as good.
Fans says so: Karate Kid (1984) has a rating of 7.0 on IMDB and Karate (2010) has a rating of 6.2.
I also add that watching the movie, you have no idea that the country is being shot in is a tyrannical government that controls what people can see, listen to, and watch, and locks millions of people up for political and religious crimes. The film, at the end of the day, seeks to put a smiley face on a dictatorship. A dictatorship, I would add, that censored to the film to make it even more pro-China in its Chinese cut.
Finally, the title of the movie is Karate Kid, but in reality what's being used is Kung Fu. It's annoying and lazy. In Karate Kid (1984), they at least used Karate.
Of course, all this to say the movie was good, but not good in the original Karate Kid or Star Wars sense, but more like in the sense of Three Nijas or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie. it's the time of film that ought to be shown on TNT a couple times a year.
Also, I think the producers intention here was not so much to exceed the original but to make a version of the Karate Kid for international distrubution and the Chinese market in particular.They took a universally loved story in America and took it overseas, where its foreign gross exceeded its US Gross. So by that measure they succeeded. But from where I sit, a good film still pales next to a classic.
When it comes to repeat watching, I'll accept no subtitute as to which Karate Kid I'll be viewing.