I worked my way thru the Karate Kid movies the past few weeks. I realized that if I’m gonna attack a franchise, unless it’s a continuous story (like Hunger Games) it’s best if I split it up instead of trying to get ’em all in at once. I’d also realized that I didn’t own (and likely hadn’t seen) KKid II thru Next, so I had to do some purchasing in there.
The first is an absolute untouchable classic, and one that I should know better than I do. The sequels are good fun, maybe not quite as magical just due to the usual diminishing returns. It’s the 2010 reboot with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan that I wanna focus on tho.
First of all, representation matters, so major points for having a black Karate Kid. For me, that’s reason enough for this movie, and I wish the films woulda continued. I know at the time, it mostly got dismissed as an unnecessary reboot, and to some extent it kinda is. I’ve been going back and forth on my feelings towards the rebootness, and I think I’ve mostly concluded that the film shoulda been its own thing. I get the need for name recognition, but I feel like it hurt more than it helped.
The original Karate Kid sees Ralph Macchio’s Daniel move to a new town with his single mom, where he has trouble making friends other than the building’s handman Mr Miagi. Mr Miagi trains Daniel in Karate so that he can earn respect by taking on his bullies in a karate tournament. Now replace Ralph Macchio with Jaden Smith, Pat Morita’s Miagi with Jackie Chan’s Mr Han, and move the setting to China. Oh and replace karate with kung fu. So shouldn’t he be the kung fu kid? That’s my tipping point for why this shoulda tried to be its own film.
The bones of the story are the same, and the third act plays out with the same beats. So again, totally get why this wasn’t taken seriously. I very much enjoyed it tho. I found it fun and engaging (not unlike the original) and I liked what was added by moving the setting to China. Also bonus points for Taraji P Hensen as the Mama. This version is also a bit more kid friendly. Jaden is younger than Ralph, and as someone pointed out to me on Stardust, his initial whining is much more age appropriate. Speaking of attitude, that boy is very much his father’s son. I could see so many of Will Smith’s expressions and mannerisms in Jaden’s face, it was really tripping me out. But the boy inherited the charm and charisma to carry a film, so I was rooting for him the whole way. I just wish a little more care was put in to making this stand out instead of relying so much on the original. I get it, reboot, you’re supposta rely on it. Not to get all broken record about it, but I think that reliance ended up being a bit of a crutch. I wanted this karate, or kung fu, kid to soar