Movie Review: The Karate Kid

With the remake of a classic, that brought Karate to the attention of millions in the 1980’s, our International Editor took the time to review the latest instalment in the ‘Karate Kid’ franchise, along with comparing it to its predecessor...

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See the new ‘Karate Kid’ trailer below:

In 1984 Karate became a house hold word thanks to the movie ‘the Karate Kid’. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel san exploded onto our movie screens and captivated audiences with the magic of Karate, the bond between and student and their Sensei and the battle between traditional and sports Karate.

The movie was so successful that it spawned 3 sequels (Karate Kid 2 & 3 and the next Karate kid). The Karate kid movies featured stunt co-ordination and choreography from Pat. E Johnson (a senior student of Chuck Norris) and also from senior Shito-ryu instructor, Sensei Fumio Demura - who doubled as Mr. Miyagi for most of the fight scenes. I think that the input from these two men, really helped to show traditional Karate to the world, along with keeping the fight scenes realistic looking. In the 1980’s Karate Dojo’s all over the world were flooded with new students wanting to be the next Karate Kid and many of today’s seniors students are with us because of the power of these movies.

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Now is 2010, the remake of a classic has been released in cinema’s around the world. An old story made anew, starring Martial arts movie legend, Jackie Chan in the roll of Mr. Miyagi, now renamed Mr. Han to fit with the story’s move to China.

I will be honest. When walking into the cinema and having already seen the trailer with a lot of Kung fu and knowing that the story was set in China, I thought this movie was really going to go against the facts with Karate.

However at the end of the day this was a fantastic film, which I thought captured the morals of the martial arts in a context different to the movies we usually see today.

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The story is set around Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), a young 12 year old boy from America, who moves to Beijing, in China with his mother. From his first day there, he captures the interest of a lovely young girl called Mei ying and the feeling is mutual. Unfortunately he also captures the attention of school yard bully and Kung fu champion, Cheng and his fellow students.

After suffering some beatings in and out of school at the hands of Cheng and his buddies, Dre is saved by the seemingly quiet apartment maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan).

After taking some convincing, Mr. Han accompanies Dre to the Kung fu school to try and speak with their teacher. Being met with hostilities, they agree that Dre will fight in the open Kung fu tournament and Mr. Han takes Dre as his first ever student.

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The next few months are filled with lots of training in the back garden of Mr. Han’s house. The movie stuck with tradition in keeping the everyday activities we do as the foundations of the training for young Dre. Not quite ‘wax on, wax off’, but applying modern principles that relate to today’s children was done really well.

After a lot of training where you see Dre achieving milestones, the film visits the ancient Chinese temple and we see many training methods, which I am sure hundreds of kids around the World are trying at the moment. With all this and time the spent with his love interest, Dre soon finds himself at the tournament.

The tournament scenes themselves featured a lot of techniques which would rival the quickest MMA fighters and the moves were all very ‘action movie’ – and all coming from 12 year olds!

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Eventually making the finals, Dre is up against Cheng. The fight goes exactly how the original Karate kid did. After suffering a hurt leg, it is time for something to top everyone’s most memorable part of the Karate kid movies – the Crane kick.

I was really disappointed when the modern version of this turned out to be a forward front flip with a twist and the audience I was with felt the same way. It was way to ‘action movie’ for what had been such a heart hitting and realistic movie.

All in all though, the movie was really great and I recommend it to all martial artists. Mr. Han’s Kung fu was very much like traditional Karate and his rules were quite strict, where the other Kung fu Dojo was very much like sports styles. The film really preached respect, patience, dignity, honour and peace and I hope people all around the world take its message on board.

I thought Jackie Chan playing Mr. Han wouldn’t be so good for the movie. I am a big Jackie Chan fan, but I think the beauty of Mr. Miyagi was that we hadn’t seen him before, like we have Chan, and we didn’t know what he could actually do. Jackie Chan did a fantastic job and you even forget it’s him after a while. His acting was superb. In the scene where he is mourning his dead family, I was absolutely amazed at how good of an actor he really is. His childhood spent in a Chinese Opera Kung fu school obviously helped contribute to much of the story and training methods of this film.

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Which leads me to my ultimate question! Why did they call it the Karate Kid? With no Karate featured in any form (besides Dre practicing to a video tape), you have to wonder if the ‘Kung fu Kid’ would have been a more appropriate name. I Think the producers of the film probably chose to use the Karate kid name, because it essentially is the Karate Kid story and they know people would buy into it pretty quickly.

The performance from Jaden Smith will be more relatable to younger audiences than the 1984 version is today. But when it comes down to it, it is really hard to compare the old version with the new one, they are both two great films, with some really great performances that both preach good vibes about the martial arts for a change.

To watch another review on this movie, click the screen below!

To relive highlights from the original click below!