INT. SHOT, TYPICAL HOLLYWOOD OFFICE.
WILL and JADA SMITH are talking with director HARALD ZWART about remaking The Karate Kid.
We’ll get Jackie Chan to play the Miyagi character, and our son Jaden will play the kid.
Jaden’s a bit young, don’t you think?
His character will be twelve years old. We want to set the movie in China, but the plot will follow the 1984 movie, with eastern healing techniques, a fancy kung fu move at the end–
So we’ll start out with Jaden’s character having trouble with some local kung fu bullies. The problems escalate, and he ends up surrounded by these kids, who start pounding him. Enter Jackie Chan.
Who proceeds to beat the crap out of a bunch of 12-year-olds!
The Karate Kid surprised me with that scene. Jackie Chan made it work. In typical Chan style, he deflects the kids’ attacks against each other, allowing them to be the ones to beat themselves up. I was impressed with how they handled that.
Overall, I thought the remake was pretty good. I liked the original story, and this one stayed pretty close to the 1984 version. I liked the restaging of the movie to China. And Jaden Smith is a very charismatic actor.
But in some ways I think the film suffered for being a remake. I kept comparing it to the original, and there were areas where the new film came up short. A few examples (spoilers follow):
Mr. Miyagi was a decorated soldier who lost his family in the war, and spent one night each year getting drunk and mourning that loss. Mr. Han’s family was killed in a car accident, and he spends every day rebuilding that car so he can destroy it. Much as I like Jackie Chan, I thought Mr. Miyagi’s backstory was much better.
We see Daniel LaRusso practicing the crane technique which he eventually uses in the tournament. The reflection technique we see in the remake is described as something that took a lifetime of practice and mastery to achieve, and we only see Dre Parker trying it once on his mother. Yet he successfully uses it in the tournament.
- In the tournament, Daniel is taken down by an illegal attack to the knee. Master Li tells his student to break Dre’s leg, which doesn’t make sense to me. Leg bones are strong. We see the kid repeatedly elbowing Dre’s leg (which was disturbing to watch), but failing to break it. If you want to take someone out of competition, try going for the foot or hit a joint.
The kids’ ages changed another aspect of the film for me as well. In both movies, our bullies are taught by a very bad man. But in the 1984 version, these were high school students: older and better able to make their own choices.
I’m not saying 12-year-olds aren’t responsible for what they do, but at that age, the abusiveness of their teacher (Master Li) becomes much more troubling: both the way he treats his students and the fact that he’s teaching little kids to be so vicious. As a result, I really wanted to see the parking lot scene (i.e., Jackie Chan unleashing some whoop-ass on Li), and while I understand why that scene might not fit, it left me dissatisfied with the ending.
You know most of Li’s students will be back in his class the next day — they’re kids, and in most cases, I imagine their parents will make them go back. What’s he going to do to them after their “rebellion” at the tournament?
Summary: A pretty good movie, but I like the original better. Jaden Smith was great. Chan … the script didn’t really play to his strengths. Liked most of the changes from the original, but the younger ages made the movie much more disturbing in some respects. 3.8 fire spiders out of five.