The Karate Kid
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.
March 31, 2011 @ 10:36 am
Check out the special features of the DVD. You’ll see the scene where Jackie Chan kicked Li’s ass. It was rightly removed. It did not add to the movie’s conclusion.
And in an American setting I can see the kids having to return to class, but given the context in which Li’s school is set, his public disgrace and shameful action I would assume would cause parents to withdraw their students. I thought maybe it was after the credits but perhaps it’s in the special features as well, but there is a scene where Jackie Chan ends up as the new teacher for all those students.
Jim C. Hines
March 31, 2011 @ 10:38 am
We caught it on TV, so no special features. But I may have to get the DVD just to check those out. Thanks!
March 31, 2011 @ 10:48 am
I heard complaints about this movie when it came out in theaters, mostly by people who didn’t like the name not matching the fighting style or that it was a Smith-family vehicle, or it was a remake of a film they still loved. Granted, most of them hadn’t actually seen the movie. For me, it hits a lot of notes I find very important for these kinds of films. The hero-child may have natural talent, but still has to grow as a person. More importantly, he has to work hard. He doesn’t get to show up and win. He has to train with a teacher and on his own. It takes time, determination, and dedication. He wasn’t the chosen one. He chose himself.
AND there is the scene where he goes to the girl’s home and speaks with her father. That very easily could have been an “American ways are better and you’re wrong for treating your daughter the way you do” but was rightly handled as an “I’m new here and didn’t fully understand your culture. I’ll try harder to be respectful.”
I have a slew of nephews that come to this film at the same time I came to the original. I’m happy that it’s message was one I want them to see and learn. I bought the DVD and my only complaint is that the case didn’t include the code for the digital copy.
Jim C. Hines
March 31, 2011 @ 10:53 am
I really liked that scene where he apologizes to the girl’s father. I thought it was a great addition, and worked on a number of ways — both Dre gaining a bit more maturity, and also showing him starting to accept his new home (accepting their culture, speaking Chinese for the first time, etc.)
I commented on LJ that yes, it was a Smith-family film, and I’m sure that was a factor in him getting the part. But his performance was great, and I think he earned it. (A bit like your comment about the hero-child character, actually!)
March 31, 2011 @ 12:31 pm
I’m just too much of a fan of the original to want to see the new one – although I’ll admit I’d probably feel differently if my daughter was a bit younger and had been drawn in by the remake’s marketing campaign.
She watched the original back in 2009 when she was 11, and she was totally hooked/ (Which isn’t surprising – the day I introduced it to her, I noticed how amazingly compact the whole story setup is: http://johnbooth.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/the-all-valley-karate-tournament-eternal-champion/ )
March 31, 2011 @ 8:32 pm
New kids, new generation. The girls (9 an 10) loved the movie. They tried to watch the original with me but it was just not what they are use to. I agree the original one is better…oldies are goldies, but i do understand the remakes for the kids of the new generation.
However they seem to be remaking everything now. They are doing a remake of total recall, don’t get me wrong done properly it could blow the original away, but they will probably just do an action remake…..and the reboot of Spiderman, i mean at least total recall was like 20 years ago. I guess i am just getting old.
Just wait 10 more years and Lucas will remake star wars…….
March 31, 2011 @ 9:39 pm
I grew up with the original, but I like the way Jaden Smith played the character much much much better. I didn’t really like that other kid at all. I was impressed by Jaden’s athleticism, even for a kid who has seemingly boundless energy, all that kung-fuie was intense. For anyone, especially a kid. Oh, and three cheers for Jackie Chan’s acting huh? Been almost an obsessive fan of his for yrs, and that scene where he destroys the car was awesome.
These past few years and the next five or so are all going to be about ’80’s remakes. just go ahead and count how many have already come out. The smurfs, for example, are going to come to the big screen in a yr or two.
April 1, 2011 @ 9:43 am
My son is 17, and we went to the new movie in the theater. Thank you for identifying what bothered me about the remake, all of your points were well-made. Surprisingly, my son had some issues with the movie, the main one being that he didn’t feel Daniel had trained enough for the level of skill he displayed at the tournament, and the (in his words) ‘abrupt ending’. Subsequently, we watched the original version (yeay Netflix!) and he said that this one resolved his objections. Your summary hits my own opinion, the new one was good but the original was better. He may be the exception, but at least one ‘current generation’ 17-year-old agrees with you.
Jim C. Hines
April 1, 2011 @ 10:53 am
That’s an interesting breakdown of the first part of the film, John. Thanks!
Jim C. Hines
April 1, 2011 @ 10:55 am
Heck, they’re planning the next reboot of Batman, and they haven’t even released the third movie in *this* version yet!
(Apparently they need to do a new Batman movie with a different take on Batman in order to lay groundwork for the Justice League movie…)
Jim C. Hines
April 1, 2011 @ 10:58 am
It’s been ages since I saw the original, but much as I liked it, Daniel had some issues. Borderline creepy/stalker over the girl (which was traditional for 80s movies, I know). Commenters on LJ described him as too whiny, but I’d have to see it again to decide that one.
[Deliberately not responding to or thinking about the Smurfs movie.]
Jim C. Hines
April 1, 2011 @ 11:02 am
Partly it’s just a common movie/story trope — the quick training montage that suddenly boosts our hero’s skill until s/he can take on enemies who’ve been practicing for years. Realistically, I don’t believe either one of the characters would have lasted long in the tournament.
Okay, now I’m trying to think of of a movie that’s done the training sequence well and believably, and having a hard time…
April 2, 2011 @ 7:29 pm
My daughter liked the original better, especially as we’re often quoting lines from it so now she understands where they came from, but she liked the remake and it was better than I expected, though I agree that the younger ages of the kids made it a lot more disturbing. But what was really freaky is that Jaden Smith basically channeled his father — facial expressions, phrase delivery of speech, even body movement — it was Will Smith with braids. This kept distracting us during the movie.
Jim C. Hines
April 3, 2011 @ 2:13 pm
I didn’t find it distracting personally, but there were definitely moments where his expressions were very similar to his fathers’…
April 6, 2011 @ 11:56 pm
I remember being disappointed in the remake, as it didn’t have the same emotional impact as the original in scenes I considered pivotal.
In both movies, there’s a challenge/confrontation between the two opposing teachers, establishing the time and place of the hero’s dénoument.
In the original, it’s a marvelous tennis match; Daniel stands there as these two martial arts masters decide HIS fate. He’s in the background of the scene, yet central to the story. You can see the horror growing as he realizes this is HIS life they’re betting on.
In the remake, the hero doesn’t even speak the language. He’s more than in the background of the scene; he’s sidelined, completely detached from it. No emotional connection at all to this scene which is almost entirely about him.
It was full of everything in the original. Fear, excitement, shock. In the remake, it just felt empty.
I’ll admit I also shared the same disbelief, wonder, and awe that Daniel felt when Miyagi revealed the true power of waxing, sanding, and painting. THAT was an incredible reveal.