I watched the remake of The Karate Kid tonight. Amazingly well-done movie, with superb acting by Jaden Smith (of The Pursuit of Happyness fame) and Jackie Chan.
Because I wanted to see how the new one stacks up, I watched the original The Karate Kid, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, a few weeks ago. If you were a fan of the original movie, I can assure you that this film is a very faithful remake, with enough things tweaked to keep it fresh.
Same basic story, different characters and locations. Instead of California, this time, it’s Beijing. Twelve year old Dre discovers a whole new environment from his old home in Detroit, and promptly falls in love with a girl. Enter the kung-fu bullies, led by Cheng, who make life miserable for Dre. This time, it’s Mr. Han who saves the day, taking Dre under his wing and imparting some important life lessons along the way.
Some of the things I noticed while watching the movie:
1) While Daniel and Mr. Miyagi had an unmatched chemistry in the original, Dre and Mr. Han are still portrayed excellently by Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan.
2) The original centers around high school-aged kids, while the new one is about kids in middle school, which leads to a problem: the violence is tough to watch at times, due to its intensity and realism. These are 12 year olds annihilating one another to pieces, something that was easier to take when the pace was slower and the kids a lot older.
3) This movie was excellent PR for China, at least the modern part of it. It shatters any notion that China is still a developing, backwards country. We see shots of modern technological marvels such as The Bird’s Nest and high-rise apartments. There are also magnificent scenes of the natural and ancient beauty of Chinese mountains, forests, and temples.
4) The story follows the original very closely, and is well-executed. From the basic plot down to Mr. Han’s car to the final tournament, it’s pretty obvious that the directer took great pains to remind people of the original. Mr. Han even does the famous “wax-on, wax-off,” albeit very subtly.
5) No longer is it karate. This is kung-fu, and it’s fast-paced, violent, and exciting to watch, an excellent fit for modern audiences. The final tournament is a marvel of choreography, and the scenes are much more epic than the original’s. Great job here.
Final verdict? This film is an excellent remake of the original, with an interesting new location, great actors, good pace and character development, and awesome fight scenes. 5/5