This review feels a little special for me. Back in high school, I took a creative writing course that inspired me to go into writing. One of our projects was a blog post; being a budding film buff I decided to write a review of the 2010 remake of “The Karate Kid.” Though I would use the word “review” loosely; it was more of an angry rant that I’m not too proud of. Whenever I think about it, I think about how I was just following a popular trend. The Angry Critic was popular for a lot of young people like me; anger the base of every Internet success story I followed. The Angry Video Game Nerd, The Nostalgia Critic, Yahtzee Croshaw, and Angry Joe made their names using anger to accentuate their observations. And with the latest season of Cobra Kai’s release, this review feels more appropriate.
Jaden Smith plays Dre, the Daniel LaRusso character who moves to China with his mother (Taraji P. Henson). On the first day, he develops Meiying (Wenwen Han) and gets in a rivalry with Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). The rivalry escalates to a situation where Cheng and his cronies to chase Dre down and the new kid is saved by his building’s maintenance man, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Amazed by Han’s kung-fu skills, Dre gets lessons from Mr. Han to prepare for a tournament against Cheng.
One of the changes I’m happy to say I’ve had about the movie is my attitude to the cast. Jaden Smith does a solid job and really grows in a way distinct from Ralph Macchio. Jackie Chan is also interesting in how he plays the Miyagi-style role with more of an edge that (line). Most of the other kids do a solid job in their role, with the kids and their instructor in the Cobra Kai role adding a more ruthless feeling that seems more militant than Kreese would aspire with the California dojo in the original.
While the story reflects the original’s plot, there’s a lot of elements that make it feel like its own thing. As a kid, I have a rant prepared about how it’s called “The Karate Kid” but centers around kung-fu; I’m not going to do that, because that’s moved down to the nitpick column as I’ve gotten older. And regardless of the martial art, the movie melts the spirit of it and applies it to the narrative. Along with the original’s self-defense over brute force, but also how kung-fu is part of life.
Being a “Karate Kid” movie, fight scenes take a starring role and this one is no exception. They feel a lot more smoother than the ones in the original. Just as the movie makes the spirit its own, so do the fight scenes. They move smoothly and fluidly and really capture the notion that fights scenes have a beauty to them akin to dance scenes in musical numbers.
I feel like this could have been an introduction for a younger generation to an 80s classic. And while Cobra Kai does a better job in that regard, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to watch Jaden Smith and Zhenwei Wang debate who was the real bad guy was. But after a decade later, I’m happy to say that it’s a decent movie and that a manufactured angry rant was irrelevant.