Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Karate Kid VS The Karate Kid



                                                                 TALE OF THE TAPE

               Title: The Karate Kid                                                   Title: The Karate Kid
               Tomato Meter: 67%                                                    Tomato Meter: 90%
                IMDB Rating: 76.2                                                      IMDB Rating: 7.0
               Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith                           Starring: Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio
               Director: Zack Snyder                                                 Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
               Box Office: $176 million                                              Box Office: $90.8 million
               Academy: n/a                                                              Academy: 1 nomination
               Year: 2010                                                                   Year: 1984


An inspirational martial arts showdown to determine the best around. 

The 1984 version is a true classic, inspiring and heartwarming. It tells the story of friendship, courage, and integrity. Ralph Macchio plays Daniel Larusso, a 15 year old kid from Jersey who moves all the way to California with his Mother, who wants to make a fresh start for the two of them. Daniel, who comes from a family of little means, runs afoul of a group of high school seniors, all privileged kids and black belts. Daniel's only friends are Ali (Elisabeth Shue) and an old Asian maintenance man named Miyagi (Pat Morita). Ali comes from a wealthy family who aren't fond of her seeing Daniel, and it doesn't help that her ex-boyfriend is the head of the pack of bullies. Wanting to defend himself, Daniel goes to the Cobra Kai dojo, only to find out that the bullies train there. This only encourages the bullies to continue assaulting poor Daniel, who tries to hide his miserable existence from his Mother. On one occasion, as they are beating the tar out of him, Mr. Miyagi shows up to save him. The small unassuming Miyagi makes short work of these boys, despite their size and youthful energy. He then makes a deal with the Cobra Kai instructor to have his boys leave Daniel alone, and arranges for just one fight to be held at a tournament in three months. Miyagi then takes Daniel on as a karate student.

From this point we're treated to a wonderful story where they form a fond friendship. Miyagi's teachings are unconventional, having Daniel perform chores such as waxing cars, painting the house, varnishing the fence and sanding floors, each with specific methods he must adhere to. When Daniel threatens to quit Miyagi has him go through the chores and demonstrates the methods have indeed taught him a variety of karate techniques. He also expands his teachings from karate to life lessons, teaching him the importance of focus and balance. In the end, Daniel overcomes his bullies, and earns their respect. But more so, has earned a sense of self-worth and confidence.

The 2010 version is a bit misleading. The film borrows heavily from the idea of the Karate Kid, including the title. Yet it also distances itself from the original so much, its hard to tell if the filmmakers intended this to be a re-imagining or what. Jaden Smith plays young Dre Parker, a young 12 year old black kid plucked from Detroit and moves with his Mother to China. Like the original, this is about a stranger in a strange place, but amped up as China presents a complete culture shock. The original didn't go that far. Like the original, the boy befriends the maintenance man, named Mr. Han. We see the relationships are the same, but the characters are different. Falling for a classmate, this raises the ire of some bullies. Like the original, the maintenance man prepares him for a tournament to confront his bullies. Only this time, it isn't Karate, but Kung Fu. Which again is confusing since the film is called the Karate Kid. We see further parallels such as Meiying's Father disapproving of his daughters friendship with the Kara....errr Kung Fu Kid. We see Mr. Han put Dre through a single exercise involving hanging his jacket. Not as detailed as wax on, wax off, but noticeable. Characters names are also all altered. There is even a scene involving a fly and chopsticks, only this time using a flyswatter, as suggested in the original 1984 film. Much of the magic is lost in this translation. Jackie Chan beating up a few 14 year olds is not as impressive as a diminutive Pat Morita taking on bigger, athletic young men in the prime of their lives. Dre comes off less sympathetic than Daniel. Not to mention the martial arts demonstrated in the tournament are less believable than the original.

Still, the new Karate Kid isn't without merit. Jackie Chan really shows off his acting chops in this film, being more dramatic than comedic this time around. Jaden Smith puts in a fine performance, clearly demonstrating his bright future in this industry. Some of the scenes involving China's landscape is truly breathtaking. 

With both films in the ring, it is obvious that originality will win out. If the 2010 version had more courage to forgo the title and nod to "The Karate Kid", it would have performed much better. Sadly, it's knocked out by round 3.


Winner: The Karate Kid (1984) 





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