Karate Kid Review (2010) (4 of 5)
MILD SPOILER ALERT! MILD SPOILER ALERT! I will be ‘giving away’ some ‘surprises’ that are early on in the film just to describe the setup of the film. If you’ve never seen the original and want to be completely surprised by the movie then please read no further. If you do, that’s your own fault. I’ve warned you.When I read some time ago, that there was going to be a Karate Kid remake starring Jackie Chan I thought it was an idea nothing short of brilliant. I then saw the trailer and it looked (surprisingly) really good (c’mon, usually remakes suck and are unnecessary). Having seen the movie now, I can say that the new version of ‘The Karate Kid’ was not quite as good in some ways, but FAR superior to the original in other ways. I had almost as good of a time watching it as the preteen kids that filled the movie theater. Just like in my viewing of the film ‘Splice’, audience members were constantly audibly voicing their opinions about the happenings onscreen, but this time it was done in a much more positive way.
Her son meets a cute girl/love interest. Then he meets the girl’s wannabe-boyfriend who is the antagonizing sort skilled in the martial arts. After trying to stand up for the girl, the Kid gets his butt kicked by the bully. And the intimidation continues, until the boy’s apartment building maintenance man (who is adept in the martial arts) saves the boy from a real pummeling at the hands of said bully and his gang of thugs.
Shortly after a challenge by the instructor of the loutish antagonists, the maintenance man agrees to train the title character (in unorthodox fashion) for an upcoming martial arts tournament. And so forth. I won’t give any more away as far as plot goes.
There are many differences between the 2 films. Each one has its own strengths. One of the ways the new version is inferior is that the characters in the original had bigger and more memorable personalities.
The central character Dre (Jaden Smith), Cheng (Zhenwai Wang) the bully, and Meiying the love interest (Wenwen Han) are all several years younger than the high school aged kids of the 80s film, so that might be part of it, in their case.
Jackie Chan, of course, is not known for his acting skills. He did a good job in this as Mr. Han, though, but was not nearly as engaging as Pat Morita’s Miyagi. He was much more believable than he normally is as a character. I’ll even go out on a limb and say as far as acting goes, this is Chan’s Hamlet. His character was a bit harder edged than Miyagi, especially early on, such as in the scene where he witnesses Dre being disrespectful to his mother.
Another weaker area of the remake: since this one was set in China, half the dialogue was in Chinese. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but a lot of the best lines in the original (like “Get him a body bag…Yeah!”) probably wouldn’t have worked being shouted in Chinese by the Chinese bullies, so I guess the decision was made to cut a lot of those lines (or maybe they were cut because that wouldn’t be appropriate for Chinese culture). In any case, it made for a slightly more serious film. Whereas the original baddies had their own very distinctive traits, these kids kind of all blended together.
I also thought some of the changes to the dialogue were detrimental to some degree. One bit in particular is where Dre gives his reason for wanting to continue after he has a setback. I don’t know why they changed what Ralph Macchio said in the original. It just made more sense to the character’s motivation. But these are minor quibbles.
Whereas I think the actors were better in the original, this new version was a ‘professionally’ made enterprise. The artistic aesthetics are more befitting of a big screen endeavor. Harald Zwart directed the remake and for the most part told a clear story.
Whereas the look of the original was fairly pedestrian, this one made full use of China’s exotic locales. Some of it reminded me of Chan’s equally impressive ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’. This movie was definitely made for the big screen.
The martial arts… Okay, even Pat Morita’s stunt double with the bad hair prosthetic wouldn’t be much of a match for Jackie Chan. The martial arts (Kung Fu, not karate) performed by everyone in this film, from Chan to Smith to Wang, was outstanding and more importantly, believable.
As far as martial arts training films go, this one is right up there with Gordon Liu’s ‘Shaolin Master Killer’ (that’s what I know it as anyway). Sure, it’s a little kid in training, but Smith was credible as a martial artist. Ralph Machio. Not so much.
The film’s ‘villain’ Wang was a fairly menacing 12 year old. He portrayed a pretty sadistic little brat very well. On a side note, something that I found funny was the original movie’s featuring of a ‘third party’ tournament kid , who obviously had ‘real-life’ martial arts training. This movie had the same thing to add a little credence to the tournament’s level ofcompetition. Just look for the kid with the ‘do’.
Hands down, this is one of Jackie Chan’s Top 3 films,the others being The Forbidden Kingdom and Kung Fu Panda (which I had forgotten about). All are family films. Panda was by far his best, but this one’s probably pretty solid at #2. Not the best Chan action film (that would be the ridiculous ‘Legend of Drunken Master’ for my money), but he does manage one really good pivotal action sequence in the film, along with his training sessions.
Overall, this was surprisingly moving for a remake. I heard a couple of people who have stated that the movie ran a little long. I wouldn’t agree with that. It flew by for me. I also believe in the axiom that ‘Good movies are never too long and no bad movie is ever short enough. 4 of 5 whatevers.