No such thing as bad student. Only bad teacher.
This week’s Comparitive Cinema has been a challenging one. Much like the protagonists in these movies though I will not run from it.
The movies focus on a young boy who is relocated out of necessity and faces not only adjustment to a new environment but also the physical bullying of a group of boys at his school. He fortuitously ends up being trained by a martial arts master and learns more than simple self defense as he prepares to face his tormentors in a decisive competition.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Daniel Larusso is uprooted from his New Jersey home and moved to California. As an outsider at his new school, he makes an effort to fit in and things seem to be going well when he meets Ali Mills, a girl who seems to be returning his interest. Unfortunately, Ali’s ex-boyfriend is the leader of the school bullies and Daniel soon finds himself in their sights.
His troubles are compounded when he tries to fight back, only to learn that the bullies are students at the local karate school and are taught that mercy is for the weak by their malevolent master. Things go from bad to worse until one night he is saved from another beating at the hands of the bullies by Mr Miyagi, the maintenance man from his apartment block. Mr Miyagi accompanies Daniel to the karate dojo in an effort to stop the harassment and wind up arranging to face the bullies in the local karate tournament.
Through Mr Miyagi’s unorthodox but effective training style, Daniel learns that much like life, karate is not based solely on strength and power. As he practices techniques in preparation for the tournament, Daniel also finds himself learning more about life than he expected.
To me, The Karate Kid remains one of the great underdog/coming of age movies of the 80s; one that was arguably made classic by Pat Morita‘s performance as Mr Miyagi. There’s a lot to enjoy about this movie – the chemistry between the actors is great, the dialogue and action scenes have been very well done. Character development is solid and even the bad guys are memorable. While it may not be one of the best movies ever made, it certainly does an excellent job in providing an entertaining story about a guy who admits his fear and still stands up against the challenges presented to him. I don’t know anyone who can’t relate to that.
The Karate Kid (2010)
Um. Okay Christian, be objective.
I find it hard to say that the 2010 movie is actually a remake. The basics are there, sure – young boy, torn from his home, moves to a new place. Meets a nice girl, gets bullied and tries to stand up for himself. Rescued by a Kung Fu master (yeah, Kung Fu – let’s not get into the discussion about the movie title…) and finds himself training for a martial arts tournament. All the while he learns that like life, kung fu is a multi-faceted being that must be embraced rather than controlled. However, so much more has been changed that to me it seems rude to try to call it a remake of the original.
To be more specific: The protagonist is a boy named Dre who is forced to move to China when his mother accepts a job offer. Naturally, it’s a much more drastic change than that of the 1984 version and young Dre finds himself running up against the local Kung Fu students due to his interest in a girl whose family is close to the family of the main antagonist. Again, Dre soon finds himself outnumbered in a fight and is rescued by Mr Han (Jackie Chan), who begins teaching him Kung Fu in preparation for a face off against the bullies at the local tournament.
Even if we leave my personal opinions about what encompasses a remake out of the equation; the movie itself didn’t appeal to me at all. I found Jaden Smith unconvincing, even frustrating at times during the movie and initially Mr Han seemed like a bit of a weirdo – and not in a good way. I think that this movie was let down primarily by having Dre be such a young boy (aged 12) and it just left me shouting “for crying out loud, just have words with the other kid’s parents! There’s no need to take it to the tournament!”
Aside from that, the other actors did quite well. The locations were very interesting and the story marched along well enough. The only thing this modern Karate Kid made me feel was reasonably bored, mildly annoyed and interested in a trip to China. But I’ve always wanted to go to China anyway.
If you’re anything like me, I suggest that you give the 2010 version of The Karate Kid a miss. If you’re nothing like me, I suggest that you give the 2010 version of The Karate Kid a miss. You can’t go past the original in this instance – “Jacket on, jacket off” will never overpower “Wax on, wax off.” Miyagi and Larusso defeat Han and Dre. Tournament over.
Are there any movies you’d like to see me compare and contrast?
Add your suggestions in the comments!