Saturday, October 2, 2010

Karate Kid Review

Well Karate Kid FINALLY rolled into town and in preparation for seeing the new version I got a copy of the original to refresh my memory (aaah nostalgia).

Just right off I have to say that on the whole the new version held up well against the old which is more than I can say for most remakes. And this is high praise considering I am one of the many who have a fond place in my heart for the original. Having watched both within the same week I must say it is very interesting seeing them side-by-side from the perspective of seeing how you can make two completely different and yet similar movies from the same script.

Having said that I think I must say that I don't think this new version will have the same iconic status in the minds of an entire generation as the original does. Although it seems 'your focus needs more focus' has gained a certain popularity I am not yet convinced that the movie has had the same impact as the original. Time will of course tell.

What I found particularly interesting and this may well be why the movie fails to have the same impact as the original is that the audience in the movie were predominantly boys under the age of 12 while the original appealed not only to an older audience but to both sexes as well. Guys aahed over the Karate and the girls oohed over Ralph Macchio.

I also think that with the younger audience the emotional impact of the scene with Mr Han and the loss of his family is largely lost on them. I noticed (at least in the audience last night) a lot of restlessness in the theater (which was fairly full) during that scene while the corresponding scene with Mr Miyagi and Daniel had greater emotional impact coming where it did in the film and because Daniel, as an older character, was better able to connect emotionally with Mr Miyagi which enabled his audience (who were largely the same age) to connect with the scene.

One thing that jarred with me in this movie was the Wushu instructor and the whole 'show no mercy' attitude. In the original John Kreese was a Green Beret type soldier whose 'strike first, strike hard, no mercy' attitude was completely understandable in the military context. However in the new version there was no rhyme or reason as to why the Kungfu instructor, Master Li had the philosophy he did which is such at odds with true spirit of kungfu.

The other thing that I still can't quite comprehend is the whole 'Karate Kid' thing with the title. Explanations with the franchise, restrictions on the use of 'Kungfu' in the title of the movie (Thanks to Dreamworks) and Harald Zwart's explanation that it was because Dre tried to learn karate and so the kids called him 'Karate Kid' well unless I blinked when that happened I don't recall that happening in the movie at all. As a result the title STILL doesn't make any sense in the context of the movie.

The few references throughout the movie to the original were well placed and you don't need to be that familiar with the original to pick up on them. Even 'wax on, wax off' made an appearance. Although I am not sure how many will pick up on the first one which comes in the opening scenes of the movie. In the original Daniel-san asks Miyagi 'Where do these cars come from' and Miyagi replies 'Detroit'.

The ONE thing I found off-putting and annoying was the camera work in places through the movie where there was a lot of camera movement particularly during the chase scene. For anyone who even marginally has a problem with motion sickness - take a paper bag with you or close your eyes. The blurred motion of the camera is quite nauseating.

On the whole the movie stands well on its own and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Jackie's performance was subtle, understated and emotive. I do think that he carried the movie though.

And it's going to be interesting to see where Jaden goes from here.

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