What is in a Name? Some say it’s everything, while some say it doesn’t matter. As for this movie, I’d rather go with the latter. The new Karate Kid doesn’t even learn Karate – he learns Kung Fu. The discussion will be why call it “The Karate Kid” if he is learning Kung Fu? “Kung Fu Kid” would have sounded like a rip-off not a remake and this is a remake and they are not hiding the fact. Another change viewers will see from its original from the 80’s is that story shifts base from the US to China; stating World is indeed a small place now. This movie builds on the strengths of the original while downplaying its weaknesses, thus making it a successful remake (my say).
This film takes what was done in the original film and has well up-graded. A threat from the kid who bullies, a stronger mother-son bonding with more screen time for them, A romance/love interest that is more playful and innocent, with the friendship aspect ultimately forming the base, the student-teacher is very dynamic and finally, the action is much improved upon.
The storyline is the one where the underdog must fight to prove himself, and in the meantime everyone learns a lesson about life. The film belongs to Jaden Smith (Dre), the son of Will Smith, who dominates about every scene of the film (I loved his performance with his father in Pursuit of Happiness). His screen presence is simply astounding for such a young person. Jackie Chan’s portrayal (Han, as a Maintenance Man) is rather splendid as Dre’s teacher. All of the above is due to excellent performances across the board. Jaden Smith shows to be a more than capable actor in the making and with no doubt observation of Chan, who we get to see in a dramatic role rather than action/comedy role. The scenes of life in China really help to ground this film in the philosophical realm, even more so than the original. There is a richness and texture to everything that takes place against the backdrop of China. Seeing the story takes place in this country, there’s an authentic feel to the film, done with a marvelous cinematography.
Smith and Chan have a fun chemistry that helps make the film enjoyable. Chan is good in the role of Han, he is quite as lovable and impressive as Mr. Miyagi. He gives a really emotional and powerful performance. The chemistry between these two actors could not have been better. It is during a moment suggestive of the original film’s scene where Daniel finds out about Mr. Miyagi’s family. Here too, we have a similar scene, but it is what happens after that establishes their relationship and bonds them with audiences too.
I think it is a film where adults and kids can go and enjoy a film together and both come out with the same emotions and lessons learned. That would be a reflection of the film itself as it shows Mr Han learning from his student, something that gives the film a welcome twist when compared to the original.
Now to talk about the fight scenes; they seemed slightly brutal and shocking considering the fact that most of the fighting is done by kids. However, this just adds to the surprisingly heavy quality of the film. One other standout moment is the climax where they do a great job of ending the movie on a pitch perfect note. You literally do want to stand up and cheer.
Even the numerous scuffles, from street fights, chases and the final tournament fight, are grittier and more intense. The one key area where this film stands out the original is the training sessions. Whether being taught self discipline, climbing some very steep stairs on a mountain or practicing at the famed Great Wall, the film benefits from a more convincing assortment of scenes that showcase not just Jaden’s athleticism but also the adequate chemistry that he shares with his master, Chan.
Movie is well paced and audience shall be so engrossed that they will hardly notice it at all about duration of more than 2 hours. The background score is fantastic along with the various tracks. (I’ve decided to get my hands on the movie’s OST).
Overall, THE KARATE KID is a go to movie. The performances are fantastic. Sure, the story is predictable but it’s well made and there’s a lot of spirit to it. The film was simply fun to watch with some touching moments and the Kung Fu was outstanding. The film is a winner!