Reflections on The Karate Kid

Just about an hour ago, I finished The Karate Kid (2010).  I don’t know what the critics and audiences thought, although I imagine it wasn’t very positive (this kind of movie–uplifting, parable-ic) isn’t often well-received. Which I think is a shame. When it comes to movies, people are too cynical.

I haven’t exactly done a lot of reflection in that time–I wanted to write this, but had to turn on the computer to do so, and of course got distracted by Twilight sporks on ImpishIdea–and did no research.

What research? Once or twice I questioned how plausible it would be to ‘master’ kung fu to tournament level, which was never really in question. But I didn’t really feel I had to question it, I was fully engrossed in the world–my belief near completely suspended. (That’s a good thing, unlike my love of excessive punctuation.)

That wasn’t all I questioned in the back of my mind: after the first few minutes, I really missed Harry. When the family (you know, I don’t actually know their names?) first found the apartment, Harry comes right up to Dre, introduces himself, and tries to make the other boy’s introduction to this new world as smooth as possible. Although his immediate offer of friendship was awfully convenient, he still encouraged Dre to introduce himself to future crush Mei Ying (spelling?) and stands up for him against the bullies–for such early teen years, he’s positively heroic (in fact, I think in many standard plots, he’d be the protagonist). And I’m pretty sure he’s shown once or twice in the background of the final tournament.

However interesting he may be, Harry’s quickly dropped in favor of romance for twelve-year-old. It’s introduced right away too. While the growing relationship of Dre and Mei Ying was cute–and by growing relationship, I mean primarily crush to friendship–and possibly ending with more friendship than relationship–it did seem a little much. Just why was it necessary?

The first kiss, well, yes it was cute, but it lasted a little long, and was a little smooth to be less than awkward.

As for Harry, the movie was too long to include him really any further, but I don’t see why he couldn’t at least have been filmed in the background of a few more scenes. Some missed potential there.

On the other side of things, the acting was excellent. I found all the deliveries to be very sincere and real, and even though there were a few wedged-in cliches and Words of Wisdom speeches, the actors pulled them off. As I read once somewhere else: cliches become cliches because they’re so useful that they keep getting used. So that I can forgive…anyway, to a certain extent it ought to be expected. He’s building on an ancient tradition, not making it up as he goes along: proverbs are an important part of the philosophy.

I love the setting. I thought they did an excellent job of…well, I have no idea how well they represented modern China, but I at least didn’t feel like I was still in the States. And that in most public scenes they were actually speaking Chinese. And even the main character eventually made an effort toward learning the same–a far cry from the early scene on the plane.  And not every little thing was translated for the audience–I definitely appreciated that.

Speaking of which, I enjoyed the way later scenes echoed the set up of the movie: like the gesture Dre uses with his best friend as he leaves Detroit, and then uses with Mr. Han.

Umm…I’m a big fan of Jackie Chan, so of course I loved Mr. Han (although I think that was a scruffy an image as I’ve ever seen him in). I love that they gave Mr. Han a backstory–although almost not enough of them: his father taught him, but he still works as a mechanic? The fight scene between the gang of bullies and the adult Mr Han felt a little squicky and awkward, but Dre does claim he let them fight themselves rather than directly causing their injuries…I did see that, but it did feel a little violent.  Still the final scene [SPOILER] where the ‘dragon kids’ (can’t remember the name of their school) acknowledge Dre’s skill, and the bow to Mr. Han–beautiful!

I was so close to applauding during that entire scene–or crying!

The pacing in the movie was incredible. I never do not question anything it seems, but even when I tripped over details, the action of The Karate Kid carried me along, and the ratcheting of the tension level in the last half hour practically had me gripping my chair. (Which I didn’t, but only because I was fiercely crossing my arms and hugging myself instead.)

For a not-really-a-remake movie, I thought it was really sweet and actually powerful. And even though it probably tripped over the line into sentimentality, it never stayed there long.

*Geez, this post is still super long.*

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on The Karate Kid

  1. I think I liked this more than the original. Of course I could be biased because I’m black, but I don’t think so. Nice review. And I felt the same way about Harry. You know Jaden Smith did all his stunts? Talk about ass kicking for 12 year old.

    • I’d argue that it’s just a better movie, as the characters actually were characters even more than archetypes (although there was some of that, because of the nature of the movie). And I didn’t know he was doing his own stunts, but I’m not surprised, I’ve always been impressed by (what little) I hear of the Smiths.

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