Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith and Taraji P. Henson
Writers: Christopher Murphey (screenplay), Robert Mark Kamen (story)
Director: Harald Zwart
Price: £24.99 (Amazon price: £15.93)
Released: November 15th 2010
It's competition time on the blog, as it's your chance to win the remake of The Karate Kid starring Jackie Chan on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Review and competition details after the trailer.
12‑year‑old Dre Parker (Smith) could have been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Henson) latest career move has landed them in Beijing, China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying ‑ the feeling is mutual ‑ but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible.
Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. Without any friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn until he meets maintenance man Mr. Han (Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries but maturity and calm, Dre realises that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
Is it any good?
So obviously The Karate Kid is an 80s classic, much of the dialogue of which having now entered into pop culture ("Wipe on, wipe out", "Sweep the leg!" et al). It saw the "karate kid" Daniel and his mum moving town, Daniel get picked on by school bullies, whose karate is better than his thanks to their teaching at the local Cobra Kai karate school. It's only through the intervention of the wise old janitor, Mr Miyagi, and his superior Okinawan karate that Daniel is saved from a thorough beating. Miyagi agrees to teach Daniel karate, and after an extended training period, a lot of which involves cleaning cars, it all leads to a showdown at the karate tournament against the bullies.
Now, if you cross out Daniel and put Dre, change the whole location to China and have "Mr Han" (Jackie Chan) teach Dre kung fu instead of karate, you basically have the remake. I mean almost literally, scene-for-scene it's identical. Okay, the kung fu training naturally has to be different from karate, instead of learning "wipe on, wipe off", Dre learns "hang up the jacket, put on the jacket", and Mr Han's tragic loss of his wife and child couldn't be because of nuclear bombs being dropped on Japan at the end of World War II but they're the only real major differences.
I did say that the original movie was an 80s classic. Now, that doesn't actually make it a brilliant film, because it's actually quite cheesy, and the karate is largely quite bad (Mr Miyagi's especially, since the actor couldn't actually do karate). But it tapped into a certain universal quality: the underdog kid beating up the bullies and also being a better person than them.
Now this new The Karate Kid is in a lot of ways a better movie. It's better shot - it's frequently a great big tourist board advert for China, showing off the landscape, the history, the culture and the people, and showing that not everyone's a communist, American-hating drone, busily destroying the environment. The acting's better - even Jackie Chan, who has some quite moving moments at times. The plotting's better, too.
The martial arts are obviously a whole lot better, too - how could they not be, with Jackie Chan on board (although obviously what he does and kung fu are not always the same thing) and almost the whole thing being shot in China? They're not up to the usual Asian martial arts movie standards - an obvious homage to the chase scene in Ong Bak shows off that particular deficit - Jackie Chan is now old enough to be slowing down a little and he only really gets one fight anyway, and there's some obvious wire work at vital points of the movie that's a little disappointing. But they're very good, well choreographed and interesting scenes on the whole, and Jaden Smith is actually a pretty good martial artist.
What it feels like, though, is that both the troughs and the peaks have been smoothed off. While it never goes to the cheesy lows of the original until the very last shot, it never really taps into its highs either. That universal appeal has gone, because it's now a story about a kid who goes to China and gets picked on by the locals. That's a different, perfectly valid story, but it's not as universal. Dre is too young to really be "coming of age" and striking out into the world. The motivation for the new "Cobra Kai" sensei isn't at all clear - why is he so committed to people not showing any mercy? Martin Kove's character in the original was at least a recognisable type. And while both movies are about learning respect and the discipline of the martial arts, there's no real sense that Dre, unlike Daniel, has really learnt anything, beyond how to kick arse.
Oh, and why's it called The Karate Kid? The ostensible reason is that Dre knows "a little karate". There's no evidence of that at all, beyond his doing some very bad moves in front of a TV programme he manages to catch while in China. No one calls him it. If the movie should be called anything it's The Kung Fu Kid.
So while, on the whole, this isn't a bad movie, it's not a great movie. Nice to see Jackie Chan in (slight) action, as well as the tour of China and some of the various styles of kung fu. But it doesn't quite hit the mark.
Blu-Ray versus DVD
Now, I don't have a Blu-Ray player so I can't tell you if all the marvellous extras on the Blu-Ray version are any good. I can tell you that the DVD version is a bit limp, with no extras worth mentioning, beyond a trailer for the original The Karate Kid. No audio commentary, no deleted scenes - not even the alternative ending you get on the Blu-Ray version or even a trailer for the movie itself.
Indeed, the whole thing feels more like an advert for Blu-Ray. Look, everyone: here's the lovely Blu-Ray disc!
Ooh! Aah! Isn't it pretty? Now here's the DVD version:
Ugh! Aargh! You don't want to have some nasty DVD - you want a Blu-Ray player, don't you?
Now, okay, it's unlikely you're going to buying the double pack unless you already have a Blu-Ray player (okay, maybe you're future proofing for the day you have one). But, why bother including a sub-standard DVD at all then? In case you're going round to a pal's house? What's the thinking here? To be fair, the standalone DVD is the same, so they're basically just bundling that release in with the Blu-Ray release. But why's the DVD release so underpacked when the Blu-Ray release demonstrates that there were some actual extras that could be included?
Languages: English, English (audio descriptive), French, Hindi
Subtitles: English (hard of hearing), English, Arabic, Dutch, French, Hindi
Extras: Three trailers, one from the original The Karate Kid
On Location: The Karate Kid Interactive Map of China
Play All Hosted by Jackie Chan
Production Diaries Hosted by Jackie Chan
Chinese Lessons - Learn Chinese!
Music Video: Justin Bieber Featuring Jaden Smith "Never Say Never"
Just for Kicks: The Making of The Karate Kid
PS3 Wallpaper Theme
Yes, you, gentle reader, now have the chance to win The Karate Kid on DVD and Blu-Ray. All you have to do to enter the competition is leave a comment below before 11.59pm GMT on November 28th (you can leave a comment below anyway, but if you don't want to enter the competition, let me know!) and using the mighty power of the Internet random number generator, I'll pick a winner. Bear in you actually have to live in the UK for this. Sorry overseas readers!
- November 29, 2010: Results of The Karate Kid competition
The winner of The Karate Kid on DVD and Blu-Ray is…