My take on The Karate Kid (2010)
I didn’t really expect to see The Karate Kid this weekend.
My Significant Other (SO) had expressed a desire to see The A-Team remake…and that’s really out of left field. So, I figured we’d see that.
However, my offspring (home from college for part of the summer) said that the Facebook statuses and such on The Karate Kid had been good, so we went to see that instead.
That can clearly make opening weekends…what I call “word of mouse”. 😉
I’m a big “no spoilers” guy, so I’m going to talk about the movie generally first, then move into more detail. I’ll warn you first. 🙂
Do I think fans of the first version will like it? Yes. It’s kind of an alternate world version, following the first one pretty closely. Do you have to know the first one to like it? Nope…it’s all pretty clear.
The movie rests on Jaden Smith’s small but oddly muscular shoulders. :) Unlike a lot of kid actors, he really acts. How can you tell? He’s believable when he isn’t saying anything. A lot of kids can deliver clever lines well, but when you see them reacting to other people, it’s like the bell between the rounds…they are just sort of recovering from the effort.
Jaden (son of Will and Jada Pinkett) is the real deal…this is quite different from The Pursuit of Happyness (sic), and its an organic performance.
Jackie Chan turns in a surprisingly moving performance. We tend to think of him as a comedian, and although he’s hampered a bit by the direction and/or script (see below), he’s believably a beaten, sad man.
I have to say, though, Taraji P. Hansen? In terms of subtlety, her performance is just this side of Grover on Sesame Street. Her character would fit right into Pee-Wee’s Playhouse…I don’t mind that sort of thing, in the appropriate circumstances. It says something when a child has a much more mature performance than an adult has in the same movie. 😉
That’s partly the responsibility of the director. I’m guessing Harald Zwart wasn’t a strong actors’ director. The movie seems more concerned with the culture and the scenery and the movement than with the character interaction. I would guess we can largely credit Smith and Chan with finding the same level, since not everybody was in the same emotional stratum.
First, let’s get this out of the way: it seems bizarre to call it The Karate Kid when it’s about kung fu, not karate. I understand that The Karate Kid is the brand, but would you call a remake Dracula and then have it be about a werewolf? That seems unfair. It also seems culturally insensitive somehow…that all Asian martial arts are the same. It would probably have been worse to have Jackie Chan play someone from Okinawa (as Mr. Miyagi was in the original), but still.
Second, I think one of the biggest mistakes was having one of the first things we see Jackie Chan do be a “sly nod” to the original’s “catch a fly with chopsticks” scene. They simply went for a sight gag…so while we are supposed to take Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han seriously in the rest of the movie, and largely do, they introduce us with a sight gag. That tone-setting is a problem with the scene. The director does have Chan kill the fly facing away from the camera, but it’s still a mistake for a cheap laugh.
Another problem I had with the movie was the age of the characters and how it is treated. In the original movie, they are high-schoolers. In this one, Dre (The Karate Kid) is twelve. It seemed inappropriate (and even a bit creepy) to have a prolonged kiss between twelve-year olds. Of course I know that (and a lot more) happens, but I didn’t need to see it…they could have cut away. It’s also weird to see Jackie Chan beat up on kids. Oh, clearly, some are older…teenagers, at any rate. But an adult (especially a martial arts trained one) fighting kids and causing them pain and apparent injury just seems wrong.
Overall, though, I did enjoy the movie, and thought they did some clever variants on the original. We get to see some nice shots of China, and there seemed to be a real desire to be culturally appropriate.
Oh, one other odd thing. One real catchphrase from the original was “Sweep the leg.” That’s the cheating instruction given to one contestant in the tournament. That becomes “break his leg” in this one. I assume that’s because, well, in a kung fu tournament, they’d been sweeping legs all throughout it. This is certainly blunt, though.
Speaking of kung fu, what it do was make me want to go home and watch Enter the Dragon. That’s not cinematic Oscar bait, but Bruce Lee is amazing in it. 🙂
Will you be sorry you went? Probably not. Will you think it is the best movie ever? Probably not. 🙂
I’d give it a seven or eight out of ten (which is pretty good). I suspect as I think about it more, I’ll like it less.
But I do want to see more Jaden Smith in other movies.
If you want to see what other people think, I recommend
For credits and such, see
Feel free to leave me a comment with your opinion…
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.