Lovers and Fighters: The Karate Kid (1984, John G. Avildsen)
Saturday, February 22 & Sunday, February 23; Brunch | Buy Tickets
1. I never realized that John Avildsen, the director of The Karate Kid, also directed the first Rocky movie — I always assumed that was Stallone himself for some reason. Looking at it now, though, it couldn’t be more obvious: the working class underdog; the power-pop training montages; the sweet, sexless romantic entanglements; the catch-phrase-y dialogue. All of this stuff rather corny, even then, but it’s corny in a way that’s kind of comforting and emotionally uplifting. Dude has mad uplift abilities. He can stir the hell out of your emotions.
2. Even though The Karate Kid is a rather long, deliberately paced movie (over two hours), its ending feels hurried. Daniel does his epic crane kick thing, everyone rushes the ring; the bad guy is all “I’m sorry, I love you;” Daniel is all “YEAH!” and Mr. Miyagi is all “Yeah.” And then it ends. It goes from climax to credits in less than a minute. Then again, what else is there to tell? He wins. Go home.
3. The Karate Kid has its fair share of sequels. Karate Kid Part II is basically the same movie, but, hey, now in Japan; and Ralph Macchio was damn near 30 in Part III. Then there are the weird ones: The Next Karate Kid, where Hillary Swank jumps on the hood of Mr. Miyagi’s car (that’s all I remember from that movie); and the remake with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, which was… fine. I guess. I kind of slept through that one.
4. This is from the first sequel, but I think my favorite of the Karate Kid‘s many iconic moments is when Mr. Miyagi plays those cool hand drums at the end of Part II. I could watch it for hours — so INSPIRING. BattadaBattadaBattadaBattada.
4. There was also a Karate Kid cartoon show. In it, Miyagi and Daniel travel the globe looking for some kind of magical shrine, and then they beat up some bad guys, lose track of the shrine and travel somewhere else. In the next episode they go through the Shrine Finding/Bad Guy Beating/Shrine Losing process again, and then again in the next episode, and in the next episode, and… so on.
Watch it only if you feel inclined to hate yourself for 20 minutes or so.
5. Now, if you really want to punish yourself, there’s the legendarily difficult The Karate Kid Nintendo game, where you guide Daniel through the events of the first two films. You can beat up Cobra Kai goons in the tournament; run around Okinawa dodging birds and flying debris; snatch flies with chopsticks; break boards — all that stuff.
On paper, it sounds kind of fun, but the thing that keeps the Karate Kid from living up to its potential is that the game, as a whole, is a poorly designed, frustrating, horrible piece of garbage. It will make you want to break your television and then set it on fire. If you think that sounds like hyperbole, then obviously you’ve never tried to beat a bad video game before — it is the most frustrating activity known to God.
8. Aside from the Zabka factor, The Karate Kid also features a great hate-filled goon overlord in the form of the head of the Cobra Kai dojo, a deranged Vietnam vet who just… hates… everything. I love a good deranged Vietnam veteran, they’re like tightly wound balls of emotional baggage that could explode at any moment. They were in the shit, man, and they show NO MERCY.
9. Here’s some solid VHS cover art for you. I like that it sneaks the Halloween brawl in there, there’s something about those matching skeleton costumes…
10. I often wonder how much of an effect The Karate Kid has had on the national economy of Karate dojos. I know that it inspired me to take karate classes as a kid. I got up to yellow belt; and then I realized that I would rather spend my Saturday mornings watching cartoons, and…. here I am.