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Thread: THE KARATE KID (Harold Zwart 2010)

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    THE KARATE KID (Harold Zwart 2010)

    Harold Zwart (2010)
    The Karate Kid





    "Karate Kid" moves to Beijing

    Twenty-six years ago The Karate Kid was a very popular movie about an underdog American kid bruised by bullies who is coached to a martial arts victory over his enemies by a humble Asian man. It starred Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio, and Elizabeth Shue. This new version is just as manipulative and corny and just as irresistible. This new Karate Kid is no cinematic masterpiece (neither was the original) but it's still emotionally touching and pushes all the right buttons. The new "kid" is the appealing Jaden Smith, son of the superstar Will Smith and his powerhouse wife Jada Pinkett Smith (who produced). His initially reluctant coach/mentor/friend is martial arts superstar Jackie Chan, and his mom is the excellent Taraji P. Henson.

    The plot stays very close to the original. There's one significant change: instead of moving from Newark to the San Fernando Valley like Daniel (Macchio) and his mom, Dre (Smith) and his mom go all the way to Beijing. His first beating takes place when he's still severely jet-lagged. The coach/mentor/friend, Mr. Han, is of course Chinese instead of Japanese-American, and the martial art is switched from Karate to Kung Fu. Yes, "Karate" is a a misnomer this time, but not really, when you see how closely the two movies correspond. This is really a Chinese-American co-production. Could it be the filmmakers are hoping to broach the Asian market? Will the Chinese audience enjoy a movie where a pint-sized African-American defeats a series of Chinese bad boys? Maybe.

    Inevitably, the new setting becomes a major element. It seems like the school Dre goes to is one where the teaching is in English. Nonetheless when the father of his cute violinist girlfriend Meiying (Wenwen Han) cuts him off from her due to a transgression, he makes a speech of apology in what sounds like very creditable Chinese. Other cultural elements are touristic, but vivid: Dre visits the Forbidden City with his school and Mr. Han, his guru, takes him to a mountain temple and the Great Wall. We're also treated to a field full of folk in red suits doing Kung Fu-style (or something) moves, as well as an authentic-looking Kung Fu school where the fascistic teacher coaches his charges to show no mercy and kick their opponents when they're down. This is not a new element; hardly any of the plot points are. It's just a bit more vivid when staged in China.

    What's not so vivid, perhaps, is the sense of the boy's teacher as an enigmatic, recessive guru who imparts mysterious lessons in mysterious ways. Some have accused the new film's makers of slipping in the decisive "crane kick" of the original at the last minute. Actually it grows out of a fun, and visually spectacular, sequence in which a woman hypnotizes a cobra through imparting inner peace to it. Mr. Han uses a few more gadgets for his lessons than Mr. Miyagi did, but his initial hazing is simplified from lots of cleaning and waxing down to nothing but hanging up and taking down a jacket. The new movie probably cost heaps more, and it shows in spectacular locations and nifty aerial shots. It isn't quite as great with the "guru" stuff as the original. But in both movies you can see the lessons coming a mile away.

    Here you won't get the kind of detailed cultural information you'll encounter in a movie like Iron and Silk, a feature about, and starring, Mark Salzman, a real-life student of Kung Fu and Chinese (and later gifted novelist) who lived in China and honed his knowledge of both martial arts and Chinese to a fine point.

    While Pat Morita was every bit the enigmatic Japanese sensei, dry-humored, calm, recessive, forcing his pupil to dope out his lessons for himself, Jackie Chan is better at seeming dogged and sad and beaten down, as the character in both movies is meant to be: in both, the coach has suffered, having lost his wife and child under tragic circumstances. In a sort of weird twist, it's the teacher not the pupil who does the car waxing this time, and we sort of find out why.

    What about Jaden Smith? To begin with, he is very small, short and skinny, and due to his natural personality, in a sense this time he is the recessive one. This is both a plus and a minus. Jaden seems very real and authentic. He also seems more a natural athlete than Ralph Macchio did. On the other hand, he sometimes fails to get his emotional points across very well. And though the movie shows him in film collages going through a demanding series of training routines and strengthening exercises (his leg extension into the air is impressive), it's hard to see his beating bigger guys in a tournament as remotely possible, especially when Kung Fu, as shown, seems to rely more on physical strength than Karate. Ultimately, though, none of this matters because Zwart and company have made a new film for a new generation, and for little kids who aren't yet sick of underdog sports victory movies and their utterly predictable finales, it's all good.

    The Karate Kid opened wide in the US June 11, 2010 and it is a box office winner, dwarfing the take of the other big opener of the same weekend (also an Eighties remake), The A-Team (Joe Carnahan) and causing an overall rise of box office business of ten percent over last year, according to a Box Office Mojo report, after a "soft" summer previously.

    Also published on Cinescene.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-06-2014 at 12:40 AM.

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    First of all, I am shocked you took the time to see this! No film festivals this weekend? Second, this is a remake and nothing original here. What would be new, he'd lose? Finally, Chris, the reason I haven't reviewed anything commercial lately is because we've been inundated with so much crap at the box office this year, it isn't funny. The only things worth seeing are the stuff you've been reporting from film festivals in Washington, New York and elswhere. That stuff sounds like the kind of thing I'd love to see and can't... because in the south in a medium sized city that has only one... ONE... independent theater/art house, pickings are slim. I mean, "The Karate Kid." Really, Chris? What did you hope to find? An Oscar-winning performance from Jackie Chan? That the Smith kid would be a startling new discovery? Or that the plot, rehashed by Columbia/Sony to milk out some more profit would somehow be different? Surprisingly, TKK whooped the competition with more than twice the BO. So much for rehashing old TV shows.
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    Just be glad I didn't post reviews of THE A-TEAM, KITES, or RAJNEETI.

    Jackie Chann didn't give an Oscar performance but his predecessor got an Oscar nomination.

    I don't watch everything but I am willing to watch almost anything. If you look at the list of films I've seen and reviewed this year so far, the vast majority are small indie or festival films. But I always go to mainstream ones too. I went to see the Robert Pattinson film when I was in Paris. I'm not in Paris now and not in New York. I'm in northern California. I can see CITY ISLAND (not new) and HOLY ROLLERS (just opened here) in Berkeley and I soon will. I also just saw THE A-TEAM and the new Bollywood crossover film, KITES. I saw ONDINE and I AM LOVE last week at a preview and a press screening.

    If you have nothing good to see, maybe you should cultivate a taste for trash. It can be fun. And you'll get out of the house. After seeing THE A-TEAM and KITES, and before that the rather incomprehensible Bollywood political extravaganza RAJNEETI, I was looking forward to THE KARATE KID, and I was not disappointed. It seemed a little long, but then I realized that the original KARATE KID was an hour and six minutes. The new KARATE KID really is quite different because it was shot in China.

    Rachel Saitz in the NY Times provides a pretty good description of RAJNEETI. If I ever write about it I might have to refer to her. This anyway:

    Mr. Jha has said he based the dynastic family at the film’s heart on characters from the epic “Mahabharata,” and there are also parallels to the Gandhi clan (generation Sonia). But Mr. Jha’s real touchstone seems to be “The Godfather.”
    Also true are two other comments she makes:
    1.
    “Raajneeti,” with its large cast of characters and wealth of subplots, is often a mess, but an interesting one.
    2.
    Perhaps Mr. Jha’s point is that the system absorbs and corrupts outsiders as easily as it mouths banalities about poverty. Except the film — full of romance, intrigue and fraternal strife — is too diffuse to score political points. Or to have much impact.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-13-2010 at 11:58 PM.

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    I thought Pat Morita was a great actor. He played many comic roles, but I enjoyed his performance as Mr. Miyagi. Also, John Avildsen was a good director and brought out strong performances from the two mains, who were basically second rate television actors. The unique plot and its timely release after the Vietnam War seemed a friendly alternative to movies that emphasized violence. While the film's villain was terribly stereotyped, the fact Miyagi won a Medal of Honor and had his parents in an internment camp seemed the film's ultimate irony. His pathos gave the film its balance and universal appeal. Those are big shoes to fill. While I like Jackie Chan, I do not like the idea Sony simply took the same candy bar and put a different wrapper on it.
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    Remakes and sequels are the name of the summer game. Probably this is not as good as the original KARATE KID, but that was no masterpiece, simply a pleasing collection of clichés. Pat Morita's character is appealing; his performance, and the movie's popularity, led to his Oscar nomination. But there is something a little bit condescending in his characterization in the movie. I don't understand what you're saying about Pat Morita. Are you saying that he's a great actor and then that he is a second rate one? Anyway, there is none of the feeling here that I have when Hollywood chooses to remake a great classic.

    China is a bit more than a candy wrapper.

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    I wanted to add that though you say John Avildsen was a good director, just before KARATE KID he had come out with a horrible dog of a movie, A NIGHT IN HEAVEN.

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    This film angers me for several reasons.

    I will never pay to see Will Smith's sperm "act". I've seen too many of his crappy movies to want to see his offspring "take a stab". It's so revolting to me when I think of how many struggling actors there are and this silver-spoon fed kid is handed big movies. Talk about grooming!
    Will Smith can barely act himself, and now we have to watch the "legendary? ha ha HA!" rise of his priviledged son Jayden?
    Seriously, that shit offends me. All "the karate kid" is is an attempt to break Will Smith's semen into the big time, the same place his Daddy resides.
    I would've been more jazzed to see a big-screen version of "The Facts of Life" with Jayden Smith as Tootie. Yes, that would be a much better "acting" experience for him and the audience, but no, we gotta be subjected to the most hackneyed remake ever, from a barely good original movie to begin with! And making the kid black?!?!?!? Holy f**!!! Talk about balls of steel! How do you think you can pass that off?
    You think audiences will just "accept it" because it's Will Smith's sperm? My God, fuck off with that shit!

    The Karate Kid is the worst film of the new decade. It takes arrogance and ignorance to amazing heights.
    Cornrows?!
    "Sup"???
    And FYI, it's about a black kid training in KUNG FU, NOT karate- in China?!?!?
    BWahhahahhahahha!!!!!!!!
    My God Jackie Chan, how much money did they pay you to star in this overdone, stale embarassment of a turkey??
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    As I should have said earlier, there always people who get really angry when there's a remake of a "beloved" earlier film. However, I don't know what you were on when you wrote this, but it's just a rant. People love Will Smith and so do I, but that's beside the point. This is not Will Smith's "sperm" acting; it's a real boy. It's best not to review movies that you have not seen. Getting "angry" and ranting about a movie you have only looked at posters or trailers of is about as good as the Mormons or Catholics or right wingers who go out and picket theaters showing a new movie they'll never watch. And the objection to making the new Karate Kid black is borderline racist, coming from you, a white guy, anyway. Such comments seem out of place here.

    On the other hand the point that Jaden Smith got to star in the movie because his famous father produced it is valid. Another thing that makes reviewers mad, apparently, is the new setting, and some of then rail against the movie as being virtually a production of the Chinese tourist office. I don't think that holds up, and it also sounds borderline racist-- on their part.

    For a negative review of the new KARATE KID from a writer who earns his cred by being certifiably black (and from Detroit no less) I would go to Armond White, whose review is just as disapproving as yours is. White's title:

    "No Rich Kid Left Behind
    The Karate Kid teaches macho martial arts triumphs over scholarship"


    Some of his comments:

    Twelve-year-old Jaden Smith already won the lottery when his parents Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith produced his vanity project, The Karate Kid (aka Jaden’s College Fund). .
    . JJackie Chan, giving the film’s only solid performance. . .Will Smith and his factotum director Harald Zwart (where does Smith find these third-rate European hacks?) seem uninvested in exploring/teaching Chinese culture other than participating in a multinational co-production.
    White contrasts the new KARATE KID with THE LOTTERY, a movie about how tough it is for ghetto youths to get into a good school. He points out that Will Smith's son is unqualified to play a disadvantaged kid.
    Little Jaden cannot project the will to survive as the histrionic Ralph Macchio did. Smith’s precocious, unformed cuteness recalls how Shirley Temple verged on being insufferable. . . Avildsen’s The Karate Kid wasn’t great, but it’s a teachable example of pop discourse; it worked in principle. This two-and-a-half hour remake—a Smith family home movie—doesn’t work at all.
    Unfortuately White's comparison of KARATE KID with Madeleine Sackler's THE LOTTERY is off the wall and makes his review somewhat incoherent, though it scores some valid points, and he has cred doing so as a black man from Detroit who didn't have an easy time of it coming up.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-14-2010 at 09:41 AM.

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    I stand behind my rant.
    I would say it to Will Smith's face.
    He likes rubbing this abysmal crap in our faces and I'm really tired of it.
    People love him, he's a Superstar. Agreed. But he's also incredibly arrogant.
    Am I the only one who can see this?
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Yes, but Chris I believe you failed to read Johann's remarks about "stereotypes" as racist. What he was trying to say is that Smith made a caricature of a "black" person. In that regard, what he said is true. And why did you assume I meant that Pat Morita was a great actor. I said his performance in this film was good, perhaps bordering on greatness. However, most of his work was in television where he performed minor characters (such as he did on "Happy Days"). When I used the allegory with candy wrapper, I did not imply in any way, shape, or form that I regard China in some subtex. On the contrary, my words implied that Columbia simply took a previous product and added a different backdrop, window dressing, what ever phrase you would call it, but that is what they did. This casts no aspersions on China, but on an executive decision at Columbia. Why are you being so defensive? You didn't really like the film, did you?
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    The fact is that this movie is preposterous. It's preposterous beyond belief.
    Preposterous that we as an audience are expected to digest this shit.
    They tried to do a remake of the karate kid with a girl once. Biggest box-office smash ever, right? NO.
    Who was the fucking genius who said "You know what, we need a ghetto Karate kid! The world NEEDS a Karate Kid movie with a black homey kid with cornrows and some sass! We needs to inspire Brothas to get all Zen-like and shit"
    They knew the only way this shit would get off the ground is if they got Jackie Chan.
    I really want to know how much he was paid and if he agreed to this role with NO PRODDING.
    Can you imagine if they got just some generic old Chinese guy to play Miyagi? How colossal a failure would that film be?
    Jackie Chan gives it a modicum of credibilty, just enough to get some butts into seats, on the hopes of seeing some of his wicked stuntwork.


    This film angers me and I wish it didn't exist.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Johann, I do see that Will Smith is arrogant, or at least too full of himself. That has usually worked for him. It worked in his performance in SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, a film that I particularly like. I'm bettting, Johann, that you are writing your rants wihtout even having read reviews of the movie, let alone seen it. Dre is not a "ghetto kid." His mother has a good job, but she's been moved by her company from Detroit. Like the original Daniel, his father has recently died.

    cinemabon, I may have misunderstood you about Pat Morita. I tried to make it clear I was not sure what you were saying there. I do not think that the new KARATE kid makes a stereotype of black people and do not know how you can make such a judjment about the film without seeing it. This is a review thead, for discussing the movie. It's available to pretty much everybody to see, not like the festival films I've reviewed.
    I am not being defensive. Resetting the film in China is not just putting it in a new wrapper. It adds a lot. I'm not clear whether anybody who makes a remake can ever win in the eyes of some people, no matter what they do. It's natural that they would make some changes. The China setting is not just superficial. I do like the movie. It's not a great movie. Neither was the original. This is not a travesty. Kids will love it.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-14-2010 at 11:44 AM.

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    Armond White is right on the money. "Jayden's college fund". Amen to that. The Smiths should be ashamed.

    Armond White sees right through this movie and so do I. (And I see right through it without having seen it- my powers are GREAT. ha ha)
    I'm glad that he (as a black man) can call it straight. After all, he's against the megaton box office champ WILL SMITH...
    It must be nice to usher your child into the movie business so shamelessly...*SHUDDER*
    Last edited by Johann; 06-14-2010 at 12:49 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Well at least Armond presumably saw the movie, assuming they let him in (he was recently barred from some screenings for his aggressively hostile remarks vis-a-vis Noah Baumbach).

    You say "I would say it [your rant] to Will Smith's face. " So would you say it to Jaden's?

    Would you go out and say it randomly to anybody you met on the streets of Harlem? Black people tend to be in favor of the brothers making it.
    And are you saying then that if you have successful showbiz parents you should stay out of the movies? There are lots of acting dynasties on stage and screen that would be bad for.

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    Jaden's just flotsam and jetsom of adults, like most children. I'm sure he wants this, tho. He's already got an ego and an attitude. Just look at him. Amazing to be so cocky when you haven't lived all that long.

    I would say what I said to just about anybody- I'm not just puffing up on the internet here. I mean it- this movie is shameless and it should be called out. If black men/brothas wanna not see the forest for the trees on this one then get out your glock tough guy. Gun me down like the thug you really are. Jaden "made it" when he was born. yes, there are many acting dynasties/families, but how do they handle it?
    Most of them handle it delicately, discreetly, or even covertly (see Nicolas Cage).

    The Karate Kid is exactly what it is: asking moviegoers to pay to see a silver-spoon fed kid "advance" in the movie business. And they do it while knowing that we know the story. That's simply unforgivable.

    I can deal with cornrows and martial arts when it's done with poetry and grace.
    Case in point: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. That movie is the greatest "black warrior" movie ever.
    Last edited by Johann; 06-15-2010 at 01:55 PM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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