Monday, June 28, 2010

The Karate Kid (2010)

The KARATE KID: Outstandingly Spectacular and Surpasses the Original Way Ahead
By Reymundo Salao

The original Karate Kid movie which was such a hit in the 1980s was more of a teen flick; or rather one of the earliest teen flicks that appealed to all demographics because of its action content and teen romance element as well. But that concept is actually very common today. In order to make good resurrection of the Karate Kid concept, it is inevitable to make alterations and to take the concept to the higher level. And this new Karate Kid movie achieves that with flying colors. Among the pop category movies I’ve seen this year so far, I would have to say that this was one of the (if not THE) best.

The treatment of the new Karate Kid movie only required few major alterations apart from the original movie, and the rest was re-using the original concept. The pattern of events on this new movie and the old movie seems to be completely the same. You have the bullied kid, the cruel bullies, the unlikely handyman who comes to rescue the bullied kid and is revealed to be actually a martial arts master, the use of unlikely and unconventional methods in teaching martial arts, and the events leading up to the big martial arts tournament.

The few major alterations were merely the setting, which is in China, and the main character which is way younger than the teenage protagonist of the original. Jaden Smith who plays the role of Dre is 12 years old while Macchio in the original was around 20 years old playing a role of a 16 year old.

Personally, I think it was a wise choice to have the main central kid character much younger than the teenage Karate Kid that appears in the original, because this version becomes much more refreshing, and avoids the teen movie Twilight stigma it could possibly have if it were to have an older main character. It is easy for audiences to relate and sympathize with a more emotionally frail protagonist, one who will do feel the sense of alienation of living in a foreign land.

This movie really is a boy’s tale; it tells how it is living as a kid who has to deal with bullies, the conflict of having to face them, and the conflict of finding the courage to stand up to them. It really goes into the mind of a kid and how he deals with his insecurities, his problems, and the things he has to overcome in his young life.

The original Karate Kid movie was actually nothing more than an American version of the many kung-fu movies (among them include Jackie Chan movies like Snake in the Eagles Shadow) about a kid learning martial arts from an unlikely teacher employing unlikely manners of training. It sort of goes around full circle as the movie employs Jackie Chan himself the Martial Arts icon who has starred in those Hong Kong movies where this concept originally drew inspiration from. It is actually a really good thing that Chan is given a much more serious role in this movie; over the years Hollywood has just turned Chan into a cartoony caricature of him, disregarding Chan's capacity for powerful acting, the way he exhibits in Hongkong movies. But in this Karate Kid movie, we see a glimpse of a more serious Jackie Chan, an emotionally traumatized character actually who finds peace via the friendship with Dre (Jaden Smith). For a child actor, Jaden has overflowingly impressive potential. His acting is effortlessly sincere throughout the movie.

There was almost no minus factor in the movie except maybe for the young romance going on and a kissing scene which kinda looks inappropriate to be shown onscreen. [MINOR SPOILERS COMING UP] Other criticisms pointed out the incredibility of how a kid who has had only a mere months time training in martial arts can defeat a kid who has had training since early childhood. Well at one point, you can merely suspend your disbelief for that (that’s why we have movies), but personally, my logical explanation for that would be this: There is a part in the movie where we see a photo of the martial arts instructor of the villains in a sort of vanity pose with sunglasses on, if you analyze that minor scene it tells you that this instructor is disciplined in a more vain way of thinking; perhaps in his world what matters is winning a tournament or a sense of pride. His discipline in martial arts is a more chaotic one. Jackie Chan has trained Dre in what seems to be a very pure discipline of martial arts, one that takes Dre back to the roots of martial arts, one that is peaceful in mind and effortless in form. The bad kids may have learned to fight all their life, but what they learned may have been crap; Dre on the other hand may have just got a crash course, but he got a more correct education. That is how Dre could have defeated those other fighters. [SPOILER PART OVER]

The strength of the new Karate Kid movie is that it appeals to almost all demographics; at one hand, it is a great family movie because it is a story of Dre's relationship with his mother, Mr. Han's past about his family, and the central character is a boy most kids can relate to; in another hand, it is also appealing to the girl demographic because of the young romance element here; and also it is an action movie which does spotlight on kung-fu and the philosophies of kung fu. Plus, the film has beautiful cinematography that blends well with the setting which really does tour you around wonderful locations around China. One critic calls this aspect a kind of "tourist porn" The KARATE KID surpasses the 1980s original way ahead. It is the most outstandingly spectacular movie I’ve seen this summer. It is indeed a Full Price movie.

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