The martial arts style has changed, the setting has moved across the globe and car-washing and fence-painting have been replaced by hanging up a jacket, but essentially the plot remains the same. The 2010 re-envisioning of The Karate Kid does tweak and update a few elements that might feel a little dated in the original 1984 feature, but no real surprises are thrown into the script. Both Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan make magnetic and compelling heroes, and the action, drama, and suspense have been honed and modernized to squeeze the most out of the audiences’ emotional attachment to these characters, but can they possibly top the performances from the original? It’s a lot more Rocky and a lot less ‘80s music, but outside of the cultural challenges and the age difference, one does have to wonder the reasoning behind remaking a movie of such classic caliber.
When his mother receives a job offer that requires relocation to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) must leave his home in Detroit to head for Beijing. Once there, Dre finds comfort in friendly neighbors and Meiying (Wenwen Han), a pretty violin student at his school. When he angers Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), an ill-tempered youth proficient in Kung Fu, he must endure daily bullying and is unable to defend himself against such combat prowess. During a particularly brutal attack by Cheng, Dre is saved by Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the maintenance man for his apartment building, and upon discovering the reclusive man’s impressive skills, asks to be trained by the martial arts master. Initially reluctant, Mr. Han agrees when he meets the merciless teacher of the boy’s rival – and the stage is set for an explosive confrontation at a high-profile Kung Fu tournament.
Wouldn’t it be nice if remakes could completely avoid comparisons to the original and stand on their own for criticism and evaluation? If only their stories could count for originality and their performances could be judged as if they were entirely new characters. Sadly, it’s as impossible as striking testimony from a courtroom and asking the jurors to disregard evidence they’ve just heard. It simply can’t be done, and therefore, shouldn’t be deemed as inappropriate. The Karate Kid remake is a perfect example – it’s thrilling, entertaining, has a solid story and riveting roles. Yet it’s so similar to the original, a film merely 26 years old and so popular that almost everyone witnessing the new version will already be familiar with the classic, that comparison is inevitable. Shouldn’t it matter that a duplicate movie already exists? And the verdict is that this 2010 remake simply didn’t need to be made. It has no chance of improving upon the original, only altering insignificant details.
Jaden’s charismatic, but younger than Macchio. This makes many of the nearly identical activities both roles adopt odder for Dre, a child most likely not as interested in girls and less believable in more mature situations, including coping with Mr. Han’s drunkenness or even resulting to physical violence for defense. His adversities have increased, although unnecessarily, to include a language barrier and immense cultural differences. The climactic tournament has become slightly simpler, dispensing with obscure rules to allow for a more visually pleasing set of duels, the famous “wax on, wax off” has been replaced by a predictable equivalent set of training techniques, rap has ousted 80’s rock, and Jackie Chan is reduced to only a single fight scene. The tension is high and the rousing excitement is still present, but ultimately it’s the same adventure and the same stimulation from 1984.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)