Trailer Tuesday: The Karate Kid
Joining the lengthy list of remakes and reimaginings hitting cinema screens in 2010 is The Karate Kid - which no doubt hopes to break the string of remake mediocrity that is Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Robin Hood. Judging by the trailer though, The Karate Kid 2010 could easily be another misguided attempt at revamping a classic movie (these days typically from the 1980s) for contemporary audiences too apparently lazy to hire/download the original.
The plot for The Karate Kid 2010 is as follows:
In The Karate Kid, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng.
In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
Now I will give credit to the filmmakers of the new Karate Kid for attempting to do something a little different with their project - the most obvious changes being the Far East setting and substitution of Chinese kung fu for Japanese karate. Clearly this Karate Kid won't be a lethargic, shot-for-shot remake of the 1984 original. However, in making multiple changes the new movie seems to have lost the essence that made 1984's Karate Kid such a rousing underdog tale.
Granted that it's been years since I've watched Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructing Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) as he practices katas on picturesque California beaches. However, I do recall that The Karate Kid was generally grounded in reality. It was Rocky for kids, with a young man developing a sense of self worth and confidence through his participation in combat sports. In fact the original Oscar nominated Karate Kid was directed by John G. Avildsen, the helmer of Rocky I.
The new Karate Kid, by contrast, looks like a potentially unsatisfying mix of reality and mystical movie cliches. Is it a coming-of-age sports drama, or a stylised Kickboxer for 10 year olds?
I don't profess to know much about kung fu and the Far East, but I find it hard to believe that rural China is crowded with super powered communities of kung fu monks, who balance on their index fingers all day and charm cobras. The might as well have Jaden Smith (Will and Jada's son out of interest) pulling off wire stunts and floating across the top of a bamboo forest. As if training on the Great Wall of China wasn't cheesy enough... The point is, the inclusion of such "magical" elements really makes it difficult to engage with the characters on an emotional level. You're too busy trying to suspend your disbelief.
Add to the mix the fact that Jaden Smith and *gag* Justin Bieber perform the film's official song "Never Say Never", and the movie is produced by Will Smith, and things start to look a bit too distastefully self-serving. Ego projects are never much fun to watch.
These complaints aside, it certainly will be interesting to see Beijing depicted in a major Hollywood film. I'm also intrigued to watch likeable Jackie Chan in a subdued mentor role for once - after he's played the cheerful goofball in so many Western martial arts comedies.
At this stage, I'm not sure whether my curiosity or disdain will most influence my decision to watch this one at the cinema. I guess the first batch of reviews will be a big determining factor.
The Karate Kid is set for release in the United States on 11 June. The film opens in South Africa on 17 September.