Watching the EncoreHD Karate Kid marathon

EncoreHD showed a marathon of all four Karate Kid movies this past weekend.  In preparation for the new movie, I sat down and watched the entire series.  From Crane kick to the new chick I endured the entirety of this series in one fell sweep (of the leg).

I originally saw the the first three movies in the theater.  I didn’t see Next Karate Kid until several years after it hit video mainly because it looked terrible and secondly, I’m a misogynist.  I remember loving the original, liking Part II but thinking it was a bit boring and really enjoying Part III.  When I watched Part IV on video, I thought it was as bad as I expected it to be.  Let’s see if my thoughts on these movies have changed over the years.

The Karate Kid
The Karate Kid (1984) – This is a nearly perfect movie.  I enjoyed every moment of every scene.  Despite being just over 2 hours, the movie felt slim and trim.  It starts off with several good action scenes then it begins a slow burn with Daniel’s training finally finishing in a whirlwind set of scenes at the All-Valley Karate Championships.  Macchio is great as Daniel and Elizabeth Shue is cute and fun as Ali.  The best people in the movie, however, are Pat Morita as Miyagi, William Zabka as Johnny and Martin Kove as Kreese.  Morita is wonderfully subtle and humorous as Miyagi.  You always enjoy watching him on screen.  And his fighting scene where he kicks the Cobra Kai’s asses is perfectly done.  Zabka totally owns as the rich douche Johnny Lawrence.  As with his other “bully” roles (Just One of the Guys and Back to School) you almost feel like he enjoys terrorizing and harassing other kids.  And the collection of teens he hangs out with are just as good in their supporting roles.  In this, Zabka is sneeringly wonderful.  And what’s to say about the despicable John Kreese?  He sulks his way through this movie spouting macho platitudes about no fear and no pain and generally getting the audience to hate him.  And he does it well.  This movie most definitely still holds up and I can wholeheartedly recommend this movie even today.  I hope the new movie is as charming and funny as the original (a tall order, I know).

Karate Kid Part II
The Karate Kid Part II (1986) – Okay, like I said, when I originally saw this in the theater I thought it was only okay and a tad boring.  The first ten minutes which picks up immediately after the karate tournament is fantastic and may have set the bar a little high.  In that first ten minutes we see John Kreese and the Cobra Kais (yes, all five of the boys return in what is essentially a cameo) arguing about Johnny’s second place.  Kreese starts beating them up then Miyagi steps in and finishes it.  Totally awesome and pretty much better than the rest of the movie.  Anyway, after this, Daniel tags along, uninvited mind you, with Miyagi to visit Okinawa to see his dying father.  While there we meet Sato, Miyagi’s former best friend who now wants to kill him and that best friend’s mean and douchey nephew Chozen.  Sato and Chozen are kind of setup as John Kreese and Johnny Lawrence characters in that they terrorize Miyagi and the village.  This movie reveals an interesting fact about Miyagi’s karate; he enjoys punching people in the crotch.  There’s a scene in this movie where Miyagi teaches Daniel a move where you drop a rag (or something) on the floor and and when you pick it up you use your lower position to punch your opponent in the balls.  Daniel even uses this maneuver on Chozen later on in the movie.  If you remember in the first movie, when Miyagi is beating up the Cobra Kais he totally kicks Dutch in the nuts.  So, essentially, a “shot to the pills” is an official move in Miyagi-Do karate.  That’s good to know; if you ever fight someone taught by Miyagi then protect your loins.  Anyway, everything comes to a head during a hurricane, Sato switches over to the good guys and at the final festival, Daniel has to fight Chozen in a “death match” (why it’s Daniel’s job to fight in this death match, I have no idea).  The fight is slightly better choreography-wise than the first movie, but again it’s straining my own personal believability that Daniel would be able to beat Chozen.  I do like that Daniel actually tries to Crane kick Chozen and it gets blocked.  Makes sense because Chozen was taught by Sato who was taught by Miyagi’s dad, so that technique would be familiar to him.  But the “new” Crane kick, the drum maneuver, is dumb.  And I hate the nose “honk” at the end.  HATE IT.  So, I still think this movie is a bit boring.  I don’t honestly care a lot about the story, it’s not as personal to me as the first movie.  And I have trouble understanding why it’s Daniel’s responsibility to fight Chozen to the death.  Daniel has nothing to do with it.  For me, except for the first 10 minutes, this movie was mildly entertaining at best and boring at worst.

Karate Kid Part III
The Karate Kid Part III (1989) – I was fifteen when this came out and since I wasn’t just jazzed about Part II, I wasn’t expecting much from this movie on my first viewing.  However, I wound up loving it.  Low expectations may have helped.  Watching it today, I recognize that this movie is so completely absurd and ridiculous that I have to wonder if the movie makers didn’t know this and made the movie with tongue firmly in cheek.  This movie is not as good as I remembered, but if you watch it as a parody of the Karate Kid “formula”, then this movie is CLASSIC.  It picks up immediately after Part II.  Daniel and Miyagi have just returned from Okinawa.  We see Kreese alone and depressed because he’s lost all his students.  He tries to quit the Cobra Kai dojo but his financial backer and friend, Terry Silver, won’t let him.  Terry Silver is a ridiculous caricature of an 80’s villain.  He’s rich, lives in an opulent house, has a pony tail and his company dumps toxic waste.  There are no redeeming qualities in this guy.  Anyway, Silver hires “Karate’s Bad Boy” Mike Barnes to bully Daniel into fighting in the All-Valley tournament again.  Silver even gives Barnes two henchman.  HENCHMAN!!  One of which is a karate trainer and the other is a pudgy guy with a gold chain named Snake (of course he’s named Snake).  For some reason, in this movie, Daniel’s character has reverted to his previous self from Part I.  Despite in the last year having to beat two time karate champion Johnny Lawrence and winning a fight against Chozen where the loser, you know, DIES, Daniel forgets all of his previously gained karate knowledge and allows himself to be pushed around by Mike Barnes and Snake.  Why?  Daniel should have no problem defending himself against these guys yet he keeps cowering and whining for Miyagi to train him.  Miyagi even has to show up in one scene and defeat Barnes, Snake and the karate trainer to save Daniel (reminiscent of the scene from Part I).  Then, later on Miyagi shows up (AGAIN!) and saves Daniel from Kreese, Silver and Barnes by kicking all of their asses (I got a fever and the only prescription is more Miyagi ass kickings).  How has Daniel survived until now?  Anyway, we get to the final tournament fight (the announcer and ref return from Part I) and we watch Daniel get his ass kicked for like ten minutes.  It’s really getting old, as Barnes gets a point, then cheats and has a penalty point taken away.  Time runs out and the match goes to sudden death.  First point wins.  Suddenly Daniel finds his “inner karate”, does a little breakdance move (called Kata), and wins the tournament with a stupendously anti-climatic flip and hit move.  As awesomely iconic as the Crane kick was in Part I, this final move is that wondrously boring and cheap.  This movie is not great, but it sure is fun to watch.  Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry Silver and Martin Kove as Kreese chew up scenery in every scene.  They are absolutely reveling in their badness.  So, this is definitely a situation where it’s such a bad movie that it’s totally fun to watch.  It’s also interesting to note that Terry Silver is supposed to be a Vietnam buddy of Kreese, yet Ralph Macchio is one year OLDER than Thomas Ian Griffith, who played Silver.  What really would have made this movie better, for me, would have had Johnny and the Cobra Kais return to help Daniel.  Enemies become allies.  THAT would have been awesome.

The Next Karate Kid
The Next Karate Kid (1994) – This poster blows, by the way.  Anyway, at this point it had been 5 years since the last Karate Kid movie, so Hollywood decided to “restart” the franchise with a new star.  And to “change things up”, they made the star a girl.  I’m not going to say this movie sucked because they switched to a girl.  The problems actually stem from other things like story, dialogue and “nobody giving a sh*t anymore”.  Those will kill a movie quicker than weakening it with a “girl”, but only slightly (see, told you I was a misogynist).  First of all, unlike every other movie, where this fits in the timeline is a little vague.  How soon after Part III is it?  Doesn’t say.  Where the hell is Daniel?  Doesn’t say.  Why am I watching this again?  Couldn’t say.  It’s not 100% Hilary Swank’s fault.  The dialogue is poor.  PISS POOR.  Her parents died in a car wreck so she’s “angry” and “always gets into trouble”.  Really, she just seems like a typical teenager.  Pat Morita is still really good as Miyagi, and new addition Michael Ironside is fantastic as the awesomely evil Col. Dugan.  Dugan runs this group of teens called the Alpha Team.  It’s not entirely clear what this team does.  They seem like a high school military police but they mention being a football team at one point (but no football scenes are ever seen).  Dugan routinely kicks these kids asses in sparring matches and none of the teens see that as a bit excessive or crazy.  Naturally, one of the teens, Ned, is just as bad as Dugan, so he terrorizes Hilary Swank and her pseudo-boyfriend.  Hilary makes a deal with Miyagi that she’ll turn in school homework assignments in exchange for karate lessons.  Miyagi agrees, so of course he takes Hilary out of school for 2 weeks to visit a monastery somewhere in Boston so she can learn karate from monks (I kid you not).  I guess he forgot about the whole “turn in homework as payment” thing.  Eventually, after learning karate for a few weeks, Hilary has to kick Ned’s ass because her boyfriend can’t.  Then Miyagi kicks Dugan’s ass.  So now, of course, everyone finally decides they too are sick of Dugan’s crap and the Alpha Team splits up.  There is no way I can recommend this movie, even in the “tongue-in-cheek” way I recommend watching Part III.  This movie suffers from an uninteresting and inconsistent story, unlikeable characters and bad dialogue.  You can watch this as an oddity, but it really doesn’t belong with the other movies.  It belongs in the bottom of a trash bin.  That is on fire.  And thrown into the ocean.

So that’s where we stand with the Karate Kid movies.  I hope to see the new Karate Kid movie this week and I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

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4 Responses to “Watching the EncoreHD Karate Kid marathon”

  1. You’ve got me strolling down memory lane with this Karate Kid rundown. I can actually only recall seeing the first two films (I lost interest after the second film bored me to tears). Number 3 sounds like it might be worth a watch, but number 4 didn’t even look good when it came out.

    Oh, and Pat Morita rocks… that is all.

  2. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen any of these. I don’t really remember much about it actually!

  3. Dr. Mike Says:

    Lovely recap. I may have to rewatch 3 from a “ridiculously bad” Battlefield Earth Perspective. I haven’t seen 2 in years, but I remember LOVING it, so I will have to see it again.

    Father’s Day SUnday: Jenny and the kids and I are going to see Kung Fu Kid and eat snacks. Love me-centric holidays.

  4. Terrific run down, especially of Part III. I’ve been searching high and low for a review of Part III that does its awfulness justice, and yours is the cream of the crop. It was especially humorous to me considering that, like you I’ve been on a Karate Kid viewing bingefest for, like, the last three weeks (having watched Part III a whopping three times in the last week alone cuz it’s so awful…). Well done!

    The Smoking Cupcake
    http://www.thesmokingcupcake.com

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