Okay first off, this really should be called The Kung Fu Kid, considering Karate is not featured at all and they do Kung Fu in this film. The only reason it kept the Karate Kid title was for marketing, apparently people are stupid and wouldn’t notice there is no Karate in the film. That aside, it is not secret I was not happy to hear about a remake of one of my favourite films starring Jaden Smith. Again it is not secret I can’t stand the spawn of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, thanks in part to the horrible The Day The Earth Stood Still remake. I figured I would go into this with an open mind, it has gotten some positive reviews and surely Jackie Chan would be good? Well Jackie Chan is good, and the film isn’t that bad.
Of course they have changed a lot of things, instead of moving across the country, this one sees the mother and son move countries. So our setting has changed, but it is still a fish out of water story. They also changed the age of our main character, whereas the original he was 17, here he is 12 and this for me provided a few problems. Of course as I already mentioned, since the film is set in China, we get Kung Fu and not Karate. Mr Miyagi in the original was an old man, here Mr. Han is a lot younger obviously and that was just fine. Changing the age to someone younger as I just mentioned provided a few problems, especially in this day and age. Of course we know the relationship between student and teacher is innocent, but it seems a little odd that the mother in this film just lets her son run off with a middle aged man without investigating, I find that a bit off. Also in the original we have the classic scene where Daniel tries to get revenge on the bullies but ends up in a fight where he is out number, only to have Miyagi come to his rescue and beat up the bullies. Those bullies were 17, and while it seemed an old man probably couldn’t have the strength ect to beat them up it didn’t seem wrong. Here we have a similar scene and Mr Han comes to the rescue but it seems a bit wrong having a 50 year old man beating up a bunch of 12 year olds. Sure they deserved to be taught a lesson, but getting beat up by a middle aged man doesn’t seem right to me.
As mentioned the new film follows the formula of the first film, having similar scenes and scenario’s and why wouldn’t they? Despite the heavy cliche’s they keep to something which was proven to work and I do applaud that. While they do have things that are the same they do make them different, and it does work for the new settings ect. As far as the situation with the bullies go, I didn’t feel this film explored that enough like it did in the original. It would have helped if we got more of an idea how much of a hard time they gave Dre (Jaden Smith), and whether or not it was just them that made him miserable there. In a scene where he ‘breaks down’ and tells his mother he hates it there, it didn’t feel like we got enough of why he did. The scene I felt was not very well down, Jaden struggled with the emotions and the mother (Taraji P. Henson) was just not a likable character and it didn’t help the actress was terrible in the role. At least they showed the bond between Dre and the girl Mei (Wenwen Han), it was a cute little friendship and a strong part of the story. I felt again we didn’t get enough of the bullies, I just thought we needed more a threat there. We hardly see their teacher, and he didn’t seem like the real bad ass that was Martin Kove as Kreese was in the original. The scenes of the training were alright, the whole jacket thing felt like it went on way too long, the scenes on the great wall just seemed to be a little bit too much. The lessons presented were good, like picking yourself up, not being afraid, all similar lessons and themes to the original and of course always relevant.
Jackie Chan really owned the role of Mr. Han, he is a sad man with a sad past, and Chan shows that he can actually act when you give him the chance (that is in an English speaking role). Mostly we are used to him being in comedies or comedic roles (again I am talking the English speaking films), and to see his break down scene was something very different and it had a great impact. Not only is he teaching Dre, in this scene we see Dre is teaching him. I felt this was one of the strongest scenes for both Chan and Smith. Amazing Jaden Smith actually turned out to be alright here, he’s given some decent material to work with. His character is of course a bit cocky (Daniel was too in the original) but it isn’t an overly annoying cocky. He’s alright for most of the film, I did warm up to him as it went on, but like I said it help he had decent material to work with. He’s certainly a very flexible kid, and he must have done a lot of training. He’s certainly a lot more flexible then Ralph Macchio was in the original, but this film does feature a lot better martial arts. The bullies weren’t terribly good, aside from making mean faces but I get the feeling they were hired more for their Scott Adkins like abilities rather then their acting chops. Over all this turned out to be an alright film, entertaining enough, and keeping with the spirit of the original. It has a really nice score, props go to the awesome James Horner (Titanic, Avatar), it has similarities to the original film’s score in the sense that it’ll stick with you. He did a really good job, and I had no idea he did the score for this until I saw it in the credits. Of course I am always going to love the original because it is a favourite of mine, but they did a decent job of remaking it and you got to give credit where it is due.