The Karate Kid Trilogy
August 10, 2003
It is with a skip and a smile that I delve once again into a decade from which I never left and pay tribute to a series of films so fiendishly Eighties that their very mention brings back memories of headbands and Duran Duran. Ok, I don’t know where I got the Duran Duran from but there certainly is a connection with the music. The films are The Karate Kid parts 1 – 3, and dare I say it the most enjoyable martial arts movies to come out of the USA.
A wily old gent trains a talented but awkward young Italian/American man to fight from his heart, and with the use of rock music and running along the beach in slow motion he overcomes feelings of inadequacy to become the champion. Have I just described Karate Kid or Rocky? Who knows, who cares. The Karate Kid movies have so much in common with the Rocky movies is it it any wonder that they share the same director. That’s what the Eighties stand for.
The first Karate Kid sees Daniel LaRusso moving to LA with his mother to start their new lives and her new job. Here Sly Stallone speaks his way through the inevitable clumsy new kid in town scenes yet still manages to impress Marty Mcfly’s future girlfriend Elisabeth Shue. That’s the reason she doesn’t come back for Karate Kid 2 incidentally, she’s off back to the future, if that makes any sense?
Naturally impressing the girl means annoying the school’s tough kid; who just so happens to be a Karate expert trained by a sadist sensei. Daniel’s new LA life is turning into a nightmare. Enter Happy Days old boy Pat Morita to show him how to paint his fence, sand his floor and wax his car. All of this manual labour gives him the Karate skills necessary to defend himself and win the local Karate championship. So there’s more to it than that, but not much more, this is Rocky with Karate and every great scene from Rocky is repeated.
Karate kid part two does the clinical subsidiary character elimination bit at the beginning with the one line of dialogue explaining why Ali with an ‘I’ and Daniel’s mother aren’t in the film. They explain this without mentioning ‘Back to the Future’ too! I don’t like to see this kind of thing in a film, casually dismissing characters that have become a part of the film’s ethos. But then I can’t get too upset by it, it’s only Karate Kid. This second film is slightly darker than the first with Mr. Miyagi having to travel home to Okinawa to see his dying father. He left home many years earlier amid the threat of the dreaded ‘duel to the death’ from his best friend over a woman. The whole film gets very Klingon from here on in with talk of honour and respect and Khalas… OK there’s no Khalas, but there might as well have been. Of course this means that Daniel must meet a new girl who means everything to him (until Karate Kid Part III) and a new enemy that wants to fly kick his face in. He must also learn a new move as that crane kick is getting a bit obvious by now. I dread to think how many kids tried that in the school yard, I know I did. I’m getting sidetracked, Karate Kid Part II finishes up with pretty much the same scene as Karate Kid Part I, but then you knew that.
On to Karate Kid Part III, well, see Karate Kid Part I but without Elisabeth Shue. There are some differences actually, the title for one. Daniel is goaded into defending his championship, much against Mr Miyagi’s better judgment and he is force to go to another trainer. This new Karate coach doesn’t believe that Karate is for defense only, and he doesn’t catch flies in chopsticks. In fact he’s only trying to cause Daniel pain in revenge for what happened at the start of Karate Kid Part II. Naturally Miyagi comes to the rescue, beats everyone up in a defense only style and trains Daniel san for the competition… which surprise surprise he wins! These aren’t the most challenging and thought provoking of films, and they’re not the Godfather trilogy but they are fun, and they do make you want to learn Karate. Or at least to put on a bath robe and prance around shouting Aye!
This disc comes with the now popular interactive DVD ROM feature, the flash games. Catch the fly, find the village and save the bonsai tree. OK, so these games aren’t the best in the world and probably sustained my attention for the length of time that it took to capture the screenshots. But it’s better to have them than not isn’t it?
Hmmm… here’s an idea, how about having old Amiga games included on some DVDs? We could have International Karate + on Karate Kid, one of the best 2D fighting games ever with its two against one feature. Barbarian Warrior included with Conan the Barbarian. It wouldn’t cost much, it’s easy to get an emulator for your PC and they’re great games. It’s just an idea.
So is this a great DVD set for your collection, that depends. If you’re the kind of person that knows your Mavericks from your Gooses and your Balboas from your Clubber Langs then you’ll feel as at home with Mr Miyagi as a Karate champion with a bonsai tree.
For the rest of you, they are fun films for the young and the young at heart, don’t expect anything different from them or you’ll be disappointed. They are essentially martial arts movies for kids. Quality wise the video transfer is great, better than I would have expected but the features are a little scarce for my Eighties fix requiring habit. Get this if you’re really into Eighties films, like me.