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'The Karate Kid' - A First Time Watch

'wax-on' rhetoric about an iconic 80's gem.

By Sam GamblePublished 2 years ago 3 min read

'The Karate Kid' is one of those movies that I've always been told I'd love but, for one reason or another, I've never gotten around to watching. In fact, the franchise as a whole has completely passed me by, but, with the recent premiere of the new season of Cobra Kai on Netflix, the world seems to be riding high on Karate Kid Fever, so I figured now was the best time to jump in and do a full retrospective on the Karate Kid franchise.

The Karate Kid tells the story of Daniel LeRusso as he trains under the tutelage of Mr. Miyagi in an attempt to stop himself from being bullied and win the respect of his new high-school after moving from New York.

Ah, the 80's. A time of questionable P.E. attire, arcades, and hiring actual high-school aged people to play high-schoolers. They were different, arguably simpler times, when bullies were bullies and jocks were jocks.

But let's talk about the kids. There's two to pay special attention to, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka. Macchio plays LeRusso and, throughout the runtime of this film, if I'm being perfectly honest, I was not a fan of his character. When he's first introduced he comes off as smarmy, a little bratty, and wildly over-confident, especially when it comes to chatting up girls. Zabka's character is much the same, and that's my main problem with this film, is this overconfidence and brashness. There's not much to like in these characters, the only thing LeRusso has going for him is that he is not as strong as the other boys he's pitted against. I cared for him not because I liked his character, but because the one's up against him were so much worse.

This is where Mr. Miyagi comes in. A walking Asian stereotype (it's a product of the time) he carries this mysteriousness from the very first time you meet him, and over time, you genuinely feel the connection that him and Daniel form grow from one of protection to a mutual respect for the other, and eventually, a deep admiration. And I have to admit, it was finally good to understand where 'wax on, wax off' truly came from.

So, going into the final fight, I didn't really care. In fact, I paused the film and wasn't sure if I'd come back to it. But, when they got into the final tournament, I found myself wildly invested, more so than I have been in the climax of a film for a while. And why was that? Going in, I genuinely didn't care who won or lost. In fact, I thought it might be used as a teaching point for Daniel to lose and prove that brawn isn't everything. But the more I think about it, the more I realise the film isn't saying that brute strength triumphs over all. The fighters from the Cobra Kai are the ones that subscribe to this 'win-at-all-costs' mentality. What actually matters is patience, determination. In the end, it's all about balance.

And I have to admit, the final showdown was filmed spectacularly. No intense close-ups, no slow motion, no making a big deal out of the crane stance used. This is the ultimate testament of allowing the choreography of the fight and the techniques do all of the talking. LaRusso's calm and defensive approach, Cobra Kai's all-out assault. It's perfectly epitomised in one kick. The ultimate conclusion is blink and you'll miss it, and that is so refreshing to see. It reminds me of Samurai battles. They don't last long. It's a lot of build-up, psyching your opponent out. Then, an explosion of movement, and then it's over.

Does the film end abruptly? Absolutely. This is my second main issue. Daniel kicks him in the face and bam, movie over. Maybe it's a more modern trope, but I definitely would've liked to have seen a longer conclusion and reconciliation between the two rivals, other than a 'you're alright, man.'

Is the healthiest way to deal with bullies to learn how to beat the crap out of them from a mysterious old man who lives in your building? No. Don't do that, that's a terrible idea. But learning to trust your own abilities, and to be sure of yourself, is absolutely the message you should take away from this film.


About the Creator

Sam Gamble

Film reviews, movie-making articles, and more. Follow a fanboy's journey in exploring pop culture and everything else around it.

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