I was recently trying to figure out why I like martial arts movies, but I couldn’t come up with a decisive answer. It doesn’t matter, though. It’s enough that martial arts take talent and, if done well, can make a movie. Of course, there is quite a variety of such movies; they can range from Jean-Claude Van Damme’s The Quest to Jet Li’s Unleashed.
I found I couldn’t resist watching the new version of The Karate Kid. I’m glad that the director, Harald Zwart, took a turn away from his previous movie, Pink Panther 2. The Karate Kid, however, should really have been called The Kung Fu Kid, since that is the martial art he learns from Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan. Of course, a title like "Karate Kid" is likely to draw viewers that liked the original, perhaps more than if it were called "Kung Fu Kid." Perhaps. But that aside, was the movie as good, better, worse, than the original?
The differences in the teacher characters are interesting. Pat Morita became iconic as Mr. Miyagi. Miyagi was impassive in a "still waters run deep" kind of way. Mr. Han (Chan) is more emotional and yet perhaps a little more distant at first. He seems more shambling and run-down, in a way. Miyagi was dignified. But I do think both characters work, in the end.
I found Jaden Smith’s acting to be rather predictable at times, but it is hard for a young actor to sell a part one hundred percent. He was good when it mattered, and didn’t go indulge in melodramatics. Perhaps, too, it was the character of Dre Parker that was a little predictable. However, Taraji P. Henson was excellent as Sherry Parker. She added necessary spark to some scenes, and she was believable as a sometimes frustrated single mother.
I did quite enjoy the movie, but I am a sucker for kung fu movies. However, I don’t think that’s a prerequisite for enjoying the film. It is a feel-good, winning-over-fear, don’t-back-down, helping-each-other, staying-true kind of movie. That can appeal to most viewers. However, I did still like The A-Team better. It was so hilarious. Are the movies similar at all? Not really, but they are the two main box-office contenders at the moment.
My advice? Watch them both and decide which one you like better.