When I first hear that the 2010 version of
Karate Kid was in pre-production, I must confess to having been
rather sceptical. The remake appeared to be nothing more than a blatant
star vehicle for Jaden ‘Son of Will’ Smith, the film was set in China
and the martial art featured throughout, somewhat unbelievably in view
of the title, wasn’t even karate. Besides which a remake seemed
superfluous at best, given that the original is such a staple of 1980s
cinema, provided career-defining roles for several of its cast members
including Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita and included numerous iconic
scenes that are referenced to this day (Wax on/wax off, anyone?? The
Crane???). Come on!
Well, I don’t think I was too far off the
mark. The film is largely redundant, is certainly a shameless two-hour
promotional vehicle for Will and Jada Pinkett’s diminutive cash cow and
does indeed feature the most ridiculously inaccurate title of all time.
12-year-old Dre Parker (Smith) and his
perpetually velour-tracksuited walking stereotype of a mother Sherry (Taraji
Henson) are relocating to China from Detroit for Sherry’s work. It is
never actually specified what line of work she’s in, though judging by
her appearance and mannerisms she’s travelled thousands of miles to open
a nail salon. Dre quickly runs afoul of some local toughs, becomes
enamoured of a violin-laying pubescent hottie (Wen Wen Han), is tutored
in the finer points of kung fu by a wise old maintenance man (Jackie
Chan) and if you’ve seen the original, or indeed any film ever made, you
know how it all ends.
At 2 hours 20 the film is far too long, and
at times it feels more like a Pepsi commercial than a motion picture.
It is also overly bombastic and frequently self-important, creaks along
at a snail’s pace, ends too suddenly and doesn’t really make a great
deal of sense. That being said, I quite liked it. It’s flashy and
colourful, the action sequences are expertly staged and executed, Smith
the Younger is clearly a rising talent and the 21st century
update on the famous ‘Crane’ move of the original is suitably
spectacular. Plenty of fun, as long as believability and narrative
cohesion aren’t high on your list of essential filmic elements.
Audio & Video
The film has been rather stunningly shot,
and the letterboxed transfer is a fresh and blemish-free as the cheeks
of our precocious young protagonist. The TrueHD surround audio is
likewise without fault, and the pulsating soundtrack blares the
decidedly un-Oriental likes of AC/DC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at an
appropriately high decibel level.
On Location: The Karate Kid Interactive
Map of China, a Featurette hosted by Director Harald Zwart
which purports to reveal ‘how the cast and filmmakers captured China’s
culture and history’; an Alternate Ending; a series of enjoyable
Production Diaries (including A Day in the Life of Jaden Smith
and The Forbidden City) hosted by Jackie Chan; six brief
Chinese Lessons; a Making Of, a Music Video featuring
Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith (shudder) and some Trailers. No
Audio Commentary, strangely enough.