Let's make it clear from the beginning, The Karate Kid is a blatant vehicle for Jaden Smith, with his all too famous father Will producing the movie in an attempt to bolster his son's acting career. Much like the criticism that Shane Meadow's Somers Town garnered for its association with Eurostar, it could be argued that the Karate Kid is a cleverly crafted two and a half hour long advert for Jaden Smith. That being said, it's a fairly well polished advert with Jaden putting in a solid performance, the only criticism that can be levelled at Smith is his age; the original Karate Kid was much older, broadening the films appeal to a wider audience, but as I watched pre-teens fighting I couldn't help feeling that this would alienate the teen audience as they will struggle to relate to the main character.
Don't get me wrong, the original is hardly a masterpiece, as is clear from its recent relegation to the library of channel five sunday afternoon family films that are usually only worth watching for the memories they rekindle, but in 1984 the influence it had over popular culture was widespread, with teens everywhere desperate to take up martial arts. There is no doubt that the new version will inspire a similar wave of interest and while this may indicate a certain amount of popularity, it is no indication of the film's quality, which doesn't come close to the sheer entertainment of the original.
Without comparing the two versions, The Karate Kid is a fairly entertaining movie, it has its flaws - most notably its length, but children oblivious to the original will love watching Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) start a new life in China while finding his feet with the local gang. Jackie Chan puts in a sterling performance as Mr Han, the caretaker and karate master who dedicates his time to training Dre and teaching him the true art of karate, that shows he can actually act.
The story arc remains very similar to the original with the main alteration being the setting, which provides some fantastic backdrops for the street battles and a striking training scene on the great wall of China. Visually the film is impressive and the acting is okay, but remakes are never going to compare favourably to their predecessors and a change to one of the most memorable scenes in the film ("wax on, wax off") will be seen as blasphemous by fans of the original.
This is definitely a film for the younger generation, people familiar with the 1984 version should stay well away but those heading into the film without preconceptions formed from viewing the original will find a fairly enjoyable story that is very easy to watch. As i know most people reading this will have seen the original, save your money, and if you haven't seen the karate kid, you're missing out on an eighties classic - go and buy the dvd now and forget about the new version. Some things are just better left alone.
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