My Favorite Movies #34 – The Karate Kid

Karate Kid - PosterThe Karate Kid


Directed by John G. Avildsen

Quick synopsis… Hassled by the school bullies, Daniel LaRusso has his share of adolescent woes. Luckily, his apartment building houses a resident martial arts master: Kesuke Miyagi, who agrees to train Daniel — and ends up teaching him much more than self-defense.

  • I know… I already did a post about the sequel because it appeared earlier on my list.
  • But now we’re here because this one is slightly better than part two.
  • Ah, The Karate Kid
  • The immortal classic which details the events of one teen’s senior year which seems to start out all right…
  • But soon he has everything taken away from him…
  • His girlfriend…
  • His ability to rightfully defend himself…
  • And finally, his title as the All-Valley Under 18 Karate Champion.
  • I am, of course, speaking of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), The Karate Kid.
  • I kid… Johnny’s not the protagonist of this movie, nor is he meant to be.
  • There’s a lot of evidence and a lot of valid argument out there showing Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) to be the real bully of the movie.
  • But if the recent Cobra Kai series on YouTube has taught us anything, it’s that the story isn’t as black and white as we’d have believed back in 1984.
  • There are shades of gray.
  • Both Daniel and Johnny are guilty of pushing each other over the edge.
  • The fact that Daniel, the underdog, wins the tournament in the end just makes The Karate Kid into a true feel-good movie.
  • I love our first introduction to Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi…
  • Definitely just a crazy maintenance worker who keeps to himself and tries to catch flies with chopsticks.
  • Then we see Daniel make his first mistake of the movie: he lets himself into Miyagi’s office without being invited.
  • At the beach, we see Daniel make his second mistake: trying to impress Ali (Elisabeth Shue).
  • But, I mean, if I’d gone to high school with Elisabeth Shue in the mid-1980s, I’d have had a crush on her, too.
  • Anyway, this leads to Daniel’s third mistake: getting involved in this domestic dispute between Ali and her ex, Johnny.
  • Don’t be a hero, Daniel!
  • He’s just got to insert himself.
  • Pick up the busted radio… then take a cheap shot, which only serves to piss Johnny off.
  • Good job, Daniel. Now you’re on the Cobra Kais’ radar.
  • Oh, and you’ve screwed up your attempt to make friends on your first day in LA.
  • Now, I really don’t know anything about the geography of Los Angeles or the way the school districts are divided up, but I do have this question…
  • Would Daniel, that kid from Receda, really wind up at the same high school as Ali and Johnny and all those other kids who apparently live in the Hills?
  • I mean… I assume that means Beverly Hills? Or the Hollywood Hills?
  • I know nothing. Someone who knows what LA actually looks like, clue me in.
  • Anyway, they all go to the same high school because… plot device.
  • Daniel’s fourth mistake comes when he gets curious about learning karate at the local Cobra Kai dojo, not realizing that Johnny and his friends are all students there.
  • They’re learning martial arts from the ruthless sensei John Kreese, who teaches the “Strike first. Strik hard. No mercy.” way of life.
  • This leads to another violent act when the Cobra Kais follow Daniel and force him to crash his bike down a steep hill.
  • However, this also leads to Miyagi doing a good deed by fixing Daniel’s busted up bicycle, opening the door for an unexpected friendship between this kid from New Jersey and this old man from Okinawa.
  • Things calm down between Daniel and Johnny, and I would argue that things would stay pretty status quo.
  • Except Daniel decides to make his fifth mistake: drenching Johnny while he’s rolling a joint in the bathroom at the Halloween dance.
  • Johnny and his friends show Daniel no mercy.
  • But before they can completely kill him, Miyagi shows up and takes down all five of the Cobra Kais.
  • The scene where Miyagi takes Daniel to confront Kreese and Johnny at the Cobra Kai dojo is priceless.
  • It does lead to a shaky truce, however, while Miyagi takes time to train Daniel for the upcoming All-Valley Karate Tournament.
  • This means that Daniel has about six weeks to learn how to fight well enough to take on these other kids who have apparently been taking karate for most of their lives.
  • But, hey, leaning to “wax on/wax off” a bunch of cars is a sure fire way to beat your enemies into submission.
  • Pat Morita was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Miyagi.
  • If the Oscars were a fair fight, he should’ve won.
  • I mentioned in my post about Part II that I’ve written in the past about how Daniel should have lost the climactic fights at the end of both movies.
  • If you’d like to read that, feel free to click here.
  • Though I think that’s pretty evident considering the sheer amount of experience each of these karate kids has.
  • I’ve also done posts about The Karate Kid Part III and Cobra Kai, if you’re interested in what I had to say about those.
  • Fun fact: Columbia Pictures had to get permission from DC Comics to use the title Karate Kid because that’s the name of a character from DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes. There’s a special credit thanking DC Comics at the end of the movie.

Anyway… The Karate Kid is an incredible movie that you should definitely take the time to watch if you haven’t before. I may have my issues with the third one, but go ahead and watch the whole trilogy. You can skip The Next Karate Kid, for sure. But the rest are good to go.

Next week we’ll jump ahead to the ’90s for one of the greatest animated films of all time: The Lion King. That’s right, it’s the good one. Not that pseudo-live-action remake debacle of last year. Yeah, I said debacle. Come at me, bro.

One thought on “My Favorite Movies #34 – The Karate Kid

  1. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

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