A remake of The Karate Kid was always going to cause a stir amongst those who remember the original fondly. Remakes don’t go down too well purely on principal, (“They’re ruining my childhood!”) but with The Karate Kid in particularly this is a film beloved by those who grew up in the ‘80s, more cherished out of nostalgia than for how good the movie actually is.
Truthfully the original Karate Kid isn’t a masterpiece and it could be argued a remake was past due. But at the same time a remake had the potential to be a phoned-in, contrived and silly exercise in cash-grabbing. Luckily that’s not the case as this is one of the better remakes to come out of Hollywood, full of genuine heart and with genuinely well choreographed fight sequences.
The story follows Dre Parker (Jaden Smith), a 12-year-old boy from Detroit who is forced to move with his mother to China because of her job. Not long after landing in a country that feels totally alien to him (including the fact he doesn’t speak the language), he begins to get bullied by a local boy who also happens to be one of his classmates (just his luck).
So Dre decides to try and fight back by learning martial arts. After failing to stand up to his tormentor, he receives a helping-hand from Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the maintenance man of their building. Mr. Han begins to put him through a rigorous training regime to learn Kung Fu in order to win a martial arts tournament.
The plot isn’t the most imaginative in the world but it provides a container for pretty much everything that this type of film should have. It’s by-the-numbers stuff all the way through, from the personal conflicts of Dre trying to get used to his new home to the things he has to overcome in order to prove his worth and honour (no prizes for guessing what the climax of the movie entails).