Reviews of The Karate Kid (1984) and related work
- Sequel: The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
The Karate Kid (1984)
A boy moves from Newark to California and gets bullied by bigger kids for hitting on someone’s ex. All of them know some karate, but their concept of it is butch and Americanized. The bullies win through numbers and practice. Fortunately, our hero’s new apartment complex has a Japanese janitor, sad and lazy old “Miajee”, pointlessly trying to catch a fly with his chopsticks and trimming strange little plants.
Action, specifically pubertal martial-arts action in which the protagonist gets his driver’s license, a father figure, a nice car, a girl and victory, in that order. The main source of interest here is the clash between US misunderstandings and the authenticity represented by Miyagi, but that authenticity is undermined by near-mystical healing powers and the Yoda-like humour of the old man, who makes endearing little comments like “yoshi”. For a similar authenticity-themed narrative told from the Japanese perspective without the yang-heavy coming of age, try Sayonara Nippon (1977).
Queer-theoreticians may have a field day here. A since-defunct Swedish TV channel (ZTV) ran a trailer for this film in the 00’s, memorably set to the song “The Look of Love” and showing only the boy and the janitor in intimate situations. It is also funny how the movie deprecates the bicycle in favour of motorized vehicles: A fine example of destructive US machismo.