Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Karate Kid (2010)

It’s not often that I rave about films; because it’s not often I see a film worth raving about. In the 6 months I’ve had my Cineworld unlimited card I’ve seen about 40 movies. There have been some good ones: Kick Ass, Inception, The A-Team and Cemetery Junction and lots of bad ones: Chloe, Clash of the Titans and Legion, to name but a few.
Until tonight Perrier’s Bounty was the best film I’d seen all year. Now it’s going to have to share the top spot with another real gem, The Karate Kid.

I have very fond memories of the original film, shown endlessly when I was younger. I’m also normally very sceptical about re-makes. So I entered the cinema expecting something decent but probably not memorable. Director Harald Zwart was a wild card, the only film I know he’s directed before this was the second pink panther re-make, which I haven’t seen but have heard nothing good about.
The plot is exactly the same as the original. Boy meets girl and angers girl’s boyfriend (kinda). Boyfriend and his Kung-Fu gang start bullying boy. Boy enlists the help of agéd (kinda) mentor to teach him to defend himself but has to enter a Kung-Fu tournament to drive off the bullies for good.

There are differences. Firstly, the characters are all younger. In the original movie Danny (the main character, played by Ralph Macchio) was in his late teens, in the re-make Dre (played by Jaden Smith) is only 12. All the kids, who make up most of the rest of the cast, are about the same age.
Jackie Chan as Mr Han is also a bit Younger than Pat Morita’s Mr Miyagi.

The other major change is a shift of location from California to Beijing. It’s actually a change that’s massively beneficial to the film as the sense of alienation is a real drive for Dre, especially in the opening third.
The move to China also allows the director free licence to use some amazing photography. There are stunning shots of busy Beijing and the tranquil rural areas of China littered throughout the picture and they all earn brownie points in my eyes. Even the obligatory and totally cheesy shots of Dre training on the great wall are just too well-crafted for even my cynical soul to gripe about.

However there are three things that really make this a great film, and believe me, it is a great film. The first is the casting. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are perfect for this movie. Jaden Smith has whiny kid out to learn life lessons down pat while Jackie Chan as the slightly odd, hilarious, Kung-Fu master couldn’t have done better. This is miles better than any Jackie Chan film I’ve seen before and has earned Chan some grudging respect in my eyes.

The second component is humour and emotion. There are jokes littered throughout the film. Some of them are based on the similarities with the original but there’s fresh material and Chan’s interaction’s with Smith get real laughs the whole way through.
There’s also a touching side to the plot with more heartfelt moments as the bond between Mr Han and Dre strengthens. Both actors do well in the more dramatic sequences.

Lastly and unsurprisingly it’s the action that really makes this movie. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed and superbly executed. They all look authentic and even without computer graphics you’ll be wowed by some of what you see.
It’s also very well shot, at no-point is the camera too close to make out what’s happening or too far away that we lose the sense of excitement and uncertainty in the outcome of a fight.
Crucially Dre’s development in the movie is totally realistic. Unlike in the original, Mr Han really puts Dre through the paces, and over the film we actually do see Dre becoming more muscly and fitter. I totally believed that Dre had enough preparation for the tournament and that he could do the moves we see him do in the film.

Although I was never bored, this film is a little on the long side, clocking in at 2 hours 20 minutes. It delights me to say that’s my only criticism; the acting, casting, drama, plot, action and suspense are all top notch. This is a must see film whether you loved the original or have never heard of the Karate Kid before now. Go see it.


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