THE KARATE KID a.k.a. THE KUNG FU KID

http://www.karatekid-themovie.com/

USA / CHINA 2010   Directed by: Harald Zwart Written by: Christopher Murphey (screenplay), Robert Mark Kamen (story) Produced by: James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Ken Stovitz, Jerry Weintraub  Cinematography: Roger Pratt  Editing: Joel Negron  Music: James Horner  Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Rongguang Yu, Zhensu Wu, Zhiheng Wang, Zhenwei Wang

We shouldn’t ever wonder why certain movies are remade. The answer is simple: cash. Cashing in on the popular, the familiar, time and time again. Why invent a new story if you can just earn millions of dollars with an old one.

I have never been a fan of the original movie, but it was too tempting to see what kind of film THE KARATE KID 2010 would turn out to be. Co-financed by the Smiths, starring their own kid, with Jackie Chan as biggest pull factor, the man who lately rather associates himself with works like LITTLE BIG SOLDIER than conventional martial arts flicks.

THE KARATE KID just as the original is more about the relationship between the master and his young disciple than it is about fighting. Of course fighting for honor is the main reason for them getting together, but without real good chemistry between the two characters as well as the actors THE KARATE KID would be nothing.

Disregard the reasons to remake the story THE KARATE KID works very well, judging it for what it is or aims to be. The story about friendship and learning from each other is written, played and directed as good as one can expect from an American mainstream movie (I’d agree with Roger Ebert this far). It is surprising to see that Jaden Smith is not just in it because of his name: he is a good choice for the role. Also it’s fun to see Jackie Chan in another “acting” role as his martial arts teacher.

THE KARATE KID is not going to win prizes for its choreography, fighting sequences or the way it portraits Chinese culture and people. It may win over the hearts of western multiplex audiences, but other than that it’s an extremely unrealistic film of sort. What many writers like Ebert have not taken into account is a perspective other than a western one.

From the point of view of a Chinese or even a broader Asian audience THE KARATE KID is full of clichés, makes all Chinese look evil (except Chan and some kids who become friends at the ends) and generally shows no sensitivity for cultural diversity (that even goes for the way the Americans are shown in the movie). Starts with the misleading title (no karate in here; that’s why in Asia the movie will be released as KUNG FU KID) and ends with only two characters having more than one dimension to them (one of them being Chan who has already been absorbed by the American mainstream as one of their own (you know, that funny Asian dude)). Not to mention the way gender stereotypes are exploited (men fight for the “chicks”, the girls’ only job is to smile and wave). Horrible.

If you accept THE KARATE KID purely as a story about very different people becoming friends and gaining respect for each other the movie is doing fine job. If however a more realistic and accurate portrayal of different cultures, their beliefs, thinking and attitude is of importance to you, THE KARATE KID isn’t your dish. Despite its title the movie is as unAsian as Chop Suey*.

J.

*Yeah, we know, it’s actually not that American either, but let’s just stick to what’s widely believed here.

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