Plot: What’s it about?
The year was 1984 and I was 11 years old. My family was living in Scarsdale, New York; a place which none of us actually liked so we used any and all excuses to escape to the movies or the bowling alley. Bear with me, I’m going somewhere with this. As fate would have it, we ended up seeing “The Karate Kid” and, having taken a few taekwondo classes at the YMCA the summer prior, I left the movie thinking that I could conquer the world and remember doing flying kicks in the parking lot (my little brother was doing them as well). Yes, the movie was that inspirational and is still looked back upon with much fondness by me. Let’s turn the clock forward a quarter of a century and, as Hollywood tends to do, we’ve now got a remake of “The Karate Kid” but gone are Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. In their places are Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada) and Jackie Chan. Yes, really – Jackie Chan! Hmmm, could this work? The locale is no longer Southern California, instead it’s Beijing, China. Hmmm, could this work? In a word – yes.
The story begins as we meet Dre (Jaden Smith). His mother (Taraji P. Henson) has just gotten a new job at a motor company in Beijing (they moved from Detroit – I’m trying to figure out the connection there). So Dre takes a last look at his place, eyes up the notches on the door symbolizing the milestones in his short life and off they go to the Far East. Dre immediately meets another American by the name of Harry (Luke Carberry) and the two hit it off. But what really catches Dre’s eye is Meiying (Wenwen Han), a Chinese girl who’s intrigued by Dre’s ways. Naturally this doesn’t last forever and he subsequently gets the beat down from a group of local bullies. He enlists the help of the maintenance man, Mr. Miya–er Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Mr. Han takes Dre under his wing and teaches him the martial arts in some most unusual ways. In return, the bullies are forbidden from using Dre as a punching bag until after the tournament, which is where Dre will show his skills.
The re-make of “The Karate Kid” was good, no doubt about it. I think my only complaint was that it was a bit too faithful to the original. I mean, it seems that the writers were afraid to leave so much as a semicolon out. If you’ve never seen the original film, then I’d watch it after you watch this because it essentially mirrors the earlier version. Case in point it’s not “wax on/wax off” it’s now “jacket on/jacket off” and so forth. While the locale is an improvement (I’ll take the Great Wall of China over Venice Beach any day), all the elements that made the original a hit are present here too. I can’t complain too much though, since I kind of get ticked when they do a re-make and then change it half way through. I’m hard to please, aren’t I? But this “Karate Kid” manages to be nearly as endearing as the original. However I wasn’t doing flying kicks in the living room after viewing this one, I’m not 11 years old anymore.
Video: How does it look?
Sony presents “The Karate Kid” in a beautiful 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer that really takes advantage of the Chinese landscape. The Great Wall never looked so good and immersive as the palette used was, it never seemed to let up. You can see the age spots on Jackie Chan’s face, the dreadlocks in Dre’s hair and the intricate detail of some of the nighttime scenes. This is what I was expecting with a new to Blu-ray movie and it delivered on pretty much every level in regards to the video.
Audio: How does it sound?
Audio-wise, the DTS HD Master audio soundtrack is pretty good too. Granted I don’t know anyone’s thoughts on Lady Gaga, but her “Poker Face” song is in the film and sounds pretty darn good. Vocals are rich and strong, even though it’s a bit difficult to make out what Jackie Chan’s character is saying at times (I find this a fault of the actor, not the actual audio mix). James Horner’s score sounds as eloquent and dramatic as you might imagine, bringing in flavors of the East to make for a very subtle, yet powerful soundtrack. Surrounds are present, but not overbearing and although used sparingly, the LFE are always there.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The extras vary in terms of quality and entertainment, but there’s several of them so let’s get started. First up is a quick lesson on how to speak Chinese and we get a Justin Bieber music video (which I skipped) as well. There’s the standard “Making of…” featurette hosted by Jackie Chan as he takes us on a tour of the set and gives us some behind the scenes information on the film. Moving on to the Blu-ray exclusives, we get a literal interactive map of China in which you can highlight an area (or landmark) and you’ll be presented with a short video clip about it. These are all spots that were used in the film, of course. We also get some Production Diaries broken down into about ten segments. You can watch each of these individually. This brings us to the last supplement, an Alternate Ending. Ok, this is hilarious. I have no idea if this was a joke or not, but if you’ve ever seen an episode of “Jerry Springer” that’s about the closest thing to a comparison that I could draw. If the executives at Sony were seriously considering this ending, then I think they might have had a little too much to drink. Still its inclusion is an asset and I really wasn’t suspecting to laugh as much as I did. The movie is also equipped with MovieIQ and if you’re using a PS3 as your Blu-ray player, it’ll install a custom theme (and now I can’t figure out how to get it off of there).