Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I had a bad feeling about "The Karate Kid" even before I watch it.
That is why I planned NOT to watch it but then was deceived and lured by 'kiasuness' (fear of losing out on something good and the mentality that you want everything, especially when it's free). Oh well, my bro said he will pay for the movie, just so I can watch it and then review it. 

I told him that I can just watch it at home and review it anyway but then he reasoned me out.

So there I was, sitting just 5 rows away from the huge cinema screen, craning my neck due to the lousy seats we got (That is another story; let's just say that that particular cinema has a weird ticketing system which indicates the wrong seats), and watching a movie that got even its title wrong. Why is the movie "Karate Kid" when the kid is obviously learning Kung Fu? Enlighten me...

I predicted that this movie will be a blueprint of many other Kung Fu, boxing, street-fighting, you-name-it kinda movies. It takes on the "underdogs-will-prevail-in-the-end" format. 

If you haven't already know, the movie would start with a boy/girl who at first is bullied or knocked down by the antagonist of the movie. Meanwhile, there'll be someone, who usually is an outcast of the society, bittered by something bad that has happened in his/her life and this person would be the one with experience in that particular field. And the underdog would then learn from this expert and continue on succeeding at the end. Hooray!! Happy ending. 

No matter how we dislike such recycled storyline, we still can't help but want to watch them and witness again and again that moment of victory because, who are we kidding, seeing the underdog's victory does makes one feel better about life. It is therapeutic as it kinda helps us forget the reality that the chances of an average joe or juliet succeeding is sometimes impossible. Oh excuse me for being negative. In the movie's defense, I guess it is movies like these that lifts people's spirits up again and get people to start believing again. 

"Karate Kid" sees the more grown up Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith) taking on the role of Dre, a Detroit kid who was forced to move to China. China sees him struggling with the new cultures and people. He got off the wrong foot with Cheng, a bully in school, resulting in him being constantly bullied until Mr. Han saved him from Cheng's gang. Mr. Han later trained Dre for the Kung Fu tournament in order to challenge Cheng and his merciless coach.

For such a simple movie, with such simple storyline, it's amazing that it can be dragged across 2 and a half hours of my life. 

Half of the movie can be chopped off and the films can be saved for other more noble causes. The beginning of the movie whereby Dre was beaten up over and over again is redundant. We get it - he is going through living hell because he was being beaten up by a Chinese kid and his gang who knows Kung Fu. And we know you are going to learn Kung Fu later so please proceed to the part where you actually learn Kung Fu and start fighting already. 

I'm not a fan of the character Mei Ling, although she seems to be a sweet girl. I would actually erase her character and develop Cheng's character further. I mean there is always an interesting story behind the antagonist and it would be even better to see the friendship develop between Cheng and Dre, rather than another cute puppy love story, which is quite plain. In my humblest opinion, a story about two rivals learning about each other's culture is definitely better than another love story between two souls of different culture. The latter has been shot over and over before, albeit different couples showcasing different cultural background.

Jackie Chan's character, Mr. Han, on the other hand, was not well developed. The few minutes in which he cried in the car, regretting the fact that his negligent driving led to the deaths of two people he loved just wasn't good enough to accentuate his character. It was just a few teary minutes, and though very touching and sad, didn't make him intriguing enough as a character, so it fell back to being predictable, if not boring.

And just so you know, there were no surprise during the tournament. Again it all turned out as expected. A little drama before the end, you know, how Dre got seriously injured but then managed to fight back, that sort of thing. Yep...all there.

However, I would credit how the punches and kicks, through sound effects and certain camera movements (slow motion techniques mainly) emphasizes pain and anguish, and effectively created something pretty surreal. The facial expression of Jaden Smith also deserved a point, as he made the scenes believable. I felt his pain just by watching and I find myself squirming with every hit targeted on the face and the stomach. The last part in which the boy crunched Dre's knee...I felt my own knee breaking man.  

On top of that, there were certain moments in which I believed that they played with colours and music to create certain moods, which described the character of that particular group of society. For example, the first bunch of Kung Fu students were dressed in red, backed by strong music, symbolizing vigour, strength and power.

But they are so cute

Cheng's character was clad in black - representing evil, but during the tournament, he wore red to symbolize domination and power and a force to be reckoned with.

Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) however told Dre that Cheng is not practicing real Kung Fu as the real martial art is about generating peace and harmony, and not hurting others. Mr. Han brought Dre to this place high above the mountains and we spot people dressed in gentle colours of grey and whites - depicting harmony. The music used as background is peaceful in contrast to the earlier scenes of Kung Fu that was full of energy.

I guess it also helped that there were one or two quite funny moments in the movie that did get one or two of my funny nerves tickling me.

In a nutshell, 3 things that made this movie weak - the drrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaggggggyyyyyyyyyyy introduction which somehow killed the climax because the agonizing wait drained off whatever it has to offer, the weak characters whose characteristics were mostly predictable and lastly a storyline that doesn't make one go shouting "freaking awesome!!!!" in the end.

So perhaps one would only enjoy Jackie Chan's hilarious signature Kung Fu moves and also the little cute tyke Jaden Smith's funny facial expressions. Besides that.....I think it failed to live up to expectations...but wait, I wasn't really expecting anything anyway and yet, was let down.

All I can say is, this movie is overrated. 
I've never seen Leisure Mall's cinema this pack and it was packed when Karate Kid is on. But then again, if a film is generating ka-chings, who am I to say that it is lousy.

But looking at the positive, it is a feel good movie which reminds us to stand up when things knock us down. Now that is good advice and that, we shall bring home.

This movie is like a family project. I say so because it is basically a film Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith funded to provide his son an avenue to act. So they flew everyone to China and got Jackie Chan, every child's super hero to star in the movie and then Jackie taught Jaden some Kung Fu, pads up a 12-year-old with muscles.... and "BAMMMM!!!!"...Karate Kid was produced....

I don't know why, although the name of this movie is Karate Kid, I do not feel it related to the previous Karate Kid. Now I have really vague memory of the previous Karate Kid movies but the feel those films gave me is definitely different from this one. This movie is like...oh well, a stand-alone Western mixed Chinese Kung Fu movie (or you might say comedy) that was wrongly categorized under the "Karate Kid" family. 

Whatever I say doesn't matter because you already know if you are going to watch it.

But perhaps with World Cup fever, many of you will be too ill to pay attention to a 12-year-old practicing Kung Fu on the Great Wall of China. I mean, obviously 20 men chasing 1 ball is much more entertaining...;P

TC-My Rating:

With Lotsa Love

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"I love movies for its subjectivity. A movie is debatable. A single scene can mean a million things and the fun part is talking about them."