Episode #153: Reflections on Watching The Karate Kid Part 2
After rewatching the original 1984 Karate Kid, I decided to give the sequel a try. I distinctly remembered not liking it as a kid (since it had the audacity of having not just one but two love stories), but since that was 30 years ago, I figured what the hell – perhaps my tastes had changed in the interim.
To be honest, this time around, I liked it better than the first movie. Don’t get me wrong, the first film has a certain teen movie charm, but I thought this one was a better movie overall. In the first film, you pretty much know (as with most sports movies), what’s going to happen. Lots of pain until the end when the hero goes out, gives it 110% for the Gipper (so to speak), and wins the game, match, race, etc. (Sure, sportsmanship dictates that learning how to lose well is just as important as winning. Any grade school kid can tell you that – even if they don’t believe it – since they’ve heard it from countless adults who know the truth – no one wins all the time. That all goes out the door with your typical sports movie). We know that despite seemingly being unprepared for the kind of fighting in the All Valley Karate Tournament, Daniel-San is going to win. He’s the hero, after all, but it wouldn’t be much of a story if he were kicking ass right from the get go. Speaking of which, we guess he’s going to use that crane kick (really just a stylized jumping front kick) in the clutch when all the chips are down. Every hero needs an ace up his sleeve, even if said ace has a suicidal opening stance that exposes just about everything and probably wouldn’t work 99% of the time.
Not surprisingly, the crane kick makes a reappearance in the sequel but is blocked. The sequel basically rehashes almost everything from the first film but raises the stakes … and with that, casts doubt as to the outcome. No longer in it just Daniel fighting, it’s Mr. Miyagi, too. It’s not a game of three points until the match is done, then bow and shake hands. The match is done when the loser is dead. With odds like that, the sequel manages to keep things up in the air and uncertain until the end.
One thing that surprised me (since I have vague memories Daniel in Karate Kid 3) was that Daniel was qnite a bit more centered and chilled out in this one. I found him more likable as a result. I figured the writers wanted to show some growth and highlight the effect the relationship he’d developed with his mentor and teacher, Mr. Miyagi, had had on his hotheaded nature.
Whereas the first film was really a sports, teen, and father-son/student-teacher film that happened to be about karate, this one felt more like a traditional martial arts movie. I liked the Okinawan setting and the touches of “old Japan” the film had (while quaint and probably a bit stereotypical), which added to the overall mystique of the film. It was also easy to root for Daniel and Mr. Miyagi since the enemies in this film, Sato, Mr. Miyagi’s childhood friend turned corrupt businessman, and Chozen, one of Sato’s henchmen who takes an immediate dislike to Daniel, do a good job being villains. It was a little harder to feel that way about his nemesis from the first film, Johnny Lawrence, since you got the sense he was an inherently decent, if immature, guy who might have behaved better if his circumstances and role models had been different.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. This film was more Mr. Miyagi’s story than Daniel’s, in a way, and since you can never really go wrong with Mr. Miyagi, I’d say give it a rewatch if you found it a snoozefest as a kid. There are a number of nice touches than make it worth giving it a second shot.
Case in point: in the Miyagi family dojo, there are two scrolls. Although I don’t read Japanese, they use Chinese characters for some words, and usually, the meaning is about the same. On the right, 空手無先手 literally means “karate (’empty hand’) is not for offense,” and on the left, 先正其 心 I think translates into something like “first, fix your own heart,” which is a little different from how Mr. Miyagi translated it in the film but fits with the way he lives his life and what he tries to instill in Daniel.
Between Two Worlds, the synth EP follow up to Long Ago Not So Far Away is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.
The bonus track, called “Flight of the Cloudrider” has a 80s movie mashup music video (see if you can identify all the movies!) which is available on youtube. This app was largely created with the iphone app Auxy.
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