But why though? I saw the latest season of Cobra Kai back in January and I guess I just got the hankering to watch the originals. Like most guys my age, I saw the movies as a kid, I really liked them, and then I moved on to other things. I know a lot of people have continued to watch these movies long after the 80s and I get it. They have just never been movies I had to go back to. I probably haven’t seen them in full since maybe the 90s (and that was likely just the first movie being shown on syndicated TV or something). I remember the basic stories but everything else was a fog. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone back at all to rewatch them if Cobra Kai hadn’t renewed my interest in the franchise. Again, I liked them as a kid, I watched the short-lived cartoon, and I even caught the remake form a few years back. And if you’re wondering, no I never got around to watching the Next Karate Kid. So yeah, I revisited the series after several years. Because of this, I was given a unique perspective where the movies were both familiar and new. So what are some things I noticed watching these movies again? Let’s find out.
The Karate Kid
- Despite the story being a somewhat typical bully vs bullied film, Daniel wasn’t the typical 80s nerd. He was pretty confidant, funny, athletic, and caught the eye of the girls at the beach on his first day. I was surprised with how cool they made him look. It seemed like things would have gone well for him if he hadn’t had a run-in with Johnny and his goons but then, there wouldn’t have been a movie.
- Over the years, I barely remembered Ali as a character other than being the girl Johnny and Daniel fought over (and for being played by Elizabeth Shue). Cobra Kai played her up as being someone so special that old boyfriends might think about her 30 years after the fact. Watching the movie again, she was kind of a typical love interest who disappeared for a large chunk of the second act.
- Mr. Miyagi getting drunk and revealing his tragic past didn’t really have much to do with the plot. It was a well-acted scene and added depth to Miyagi but it’s weird that Daniel never really brought it up. I always remembered it being a larger part of the saga.
- There was a weird running gag about people mispronouncing Miyagi’s name that spilled a little bit into the second movie. I didn’t remember that at all.
- Johnny in Cobra Kai and Johnny in this movie are two different guys. In the first movie, Johnny definitely showed he wasn’t all bad, which was a big part of why the spin-off show happened, but the two personalities don’t quite gel. Here, Johnny is a typical Californian prep who is comfortable going to country clubs and suave enough to impress Ali’s parents. He’s presented as someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s far removed from the hard rock-listening, socially awkward, slob in the show. I know he was supposed to have hit rock bottom after the tournament but the version we see in Cobra Kai doesn’t even know how to wear a tie whereas the movie version makes it look like second nature.
- The whole “Daniel is the real bully” thing is popular these days but going back and watching the movie instead of select clips from a youtube vid reminded me that the Cobra Kai kids were 100% at fault and deserved the ass whupp’n that came to them. In fact, for all the talk about illegal head-kicks, there are quite a few in the tournament scenes. Johnny himself kicks a guy in the head at one point.
The Karate Kid II
- This was my favorite sequel as a kid but I was afraid re-watching this would reveal some unfortunate White Savior stuff. It’s avoided for the most part.
- All the Karate Kid bullies have an entourage of mini-bullies following them around. Chozen is no different but I realized that his goons remain nameless and don’t have separate personalities, unlike Johnny’s or Mike’s.
- I have determined that out of all the Karate Kid villains, Sato was the smartest. This is based entirely on the fact that he’s the only one who backed down from fighting Mr. Miyagi.
- Daniel’s mom is completely absent from this movie. I don’t feel one way or another about this but I thought she was in this one.
- This movie is just as much of a Miyagi movie as it is a Daniel movie and is all the better for it.
- The franchise often has weird middle-aged men who invest way too much time in teenage-related drama to the point of having personal grudges against high school students. Sato doesn’t seem interested in Chozen’s schemes and is more likely to call him out on his dickish behavior than Kreese or Silver. Because of this, Karate Kid II seems a bit more realistic.
The Karate Kid III
- The movie felt like an early 90s movie instead of an 80s movie. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it was Terry Silver’s pony tail. That seemed to be more of a 90s thing than an 80s thing. I’m not sure what else it could be.
- As much as I still feel this is the weakest of the movies, Terry Silver and Mike Barnes are good villains in how over-the-top they are. It just doesn’t fit as a follow up to the second movie. As others have mentioned in previous reviews, Daniel is suddenly a wimp (and super annoying this time around), they don’t really do much to establish why Mike Barnes is as feared as he is, the plot is pretty dumb and requires just about every character to be an idiot, and it really seemed like there wasn’t as much effort put into it.
- The extras at the tournament are mostly small children and over-acting adults. It was oddly distracting.
- Mr. Miyagi beating up all the villains at the dojo cracked me up with how cocky they all were. John Kreese got his ass kicked in the previous movie and Miyagi didn’t have to do anything beyond side-stepping. Yet in this scene, Kreese somehow thought he was gonna get some payback. As for Mike Barnes, he got his ass kicked earlier in the movie and this sequence started with Miyagi throwing him through the door. Instead of backing off, he got right back up for one last attack and somehow thought there would be a different outcome other than getting a face full of wall. Then there was Silver who began mocking Miyagi despite the fact that he just got finished beating up his champion and his war buddy. No caution whatsoever. And once Silver lost the fight and had paint dumped on him, he continued to gloat and laugh like a maniac, lacking any sense of humility. Cobra Kai retconning him as a cokehead made a lot of sense.
That’s About It
The good news was that the movies still hold up as entertaining, even the third one. The fights are still mostly good, Ralph Machio and Pat Morita made a great duo, and the stories were mostly solid. After I watched these movies, I’ve gone back and re-watched the Cobra Kai series again up until the most recent season and it made me appreciate that show even more. Heck, now that I’m on this kick, I might even watch The Next Karate Kid now. Maybe.