Old Guy vs. Young Guy – The Original Karate Kid (1984) vs. The New Karate Kid (2010)

Which movie is better – the original Karate Kid (1984) or The New Karate Kid (2010)?

We ask two guys from different sides of the generation gap what they think. You will be treated to a serialised debate in the next few weeks. Old Guy will begin the argument – it’s only good manners to give way to the older generation – and Young Guy will follow with his rebuttal first thing next term.

Round 1 – The Old Guy Speaks

Last Tuesday night I was travelling home from football training and I heard the dolce tones of Ralph Macchio on the radio. He was taking part in the United States version of Dancing with the Stars and was talking to that annoying guy called Ryan Seacrest (surely a name that only Americans  could invent). I could not help but feel a tinge of sentimentality overcome me as I reminisced about the great film The Karate Kid not to be confused by the poor man’s version involving the self-indulged little offspring from Will Smith.

What struck me at that moment was the influence that this film has had on modern culture and in particular on me. I often think about the words of wisdom that have flowed from the mouth of Mr Miyagi which can best summed up by the words “wax on, wax off”. It is however the small things about this film that have stayed with me.

The first thing that stirs the inside emotions is the song at the end of the film that supports the competition montage in which we see little Ralph climb his way through the different stages. The song is called “You’re the Best” and it can be summed up as 1980’s cheesy pop but it is good cheesy pop. It is however the last shot of the film with a still frame shot of Mr Miyagi with a knowing smile and look at the camera that intrigues me the most. Did he know I was watching? What is that look he gives and what the hell was the director thinking to make this the last shot of the film? Surely it should have been of Ralph?

Anyhow my drive home also made me reflect on the sheer tackiness of Hollywood to reproduce the film in a modern version. I have only been able to view half of the new film as I have been horrified by the inability of the film to know that the charm of the original was in fact it was so damn bad! A more glossy and glitzier version defeats the purpose of a film becoming a cult classic. Let’s start and finish with the casting.

Ralph Macchio was in his prime as a teen heart throb back in the 80’s when he made the film. He had achieved notoriety from the great teen film The Outsiders and was on the way up.  Basically this kid had some street credibility. On the other hand we have the Will Smith offspring in the newer version. The dreadlocks! Pleeeeeeeease! What is going on with this precocious little monster. Can’t act, can’t entertain.

Pat Morita versus Jackie Chan is like asking me to compare champagne with lolly water. Pat was from the Happy Days a program that not only created “The Fonz” but also influenced all of my generation with catch phrases and lessons on life. Jackie Chan doesn’t belong in the American culture of “underdog comes good” films as this needs to be left to bit actors from sitcoms. Chan is too polished! The charm of Pat was that you would not have expected him to be a legendary karate guy, we already know that Chan is.

I’m sorry but it is getting late and you know the older generation needs to take a snooze so I am off but I will leave you with one last thought.  A great film can only be judged by its influence on its audience and the truth is that the original is always more satisfying to the watcher then the imitation!


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