This movie hit so many check boxes on my personal list of what makes a good movie. The following are some of those items...
- A variety of music that includes classical (Bach, Korsakov, Chopin). The Karate Kid uses a variety of music from Lady Gaga, Korsakov, to more traditional Chinese singing. I found that each selection fit their scene well. Furthermore, aside from a few discrepancies, the on screen musical performances matched nicely with the music. Wenwen Han's vibrato and bowing in her violin performance is very convincing.
- Real Kung Fu. I've always had a soft spot for Eastern cultures and their martial arts. Now, I have a deep appreciation and understanding for how different Eastern cultures concept of discipline and action proliferate their way of life. To respect one's craft and to apply one's training and focus to all facets of life is "real" Kung Fu. In addition to studying the choreography and fancy martial arts moves, The Karate Kid very nicely shows the other side to fighting/Kung Fu. The action of Kung Fu is very well integrated into the characters and the conflicts of the film.
- Training scenes. I love training scenes because I can relate to them so profoundly. To wish or dream is free. To achieve these things takes hard work. From the time one decides to take action to the time the goal is completed, most of the journey is spent practicing or training. Playing piano/violin, making art, writing, dancing, and competitive gaming are all areas that I've experience varying degrees of success. Practice is what makes it possible. As nice as it is to be able to sit down and bang out a Chopin Etude, I can distinctly remember working hard to learn every note. This is where true discipline and character is formed. Western stories like to gloss over this most important area. Training hard to Americans means giving it your best shot and wanting to win the most. From my experience, these things don't get you to the goal. In other words, you can want it all you want. But until you work for it, then you don't want it enough. The Karate Kid is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Lucky for me much of the movie is dedicated to training.
- Jackie Chan. He's talented, silly, serious, and stars in some of the most creative fight scenes I've ever scene. No need for much magic, wires, or special effects for this guy. The way he moves alone is what's special. I've watched Jackie Chan movies all of my life including many of his Chinese films. I've watched his biography and studied his moves. Though he only has one fight scene in The Karate Kid, it's a good one. He may be old, but he still has it.
- Taking time to develop settings, scenes, and characters. In the same way that The Karate Kid respects training, it also takes its time developing the story. Instead of rushing from America head long into a Kung Fu conflict, the film takes care to show Dre Parker's rough transition into his new home. Though the film sticks closely to a classic storytelling formula, the predictability doesn't detract from the impact of the storytelling, messages, or themes. So many elements are introduced gradually and, better yet, subtly. Scared looks, a strange car, a tense grip. All of these details help show the story rather than tell it.
The camera is too shaky during some action scenes. This may have been done to obscure the kid on kid violence. Overall, the film is very enjoyable. If you're anything like me, you'll find many of the above elements enjoyable as well.