Karate Kid 3-Movie Collection: (The Karate Kid, The Karate Kid Part II
and The Karate Kid Part III)
With the popularity in
recent years of the TV reboot series Cobra Kai, it’s always good to
go back to revisit the original series of films – if for no other reason
than to brush up on some of the characters who appear in Cobra Kai.
Therefore, this first release on 4KUltra HD and Blu-ray of the first three
Karate Kid films – The Karate Kid, The Karate Kid Part II and
The Karate Kid Part III – is a nice way of catching up. And – at
least in the case of the first film – it has much more to offer than that.
Technically this is not
the complete Karate Kid lineup. There is a 5-movie collection
released several years ago which is still available on DVD. That grouping
also includes The Next Karate Kid (1994) in which Mr. Miyagi takes on
a new student, a young girl played a then-unknown Hilary Swank. It also
includes the awful 2010 reboot of the series with Jaden Smith and Jackie
Chan – and the less said about that film, the better. Neither of those films
are really missed in this collection. In fact, an argument could be made
about whether anyone will rewatch Part II and Part III more
than once or twice.
However, I think it makes
sense to limit this collection to the three films which feature Ralph
Macchio as Danny LaRusso and Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, all of which were
written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John D. Avildsen. (Only Morita
was involved in the fourth film, and none of the original cast or crew took
part in the reboot.)
Of course, the only truly
good film of the trilogy (and the franchise) was the first one. The second
film had its moments, but eventually tried so hard to up the stakes that it
completely spun off the rails. The films are supposed to take place in about
a year-long period, although the films took five years between the first and
Even though it is rather
predictable and not exactly Oscar-worthy, The Karate Kid deserves its
status as a fan favorite feel-good film. It is the story about a scrawny
Newark, NJ teen who moves cross country with his mother and quickly falls on
the wrong side of the local bullies at his new high school – particularly
their leader Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Unfortunately, the bullies are
star karate students, and they are beating Daniel up daily. When he finds
out that his new apartment’s handyman, Mr. Miyagi knows karate and is
willing to teach him, Daniel joins the local martial arts tournament to
prove himself to the bullies.
And yes, despite the
somewhat popular revisionist history which likes to paint Johnny as a
misunderstood victim – as espoused in popular culture on Cobra Kai
and How I Met Your Mother – Johnny is indeed a bully. You can make
the argument that he was led astray by his sensei Kreese (Martin Kove). You
can make the argument that his heart was broken by losing his ex-girlfriend
Ali (Elisabeth Shue) and he took out his anger on her new boyfriend Daniel.
Neither of those arguments would be completely wrong, but it is letting him
off the hook way too easily. That does not change what he did and how he
acted. Just because he had some regrets does not excuse it. In fact, that is
part of what makes Cobra Kai so fascinating, it shows the way that
Johnny has grown and changed – and the ways that he hasn’t.
What Cobra Kai fans
may not remember was that Johnny was essentially only in the first Karate
Kid movie. He had a bit part in the opening sequence of the second one
which supposedly happened right after the tournament, but never appears
again after that – except in flashbacks during the opening credits of
Part III. This is the story of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.
Their story is partially
expanded, partially repeated, and partially ramped up in The Karate Kid
Part II. And frankly, like so many sequels, especially of this time
period, The Karate Kid Part II is so desperate to redo the story but
make it bigger and more explosive that it forgets a big part of why the
first film was such a hit in the first place. It was a small film about
everyday people put into ordinary situations.
Essentially, Part II
reframes the original story in Mr. Miyagi’s home village in Okinawa,
where he must return because his father is dying. Daniel goes along with
him, and quickly he is falling in love with a sweet local girl (Tamlyn
Tomita) and falling on the bad side of a local bully (Yuji Okumoto).
Then they double up on the
story. Mr. Miyagi also has a potential love interest named Yukie (Nobu
McCarthy) as well as a nemesis named Sato (Danny Kamekona). The history
between the three goes back 45 years – Mr. Miyagi had fallen in love with
Yukie even though she was promised in an arranged marriage to Sato, Miyagi’s
best friend. Miyagi ended up leaving for the US to save face, but Sato has
never forgiven him for the slight to his honor and never married Yukie. All
these years later, Yukie has never been married and Sato is a rich, cruel
dojo owner who still wants revenge on his old friend.
It is never completely
explained how Mr. Miyagi and Sato – who grew up as best friends and learned
about karate from the same teacher – ended up with such
diametrically-opposed philosophies about the meanings behind karate. (Miyagi
believes karate is for defense only, and Sato’s ideals come down much closer
to Kreese’s “No Mercy” stance.) Oh sure, of course there is that 45-year-old
rift about a girl, but even that does not explain the hard ideological shift
that the two men made.
In fact, the bullies in
Part II – Sato included – are much more heinous than the ones
encountered in the first film. These guys are obviously willing do anything
– bully, lie, cheat, steal, threaten rape and/or murder, destroy a small
village – all to defend their own deluded sense of “honor.” Eventually, the
storyline of Part II has a lot more going on than the first, and yet
it feels like it is trying too hard.
Honestly, I had never seen
The Karate Kid Part III before receiving this collection. Even though
it returns Daniel and Mr. Miyagi home to Reseda and returns to earlier plot
points like the All-Valley Karate Tournament and Cobra Kai as the villains
(although with different fighters and a new sensei aiding Kreese (the
original sensei character returns but is offscreen and out of the country
for much of the story), still the storyline is totally out of whack.
To give just a quick
example of how hackneyed the new film was, early on Kreese is taken to the
airport by his rich former student Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), where
they discuss getting revenge on Daniel and Miyagi. Seconds after Kreese goes
in and Silver drives off, Daniel and Miyagi exit the very same door,
returning home from the Okinawa trip explored in Part II. That’s one
hell of a coincidence of timing.
The new bad guy Terry
Silver is cartoonishly, over-the-top evil, with his insincere smile, his
nuevo riche lifestyle and his Steven Seagal man ponytail. He even boasts
– twice! – that he made his fortune by dumping hazardous waste. And he takes
business meetings while soaking naked in a bubble bath – I guess as a power
trip, but who really knows why.
The devious plot between
Kreese and Silver is simple. Since the last tournament – and a fight in the
parking lot which happened in the opening of Part II – the Cobra Kai
dojo has lost all of its students. Silver, a Vietnam War buddy of Kreese’s
with extremely deep pockets, has been financing the place. They decide that
they must not only beat but humiliate LaRusso in the next tournament. So,
they are going to get between Daniel and Miyagi and force Daniel to go on
his own. And then pain.
For the plan, they hire
“the bad boy of karate” to be their main fighter, as well as a couple of
other young toughs. Together they will destroy Daniel’s life and
relationships and a new Bansai tree business Daniel and Mr. Miyagi have
started. (Yes, you read that right.)
Daniel has met yet another
new girl in Part III, although refreshingly in this film it is more
of a friendship than yet another love of Daniel’s life. (She drops the
“boyfriend at home” bomb on him early on.)
Like in Part II,
the new bad kids suggest not so subtly that they are not above murder,
thievery, extortion or rape to get their way. They are also very blatantly
is by far the worst
chapter of the trilogy, but it helps to tell the whole story. It is nice to
have all three Karate Kid adventures together in one big package,
although as I noted above, I can’t imagine watching any of the ones other
than the original very often.
Jay S. Jacobs
All rights reserved. Posted: December 19, 2021.