If we happen to be of a similar age, and the phrase “wax on, wax off” means anything to you, then you would have guessed which film I’m going to talk about this week in a nanosecond. “The Karate Kid” stands the test of time let me tell you, unlike many of its contemporaries. Obviously, the wardrobe and certain song selections date it, but having just sat through it for the first time since nineteen eighty-four, I guarantee you I enjoyed it just as much, if not more.
I know it may be an odd choice for me to write about, a nearly forty-year-old children’s film, but like most cultural things in life; reading the same book, listening to the same album, or re-watching the same film years later through a different pair of eyes changes the subject every time. Everything in context.
I decided to write about “The Karate Kid” this week as I recently heard that there is a new series on Netflix called “Cobra Kai”, which re-visits the two main characters all these years later, and I cannot wait to see it! Being such a fan of the film as a child, I thought I’d re-watch the original before plunging into both series in a back to back marathon session with Petula Clark my pet parrot sitting on my shoulder as I work my way through a medium-size box of Belgian truffles.
Anyone with early or pre-teen children should sit them down and watch the original before embarking on the series. I know I haven’t even seen a trailer for it yet, but it’s bound to be amazing, (he says hopefully, reputation firmly on the line). You will enjoy the film far more than they will I can assure you! Nostalgia and all that. Then you can sit down happily as a family and enjoy something together, which doesn’t seem to happen enough with cinema these days.
The premise of the film is simple enough. Poor kid Danny Laruso moves from a rough area near New York to a rough area just outside a posh area in California, and immediately annoys the local rich bullies who all do Karate, and beat him mercilessly each time they see him. The caretaker of the building Danny lives in is a Japanese ex-soldier who agrees to teach Danny Karate, never in order to exact revenge, but always to act in self-defence. After a visit from Danny’s teacher Mr Miyagi at their posh academy, the bullies agree to leave Danny alone, as long as he enters the up-coming tournament with only Mr Miyagias his teacher. I shan’t spoil the ending for you, but I think you’ve probably already worked out who wins. It appears the Yanks love an underdog as much as us Brits.
Watching it a second time made me look at a few things differently, as I said. As a child, I had not picked up on the class differences at play, and the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that come with it. I also realised why his teacher Mr Miyagi is such a loner, we are talking less than thirty years after World War II. I am sure the Japanese community who found themselves in the good old US of A would not have had an easy time of it in the early nineteen eighties. We are not talking Nietzsche here, but there was definitely depth to the film I obviously did not pick up on as a child.
One can only assume that the series elaborates on the main themes of the film; revenge is never an option, where you come from, and your background does not define you, and that perseverance and determination are essential tools in life. Now if only schools had subjects like that on the syllabus, I feel this country may one day feel safer and happier than it does at this particular moment. Maybe we should start a petition to put “The Karate Kid” on every school syllabus! I would be the first to sign it.
God Save the Queen. Lord bless you all. Same time next week fellow film lovers.