The 2010 version of The Karate Kid is directed by Harald Zwart, who also directed Agent Cody Banks and The Pink Panther 2. Not the most impressive resume a director can have, but this time he definitely outdid himself. This movie takes place in China, and you have lots of shots showing the beautiful scenery, including some world renown landmarks such as the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium and the Great Wall of China. There is a good effort to introduce the foreign culture, such as a store selling bugs on a stick as food.
Our story follows a 12-year-old boy played by Jaden Smith. Jaden’s acting here is surprisingly good, and he even does his own stunts. There is a romance subplot going on that seemed too forced most of the time. I did not really buy that this Chinese girl falls in love with the boy at first sight. Also, some scenes between the boy and girl were dragged out way too long, especially those that involves dancing. Nevertheless, the romantic parts of the story is cute and did not detract too much from the Karate action we are here to see in the first place.
Which brings up the character that Jackie Chan plays. He is a kung fu expert who is preparing Jaden for a kung fu competition. The training sequences only kick in a long way into the film, but once Jaden begins his training, you are rooting for both master and student. The methods of teaching from Jackie are interesting, and you might even want to try them out for yourself when no one is looking. There is a scene where Jackie’s back story is revealed and the drama may make you tear.
The first hour of the movie is very slow-moving, mostly showing how Jaden is adapting to life in another country, as well as getting bullied in school. The bullying scenes were a few too many, and were more brutal than I expected. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it became slightly unrealistic when Jaden didn’t die after getting maimed endlessly. Although the film took very long to pick up its pace, it managed to rescue itself towards the end.
The climax of the film was very well done, but I was surprised at how abruptly the film ended in contrast with how slow-moving the film was at the beginning. I suppose someone realised the film was running way too long and decided to end it right there when the climax was over. One more thing that bugged me was that the romance between the boy and girl never really had any conclusion.
The sports movie has already become a cliché with films like Rocky dominating as the template. This reboot/remake tries to break out of that mould but sometimes it tries too hard to be different. The length is a huge problem, but The Karate Kid packs enough punch and contains more emotion than you would expect from such a movie.