One of my top five movies is The Karate Kid, 1984, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Ralph played the unconfident Daniel Larusso, and Pat played Kesuke Miyagi, Mr. Miyagi. It's one of the coolest stories because it's aboutbelieving in yourself.
Both at the time were relative unknowns. Macchio had only acted professionally, according to IMDb, since the early 80's. Morita had been acting since the 60's, possibly earlier. I do remember him as Al in the sitcom Happy Days. Mr. Miyagi was his role to play, and from the DVD extras, the voice and mannerisms came to him instantly. A sign of this was his nomination as best supporting actor both in the Academy and Golden Globe awards.
When I first heard they were remaking this, I cringed. Then I heard Jaden Smith, Will Smith's son was starring in it. I felt Smith was grooming his son to follow in his stardom, which is fine. And I think it worked.
Honestly, I wasn't going to watch this. I loved the original too much, but then I told myself, "I gotsa support my Asian brothah, Jackie Chan!" If that were true, then I would have watched The Spy Next Door.
I've always been a proponent of knowing why you like certain things, and The Karate Kid, 1984 was one. I've watched the movie dozens upon dozens of times. Analyzed it as much as I could. And my most favorite part about the story is the relationship between the student and teacher. The relationship has a rocky start since Mr. Miyagi is cold and distant in the beginning. But as Daniel's needs become apparent, Mr. Miyagi makes the reluctant decision to teach him, putting him through day-long chores, which are really karate lessons. You can feel that their relationship is real.
Remember "Wax on, wax off"?
The newly released version replaces Daniel with Dre, played by Smith, and Mr. Miyagi with Mr. Han, played by Chan.
The feel of an intimate relationship is what's missing from The Karate Kid, 2010. Both Smith and Chan act well, but their relationship never blossoms. We see there is supposed to be a connection when Mr. Han gently pats a snoozing Dre, or when Dre realizes that taking his jacket off, throwing it on the ground, picking it up, putting it back on a thousand times is a karate lesson...I mean a kung fu lesson. But I'm writing about The Karate Kid. Ah...huh...anyways...
The awe, the holy crap I am learning karate...argh...I mean kung fu...wasn't totally realized. And it's in that moment, in the original, is where their relationship solidifies from mere student/teacher...
and moves on to BFFs...
Another problem I had with the movie was personal. I've seen the original too many times. I know it too well. And they really didn't do anything new with the story. Well...there's new names, new actors, better martial arts choreography, and two big names playing the main parts, and China, but that's it. It wasn't really a remake as much of a regurgitate.
A lot of the dialogue mirrored/copied the original. The story structure and plot mirrored/copied the original. There was a moment in the movie where I told myself, here comes the humanizing of Mr. Han, jokingly. Then that scene came when Mr. Han shows Dre, and the audience, that he's human. I often found myself comparing the two movies. And I don't think I would have had the dialogue, scenes, and when they happened didn't mirror/copy the original so closely.
One last thing. Macchio played the role well, swimming in and out of self-realization and fear. In the last climatic fight, Daniel-san's leg was kicked, rendering unusable, and Macchio sold it. When the same thing happens to Dre, Smith doesn't sell the injury at all, walking as if he stubbed his toe. Despite acting well, Smith didn't have opposing sides of fear and self-realization, something that would have given the character dimension.
"[Is] unacting acting, or acting unacting..." -Bruce Lee
Objectively, the movie worked, albeit without the relationship. The audience cheered the ending. Most were too young to have seen the original. It's one thing to remain faithful to the original, like translating comic books to the silver screen. It's another to copy the original.