The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 140 minutes
Genre: Drama/martial arts
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English/French DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han, Zhenwei Wang
Directed by: Harold Zwart
Music by: James Horner
Written by: Christopher Murphey
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 5, 2010
"A challenge he never imagined, a teacher he never expected"
When Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother (Taraji P. Henson) move from Detroit to China, Dre feels lost in a world very different from what he knows. Bullied and beaten up by some fellow students in his school, Dre is rescued by his apartment building's handyman, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a man who is mourning a devastating loss. Mr. Han takes pity on Dre and agrees to teach him kung fu to defend himself. Training together, teacher and student learn to trust each other, and ultimately form a friendship that heals them both.
12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
Remakes can be a tricky thing especially when it involves a beloved classic like the original The Karate Kid. In this case the script changes very little which tends to make scene by scene comparisons almost automatic for those familiar with the original. I guess that can be seen as both good and bad in that if the story strays too far than it isn't faithful, on the other hand if it plays too close it feels like a knock off. I think this remake is somewhere in between. It's sort of different (faithful) but plays a little too close (knockoff). It's difficult to explain but easier to understand once you have seen it. I think it walks a fine line but manages to capture the essence of the original via the good versus bad, life lessons, and bonds of friendship theme. So with all things essentially being equal in terms of the plot/storyline then we turn to the credibility/performances of the cast and the chemistry among them, especially the two leads.
The driving force behind this remake was producer Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith who co-produced it. It was obviously designed as a vehicle to highlight their son Jaden. I have seen him in several films (smaller roles) and think that he shows promise as an actor but isn't among the top tier in his age group. I was curious to see how well he would do in a lead role such as this. Unlike the original film this is a more physically demanding role and I must admit that twelve year Jaden did a terrific job with it. The fight sequences/choreography/effects are more involved which makes for a more engaging experience in that regard. Like his father Smith exudes confidence and charm which works in his favor here. I wasn't impressed with Smith's dramatic acting or as moved by the relationship between himself and Chan versus Macchio and Morita. There is a touching moment where Mr. Han breaks down while explaining to Dre the reason why he is disconnected/depressed. For that instant there was a viably emotive and dramatic moment that worked nicely. Jackie Chan is a likeable and charismatic. His Mr. Han is decidedly darker than Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi but feels appropriate within the context of the story. I liked the depiction of the relationship between Dre and Meiying and thought that actress Wenwen Han pretty much stole every scene they had together. Looking at the remaining core characters and how they stack up to those in the original film. Here the leader/master of the Fighting Dragons doesn't compare to Martin Cove's Kreese. Zhenwei Wang's Cheng was good, but better than William Zabka's despicable Johnny? Nope. There were essentially no differences between Randee Heller and Taraji P. Henson in the role of the clueless mother who fails to see the pain their son is going through.
The action here is entertaining but the overall effect isn't appreciably better than the original although I like the Rocky style training montage (The Great Wall of China!). The fact that Dre is younger than Daniel changed some of the thematic elements in the story but how they are developed here in terms of levity and romance is well done and charming. The locations in China where the film is shot make for a beautiful backdrop that bolsters its appeal. I think that the film suffers from pacing problems and an overblown screenplay (drop your jacket, pick it up, hang it up would it ever end?!) that makes it too long at two hours and twenty minutes. When all was said and done it would be fair to say that I liked The Karate Kid. It doesn't live up to the original but on its own its entertaining, fun and worth watching.
The rating is for bullying, martial arts action violence and mild language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Karate Kid comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.1 Mbps.
This is a reference quality encoding from Sony that looks great in high definition. The video has a transparent quality with excellent refinement and crisp definition. The nature of the photography lends itself to vivid and high glossy visuals which at times make it appear distinctly vibrant and eye catching. Colors are rich and delineated which highlights bright primaries and deeply saturated hues. Contrast is slightly elevated which imparts images with a dynamic overtone that doesn't infringed upon fidelity. Black levels are strong as dark scenes containing mixed content have plenty of depth and punch. Shadow delineation is every bit as good which provides low level sequences with excellent depth of field and visible detail in backgrounds. Images on screen appear detailed, lucid, and sharp with a noticeably filmic texture that enriched regardless of the camera's perspective.
The high resolution DTS-HD Master Audio presentation did a nice job rendering the film's soundtrack. Dialogue has excellent intonation and clarity which allows subtle tonal differences in the voices of the cast to be discernable. This is a well balanced surround mix that quite often engages the entire system. Dynamic range is excellent and the audio has an open expression that extends well into the room. Surround activity isn't prevalent however the action based elements provide an enriching level of immersion that generates a seamless sound field. The finale fills the room with near field sound effects, energy filled dynamics and pulsating techno rhythms. The LFE channel is frequently engaged and enhances the film's music and lower bass frequencies with deep impact that has excellent tactility.
- On location: The Karate Kid interactive map of China - An interactive experience narrated by director Harold Zwart
- (HD) Alternate ending
- (HD) Production diaries (Totaling 28 minutes):
- Training Jaden
- Jaden Smith: A day in the life
- The Forbidden City
- From Jackie with love
- The Great Wall
- Olympic Village
- Director profile: From model to movie
- Taraji P. Henson goes to China
- Wudang Mountains
- Chinese lessons - Interactive feature - learn phrases from film via scene flashbacks
- (HD) Music video: Never say never by Justin Bieber featuring Jaden Smith
- (HD) Just for kicks: The making of The Karate Kid - 20 minute production featurette
- (HD) Previews - Grown ups, Stomp the yard: The homecoming, Open season 3, Hancock, The Karate Kid (1984)
- BD-Live enabled
The Karate Kid is a remake of the original 1984 classic of the same name. Its up to date spin is conventionally entertaining but doesn't live up to the original's endearing characters and evocative/inspirational appeal. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Home Entertainment in exemplary fashion featuring superb high definition video, clear lossless sound and a quantity versus quality bonus supplement set that has little intrinsic value but may appeal to younger audiences. If you're a fan this is worth picking up otherwise throw it in your rental queue and take it for a spin.
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