The Karate Kid (1984 film)
|The Karate Kid|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John G. Avildsen|
|Produced by||Jerry Weintraub|
|Written by||Robert Mark Kamen|
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
|Music by||Bill Conti|
|Editing by||John G. Avildsen
Bud S. Smith
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||126 minutes|
The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts romantic drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Robert Mark Kamen, starring Ralph Macchio who was 22 years old during principle photography, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita and Elisabeth Shue. It is an underdog story in the mold of a previous success, Avildsen's 1976 film Rocky. It was a commercial success upon release, and garnered favorable critical acclaim, earning Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), a high school senior, moves with his mother (Randee Heller) from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. Their apartment's handyman is an eccentric but kindly and humble Okinawan immigrant named Kesuke Miyagi (Morita).
Daniel befriends Ali Mills (Shue), an attractive high school cheerleader, at the same time angering her arrogant ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Johnny is the best student at the Cobra Kai dojo, where he is taught an unethical, vicious form of martial arts. Daniel knows a little karate from books and a few classes at the YMCA, but Johnny easily defeats him in their first encounter. Thereafter, Johnny and his gang of Cobra Kai students torment Daniel at every opportunity.
When Mr. Miyagi sees the gang giving Daniel a savage beating, he intervenes and single-handedly defeats five attackers with ease. Awed, Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to be his teacher. Mr. Miyagi refuses, but agrees to go with Daniel to the Cobra Kai dojo in order to resolve the conflict. They meet with the sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran who sneers at the concepts of mercy and restraint. Kreese and Mr. Miyagi agree to a match between Johnny and Daniel in two months' time at the "All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament," where Johnny is the defending champion, and the Cobra Kai students can fight Daniel on equal terms. Mr. Miyagi also requests that the bullying stop while Daniel trains. Kreese orders his students to leave Daniel alone, but warns that if Daniel does not show up for the tournament, the harassment will resume and Miyagi himself will also become a target.
Mr. Miyagi becomes Daniel's teacher and, slowly, a surrogate father figure. He begins Daniel's training by having him perform menial tasks such as waxing cars, sanding a wooden walkway, and painting a fence at Mr. Miyagi's house. Each chore is accompanied with specific breathing and body movements including clockwise/counter-clockwise and up-and-down hand motions. Daniel fails to see any connection to his training and these chores; believing he has simply been Mr. Miyagi's slave. When he expresses his frustration, Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that while doing these chores, Daniel has been learning defensive blocks through muscle memory.
As Daniel's training continues, his bond with Mr. Miyagi becomes closer. He learns that Mr. Miyagi lost his wife and son in childbirth at Manzanar internment camp while he was serving overseas with the United States Army during World War II. The loss of his family and Daniel's loss of his father further strengthen the father-son surrogacy. Daniel also discovers that the outwardly peaceful and serene Miyagi received the Medal of Honor while serving with the 442nd Infantry Regiment against German forces in Europe. Through Mr. Miyagi's teaching, Daniel learns not only karate but also important life lessons such as the importance of personal balance, reflected in the belief that martial arts training is as much about training the spirit as the body. Daniel applies the life lessons that Mr. Miyagi has taught him to strengthen his relationship with Ali.
At the tournament, Daniel surprises everyone by reaching the semi-finals. Johnny advances to the finals, scoring three unanswered points against a highly skilled opponent. However, Kreese instructs Bobby Brown, one of his more compassionate students and the least vicious of Daniel's tormentors, to disable Daniel with an illegal attack to the knee. Bobby reluctantly does so, severely injuring Daniel and getting disqualified in the process. Daniel is taken to the locker room and checked out, with the physician determining that he cannot continue, but Daniel believes that if he does not continue, his tormentors will have gotten the best of him. He gets Miyagi to use a pain suppression technique to allow him to finish the tournament. As Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Daniel hobbles into the ring. The championship final is a seesaw battle, as neither Johnny nor Daniel is able to break through the other's defenses.
Daniel successfully uses a scissor leg technique, tripping Johnny and delivering a blow to the back of the head, giving Johnny a nose bleed. The match is paused for Johnny to be looked at by Kreese. Kreese directs Johnny to sweep Daniel's injured leg, an unethical move. Johnny looks horrified at the order, but reluctantly agrees after Kreese's intimidation. Despite the pain, Daniel gets up each time.
Eventually, Daniel and Johnny are tied, with the next point deciding victory. Daniel tries to kick Johnny with his injured leg but Johnny grabs it and again delivers illegal contact to Daniel's injured knee. Daniel, barely able to stand, assumes the "Crane" stance, a technique he observed Mr. Miyagi performing on the beach during his training. After the referee signals to begin, Johnny lunges in. Daniel jumps in the air and delivers a front kick to Johnny's chin, winning the tournament.
Johnny, having gained newfound respect for his adversary, takes Daniel's trophy from the Master of Ceremonies and presents it to Daniel himself, sincerely proclaiming "You're all right, LaRusso! Good match!" Mr. Miyagi, Ali, and Daniel's mother look on admiringly as Daniel celebrates his victory.
- Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso
- Noriyuki "Pat" Morita as Keisuke Miyagi
- Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills
- William Zabka as John "Johnny" Lawrence
- Ron Thomas as Bobby Brown
- Rob Garrison as Tommy
- Chad McQueen as Dutch
- Tony O'Dell as Jimmy
- Martin Kove as John Kreese
- Randee Heller as Lucille LaRusso
- Julie Fields as Susan
- Frances Bay as Lady with Dog
- William Bassett as Mr Mills
- Chris Casamassa (uncredited) as Tournament guest
- Andrew Shue (uncredited) as Member of Cobra Kai
According to the special edition DVD commentary, the studio originally wanted the role of Mr. Miyagi to be played by Toshiro Mifune, but writer Robert Mark Kamen was opposed to that casting choice. Mako Iwamatsu was also considered for the role of Mr. Miyagi, but was not available due to prior commitments to film Conan the Destroyer, though he would eventually play a similar role in the film Sidekicks.
The soundtrack album (containing songs from the film) was released on Casablanca Records. Of particular note is Joe Esposito's "You're the Best", featured during the tournament montage near the end of the first film. Bananarama's 1984 hit song "Cruel Summer" also made its first U.S. appearance in the movie but was excluded from the film's soundtrack album. Other songs featured in the film were left off the album, including "Please Answer Me", performed by Broken Edge, and "The Ride" performed by The Matches.
The instrumental scores for all four Karate Kid films were composed by Bill Conti, orchestrated by Jack Eskew, and featured pan flute solos by Gheorge Zamfir. On March 12, 2007, Varèse Sarabande released all four Karate Kid scores in a 4-CD box set limited to 2,500 copies worldwide.
On its release, Roger Ebert called the film one of the year's best, gave it four stars out of four, and described it as an "exciting, sweet-tempered, heart-warming story with one of the most interesting friendships in a long time." Janet Maslin of The New York Times also gave a positive review.
Upon the release of the 2010 remake, Dana Stevens wrote, "The 1984 original ... may have seemed like a standard-issue inspirational sports picture at the time, but (as with another box-office hit of the same year, The Terminator) a generation of remove reveals what a well-crafted movie it actually was. Rewatched today, the original Kid, directed by Rocky's John G. Avildsen, feels smart and fresh, with a wealth of small character details and a leisurely middle section that explores the boy's developing respect for his teacher."
The film spawned a franchise of related items and memorabilia such as action figures, head bands, posters, T-shirts and a video game. A short-lived animated series spin-off aired on NBC in 1989. The film had three sequels, and it launched the career of Macchio, who would turn into a teen idol featured on the covers of magazines such as Tiger Beat. It revitalized the acting career of Morita, previously known mostly for his comedic role as Arnold on Happy Days, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance as Mr. Miyagi. Morita reprised his role in three subsequent sequels.
- The Karate Kid, Part II, a 1986 sequel in which Daniel accompanies Miyagi on a trip back to Okinawa, where he is reunited with loved ones, and is challenged by an old adversary.
- The Karate Kid, Part III, a 1989 sequel in which Martin Kove reappears as Kreese, seeking revenge on Daniel and Miyagi with the help of allies played by Thomas Ian Griffith and Sean Kanan.
- The Next Karate Kid, a 1994 revamp in which Hilary Swank appears as Mr. Miyagi's new student, Julie Pierce.
- The Karate Kid, a 2010 remake starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.
Awards and honors 
- Academy Awards
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (Morita)
- Golden Globe Awards
- Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (Morita)
- Young Artist Awards
- Won: Best Family Motion Picture — Drama
- Won: Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama (Shue)
- Nominated: Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama (Zabka)
- AFI 100 Years... series
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers (100 Most Inspiring Movies) – #98
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains
- Daniel LaRusso – nominated hero
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – nominated sports film
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Wax on, wax off." - Nominated
- Straight to DVD: Original "Karate Kid" on Blu-ray. Salon.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
- "The Karate Kid". Box Office Mojo. CBS. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
- "The Karate Kid". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
- Maslin, Janet. "The Karate Kid (1984)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
- "The Karate Kid". www.varesesarabande.com. Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-03-15.
- "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-07-31.
- "The Karate Kid". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster.
- Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "The Karate Kid". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-10-07 publisher = Chicago Sun Times.
- Maslin, Janet (June 22, 1984). "SCREEN 'KARATE KID,' BANE OF BULLIES". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
- Stevens, Dana (June 10, 2010). "The Karate Kid". Slate.
- Thurber, Jon (2005-11-26). "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- By (2009-07-13). "Jackie Chan set for 'Karate' remake - Entertainment News, Film News, Media". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
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- The Karate Kid at Fast Rewind
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