The big screen releases of The A Team and The Karate Kid has everyone all giddy for 1980s nostalgia. Critics always get upset over studios' unapologetic insistence of remaking classic films, and with good reason. Nothing screams cash grab more than a remake. Aside from dating myself, remaking the 1984 film The Karate Kid has other personal effects on me. Is the film considered a classic? Perhaps not by highbrow types such as The Library of Congress or The American Film Institute.
But anyone who was the right age when the film initially came out would beg to differ. Why is this so? Because watching films are a personal experience like no other. If music is the soundtrack of our lives, as Dick Clark once said, then films are the blueprint that shapes them.
Summer. 1984. My father takes me to one of my first movie theatres: The Towne Cinema 8 in glorious downtown Winnipeg. While standing in line to get in, my 5-year-old eyes stare at the soon-to-be iconic poster of the movie. "Who are they?" I ask about the two faces looking at each other. "He's the 'kid' and he's the old man who's going to teach him karate." My dad answered. "And what's that?" I asked, pointing to the silhouette of someone with his arm and foot in the air. To which my dad said, "That's what he's going to teach him."
We get into the theatre, the lights go down, and the show begins. At one point in the story, Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach young Daniel karate but makes him do various chores (waxing cars, painting house and fences). A few days later, Daniel is pissed off from being a slave and quits. Mr. Miyagi yells at him to come back. Daniel agrees and thus begins the most revelatory scene in my young movie going life. As Mr. Miyagi throws punched, Daniel blocks them all with his waxing, sanding, and painting motions. OMG!! He knows karate!! The stunned look on my face could only have been rivaled by the actor Ralph Macchio in the same scene!
And it doesn't end there. The climactic match between bad ass Johnny and good boy Daniel ends with one of the greatest moments in all sports films. As Daniel stood on one foot with his arms in the air, my dad said to me, "Watch! Watch! Pay attention, don't miss this." Then, BOOM!! The cymbals chimed and it was over. OMG #2!! The Crane Kick! That was that thing on the poster! How did my dad know?!?
I thought this was the greatest movie I had ever seen. As I continued to watch it year after year as I grew up, I never grew out of it. Many people agreed with me. The film's popularity spawned several sequels, an animated series, video games and merchandise galore. Wax on, wax off and Crane Kick became part of the pop culture lexicon. And perhaps most intriguing, the film caused an increase in martial arts enrollment amongst youths. Most looking to achieve the same self esteem, confidence, and discipline the films teaches.
As the years have gone by, I still think The Karate Kid holds up well, even though I can tell now how formulaic and telegraphed the narrative is. Not to mention it's basically a rehash of director John G. Alvidsen's earlier success, Rocky (1976), a movie I had obviously not seen before The Karate Kid. But nothing can compare to the impact a film has on you when you're a kid. Seeing the Crane Kick was one of the most emotional and lasting movie going experiences I had ever had. Why? Because I was under 10 when it occurred. The power of a film is unparalleled at that age. And art can take place in many different shapes and forms. I didn't need to watch Citizen Kane to learn about foreshadowing. Nor did I need to watch Schindler's List to be moved to tears for the first time. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Mine came from The Karate Kid.