Harald Zwart’s The Karate Kid

After I left you I remember feeling only slightly underwhelmed. I think your main problem was you cut an exceptional trailer and got my hopes up. After watching the extended trailer (the two-hour version) I thought, well that was nothing spectacular. Nothing disastrous. Nothing abusive or traumatizing. Nothing deceptive either. Everyone who was in the preview showed up for the movie. But nothing to discuss at a dinner party. Or so I thought. Upon putting my pen to this page I realized there were actually two very noteworthy elements of The Karate Kid.

The first to note is the only fight sequence involving Jackie Chan. O Jackie Chan beating up children! You’ve really hit a new level of self-respect. In China where packs of Kung fu-wielding children are roaming the cities, terrorizing helpless street vendors – it’s good to know a full-grown adult having decades of martial arts training can take a stand. I further applaud your employment of the bullying, “stop hitting yourself” technique. To watch an adult swing one child’s legs into other children faces and torsos in order to inflict the blows – it is really a masterwork of planning/execution.

The second fascinating element is the blond, Caucasian boy that Jaden Smith meets immediately upon moving to China. The boy had a name, lines. He helped Jaden with his luggage. But all other intentions for the character were obviously dropped. Did you drop him because he was white? As we all know there is one cross-section of the population tremendously underrepresented in American cinema today – white males. It seems very small and racist of you to reduce the primary white character to servitude (essentially Jaden’s bellhop) and cowardice (being a pussy when the Chinese bullies show up) and then eliminate him from the rest of the movie. You also provided few other opportunities for white males to be in the movie by setting it in Communist China. That was not in the spirit of the original John G. Avildsen’s The Karate Kid at all. Perhaps white males in martial arts movies – Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Ralph Macchio – is just a thing of the past. But I for one am offended by the presumption a white man cannot make it in a Yellow man’s world. They’ve done it before (Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai) and they can do it again. I am sure white martial artists will be up in arms about this . . . $5

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