Despite its unabashed Rocky-isms and Skywalker-whiny hero, I love “Karate Kid”. It’s the ultimate Reagan-era underdog film – the likes of which John G.Avildsen was renowned for. The emotion, the drama and ultimately, comeuppance that drips from that film is beautifully infectious. When our hero Daniel (Ralph Macchio) hits Johnny (William Zabka) with a Crane kick, at the end of the film, we feel as much joy and thrill as those in the audience at the tournament do. In that moment, we’re all as proud as Myiagi, chuffed at how far our beanpole temperamental pupil has come.
The sequel, while also very solid, needed a Peter Cetera track over the credits to help us get to that “warm and fuzzy” place again. “Karate Kid Part III”, which was originally supposed to be much, much more but reduced to a low-cal take on the original when the budget was slashed, couldn’t even deliver that one goosebump. It was, for all intents and purposes, the nail in the coffin of the once victorious series. (The spin-off, “Next Karate Kid” , though canon, isn’t really considered an extension of the Larusso saga, since it was headlined by a new character – Daniel was popping Metamucil tabs by the time it was out – a female, played by Hilary Swank.)
When Sony announced a remake a few years back, one that would star Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith in the roles made famous by Pat Morita (who won an Oscar for his turn) and Macchio, respectively, most of us groaned in horror, hoping that, if anything, the producers had the smarts to link the movie to the original series — by possibly having ‘Daniel’ cameo somewhere. Alas, that didn’t happen. There was no connection. And despite the film turning out to be a solid enough action movie, it still didn’t feel “Karate Kid”. It was.. something else. Much like an “Indiana Jones” movie without Harrison Ford, something called “Karate Kid” just doesn’t work as well without the man-boy we recognise as that character. In this case, Larusso’s Daniel.
Many, many years ago – when I was lucky enough to have some good friends at the old Sony compound – I had a stab at writing a sequel to that original trilogy. In it, Daniel – who has sworn off violence, and long moved on from martial arts – is forced to help his son defend himself against some bullies, by bringing his old wax-on wax-off skills and training manual out of the dojo. Wasn’t bad. Sort of a “Next Generation” version of the original. At the time, I concluded it was the only possibly route a “Karate Kid” film could go.
With the advances in technology – markedly, all these new digital platforms and extra distribution streams – and a marketplace woody for anything nostalgic, a new “Karate Kid” has now come to be — in the form of a 10-episode series for YouTube Red.
Furthermore, it’ll star Ralph Macchio, back in the white skirt as lanky Larusso, and William Zabka, reprising original adversary Johnny Lawrence. “Cobra Kai”, will feature fight sequences and odd bursts of drama, say the producers, but it’ll primarily be a comedy.
Says Deadline :
Logline: Thirty years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, a down-and-out Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) seeks redemption by reopening the infamous Cobra Kai karate dojo, reigniting his rivalry with a now successful Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. The show is about two men addressing past demons and present frustrations the only way they know how: through karate.
Cobra Kai is written and executive produced by Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine), and Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar, American Reunion). Together, the trio conceived of the new Karate Kid storyline that picks-up decades after the original film ends. Hurwitz & Schlossberg will direct much of the series
Interestingly enough, the show hails from Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment – the same shingle behind the recent remake. Have they nixed the idea of continuing their new version (a sequel was announced in 2014 but little has been heard of it since) in favour of returning to the original “Karate Kid”? Sure sounds like it.
Will it work? Will audiences accept the genre swap? Can a new “Karate Kid” sequel work without the late Morita? And can YouTube even afford to license Banamarama songs?
All will be revealed soon.