Opinion: Why We Don't Need Another Karate Kid Reboot

In case you missed The 80s Weekly newsletter this past weekend, the featured story was Sony's announcement to make yet another movie reboot of The Karate Kid. The new project has a tentative date of June 7, 2024 and it has been confirmed that the creative team behind the popular Netflix series Cobra Kai are not involved.

You might remember (or may want to forget) that Sony Pictures released a reboot movie in 2010 starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. The film was a success, earning $359 million at the box office on a budget of $40 million and receiving favorable reviews. Honestly, I can't comment on the film because I have never watched it. In fact, I refuse to watch it. It's really nothing to do with cast as I've enjoyed watching several Jackie Chan films. My refusal is more out of respect of the original movie and sequels which I hold in high regard.

The Karate Kid is one of those films that gives me the warm fuzzies of the '80s. I was 7-years old when the film hit theaters in the Summer of 1984. I don't remember seeing it right away but do remember watching it as video store rental. It had everything from a great story to well-orchestrated martial arts action. By the time The Karate Kid Part II was released in 1986, I was a fan. I fell in love with all the characters and lived out their world through the action figures. Even in my early teenage years, I remember the anticipation of The Karate Kid Part III and my excitement when it came to theaters amidst Batmania in the Summer of 1989. While The Next Karate Kid missed me (as it did many people,) a year doesn't go by now without marathoning the first three films.

When the reboot film came in 2010, I had a hesitation. With my enjoyment of the first three films, I knew that the reboot wouldn't come close to the bar that my mind had set so I didn't see the point of trying to watch something I couldn't separate from the original. I liken it to listening to cover songs. For me, it is rare for an artist to cover a well-known song that measures up to the original. The ones that do work for me have a different tempo or use different instruments as to not just try to imitate the original. For movies, it's much more difficult to feel new just by switching actors and telling the same story.

Most reboots feel like a cash grab. If I had to guess, probably 5% of film reboots I've watched have entertained me to the point that I felt like it was worth the price of admission. Even when reboots come to streaming, I often ask myself if this movie will be worth my time. The beautiful thing about streaming is if the reboot sucks, you can turn it off and don't get the disappointing feeling of walking out of a movie theater or returning the tape to the video store. But does that justify its existence?

From that standpoint, here are three reasons why we don't need another reboot of The Karate Kid

Legacy Stories Work Better Than Reboots

I think movie studios and producers are quick to judge aging actors. They choose to reboot a franchise with younger (or cheaper) actors and dismiss trying to build a legacy story that lifelong fans will enjoy. Of course, Cobra Kai has been the prime example of how to create something new while interweaving the original story. And while I feel like Cobra Kai might be overextending its welcome after watching Season 5, I would still rather follow the characters I know and how their lives have changed (like mine) since I first discovered them decades ago.

Another example is Top Gun: Maverick. The 5th highest grossing movie of all time at the domestic box office didn't abandon its legacy story but gave us a hybrid of young actors and generational stars that kept the spirit of the original film and made both fans and executives happy. With that said, the legacy story for The Karate Kid is already being produced at a high level. Why would we now want to start over and expect something that is equally entertaining?

An Asterisk Symbol

Reboots should have an asterisk symbol after the movie title. It's staggering the amount of subpar movies that have been produced and subsequently tarnished the name of a movie or TV show I respect. While some reboots don't even attempt to use its history (see CHiPs), others feel like a plagiarized story that was snuck passed the teacher (see Robocop.) The asterisk beside the movie title should lead to a footnote: "Instead of watching the much better version of this movie, we appreciate that you've emptied your pockets on the reboot so we can keep the rights for another decade." 

It's blatantly obvious and often well reported when studios are making a movie just to make a movie and this new Karate Kid reboot just feels like a cash grab. Doesn't it seem logical that there are long-term affects on a franchise for making a less than satisfactory reboot? 

When I post a reboot headline on social media nowadays, I see so many people groan or show their disapproval. Ghostbusters tried the the all-girl reboot in 2016 and we're all aware of the backlash it created between fans. In fact, I have no doubt the legacy film that is Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a direct result of the 2016 reboot. Did the reboot make the studio money? Yes, but it took a half decade to make another film that the majority of fans approved.

I've never bought The Karate Kid films on Blu-ray but I have zero interest in owning a boxset with all the films just based on the fact that the 2010 reboot would be included.

Daniel LaRusso Is Not Bruce Wayne

There are very few exceptions to the rule that "lightning never strikes twice" let alone three times. Mega film franchises like Batman and James Bond live on based on their rich source material. The Karate Kid doesn't have the lineage of comic books or novels to create another branch of its story. The main character is not inherently strong and you need the "fish out of water" setting and the bullying of a weak character that is associated with the film series. Characters that are rebooted several times are strong or have superpowers to mesh with any situation. Think about the Jack Ryan franchise and while actors have given their own flavor to the character, rebooting action movies with strong characters is much easier and more likely to succeed than teen dramas.

So there are the reasons behind my discontent to reboot The Karate Kid yet again. Would love to get your thoughts in the comments about The Karate Kid franchise or how you feel about reboots in general.

images courtesy Depositphotos

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