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The Karate Kid 3-Movie Collection (A Video Review)

Updated: Jul 18, 2023



Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Elisabeth Shue, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Randee Heller, Chad McQueen, Ron Thomas, Rob Garrison, Tony O'Dell, Israel Juarbe, William Bassett, Larry B. Scott, Juli Fields, Dana Andersen, Frank Burt Avalon, Jeff Fishman, Ken Daly, Tom Fridley, Pat E. Johnson, Bruce Malmuth and Andrew Shue.

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen.

Directed by John G. Avildsen.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 127 minutes. Rated PG.


Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Tamlyn Tomita, Nobu McCarthy, Yuji Okumoto, Danny Kamekona, Joey Miyashima, Marc Hayashi, Traci Toguchi, Bradd “BD” Wong, Clarence Gilyard, William Zabka, Martin Kove, Chad McQueen, Ron Thomas, Rob Garrison and Tony O'Dell.

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen.

Directed by John G. Avildsen.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 113 minutes. Rated PG.


Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, Thomas Ian Griffith, Robyn Lively, Sean Kanan, William Christopher Ford, Jonathan Avildsen, Martin Kove, Randee Heller, Pat E. Johnson, Rick Hurst, Frances Bay, Joseph V. Perry, Jan Tříska, Gabriel Jarret and Glenn Medieros.

Screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen.

Directed by John G. Avildsen.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 112 minutes. Rated PG.

With the popularity in recent years of the TV reboot series Cobra Kai, it’s always good to go back to revisit the original series of films – if for no other reason than to brush up on some of the characters who appear in Cobra Kai. Therefore, this first release on 4KUltra HD and Blu-ray of the first three Karate Kid films – The Karate Kid, The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III – is a nice way of catching up. And – at least in the case of the first film – it has much more to offer than that.

Technically this is not the complete Karate Kid lineup. There is a 5-movie collection released several years ago which is still available on DVD. That grouping also includes The Next Karate Kid (1994) in which Mr. Miyagi takes on a new student, a young girl played a then-unknown Hilary Swank. It also includes the awful 2010 reboot of the series with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan – and the less said about that film, the better. Neither of those films are really missed in this collection. In fact, an argument could be made about whether anyone will rewatch Part II and Part III more than once or twice.

However, I think it makes sense to limit this collection to the three films which feature Ralph Macchio as Danny LaRusso and Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, all of which were written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John D. Avildsen. (Only Morita was involved in the fourth film, and none of the original cast or crew took part in the reboot.)

Of course, the only truly good film of the trilogy (and the franchise) was the first one. The second film had its moments, but eventually tried so hard to up the stakes that it completely spun off the rails. The films are supposed to take place in about a year-long period, although the films took five years between the first and last one.

Even though it is rather predictable and not exactly Oscar-worthy, The Karate Kid deserves its status as a fan favorite feel-good film. It is the story about a scrawny Newark, NJ teen who moves cross country with his mother and quickly falls on the wrong side of the local bullies at his new high school – particularly their leader Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Unfortunately, the bullies are star karate students, and they are beating Daniel up daily. When he finds out that his new apartment’s handyman, Mr. Miyagi knows karate and is willing to teach him, Daniel joins the local martial arts tournament to prove himself to the bullies.

And yes, despite the somewhat popular revisionist history which likes to paint Johnny as a misunderstood victim – as espoused in popular culture on Cobra Kai and How I Met Your Mother – Johnny is indeed a bully. You can make the argument that he was led astray by his sensei Kreese (Martin Kove). You can make the argument that his heart was broken by losing his ex-girlfriend Ali (Elisabeth Shue) and he took out his anger on her new boyfriend Daniel. Neither of those arguments would be completely wrong, but it is letting him off the hook way too easily. That does not change what he did and how he acted. Just because he had some regrets does not excuse it. In fact, that is part of what makes Cobra Kai so fascinating, it shows the way that Johnny has grown and changed – and the ways that he hasn’t.

What Cobra Kai fans may not remember was that Johnny was essentially only in the first Karate Kid movie. He had a bit part in the opening sequence of the second one which supposedly happened right after the tournament, but never appears again after that – except in flashbacks during the opening credits of Part III. This is the story of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.

Their story is partially expanded, partially repeated, and partially ramped up in The Karate Kid Part II. And frankly, like so many sequels, especially of this time period, The Karate Kid Part II is so desperate to redo the story but make it bigger and more explosive that it forgets a big part of why the first film was such a hit in the first place. It was a small film about everyday people put into ordinary situations.

Essentially, Part II reframes the original story in Mr. Miyagi’s home village in Okinawa, where he must return because his father is dying. Daniel goes along with him, and quickly he is falling in love with a sweet local girl (Tamlyn Tomita) and falling on the bad side of a local bully (Yuji Okumoto).

Then they double up on the story. Mr. Miyagi also has a potential love interest named Yukie (Nobu McCarthy) as well as a nemesis named Sato (Danny Kamekona). The history between the three goes back 45 years – Mr. Miyagi had fallen in love with Yukie even though she was promised in an arranged marriage to Sato, Miyagi’s best friend. Miyagi ended up leaving for the US to save face, but Sato has never forgiven him for the slight to his honor and never married Yukie. All these years later, Yukie has never been married and Sato is a rich, cruel dojo owner who still wants revenge on his old friend.

It is never completely explained how Mr. Miyagi and Sato – who grew up as best friends and learned about karate from the same teacher – ended up with such diametrically-opposed philosophies about the meanings behind karate. (Miyagi believes karate is for defense only, and Sato’s ideals come down much closer to Kreese’s “No Mercy” stance.) Oh sure, of course there is that 45-year-old rift about a girl, but even that does not explain the hard ideological shift that the two men made.

In fact, the bullies in Part II – Sato included – are much more heinous than the ones encountered in the first film. These guys are obviously willing do anything – bully, lie, cheat, steal, threaten rape and/or murder, destroy a small village – all to defend their own deluded sense of “honor.” Eventually, the storyline of Part II has a lot more going on than the first, and yet it feels like it is trying too hard.

Honestly, I had never seen The Karate Kid Part III before receiving this collection. Even though it returns Daniel and Mr. Miyagi home to Reseda and returns to earlier plot points like the All-Valley Karate Tournament and Cobra Kai as the villains (although with different fighters and a new sensei aiding Kreese (the original sensei character returns but is offscreen and out of the country for much of the story), still the storyline is totally out of whack.

To give just a quick example of how hackneyed the new film was, early on Kreese is taken to the airport by his rich former student Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), where they discuss getting revenge on Daniel and Miyagi. Seconds after Kreese goes in and Silver drives off, Daniel and Miyagi exit the very same door, returning home from the Okinawa trip explored in Part II. That’s one hell of a coincidence of timing.

The new bad guy Terry Silver is cartoonishly, over-the-top evil, with his insincere smile, his nuevo riche lifestyle and his Steven Seagal man ponytail. He even boasts – twice! – that he made his fortune by dumping hazardous waste. And he takes business meetings while soaking naked in a bubble bath – I guess as a power trip, but who really knows why.

The devious plot between Kreese and Silver is simple. Since the last tournament – and a fight in the parking lot which happened in the opening of Part II – the Cobra Kai dojo has lost all of its students. Silver, a Vietnam War buddy of Kreese’s with extremely deep pockets, has been financing the place. They decide that they must not only beat but humiliate LaRusso in the next tournament. So, they are going to get between Daniel and Miyagi and force Daniel to go on his own. And then pain.

For the plan, they hire “the bad boy of karate” to be their main fighter, as well as a couple of other young toughs. Together they will destroy Daniel’s life and relationships and a new Bansai tree business Daniel and Mr. Miyagi have started. (Yes, you read that right.)

Daniel has met yet another new girl in Part III, although refreshingly in this film it is more of a friendship than yet another love of Daniel’s life. (She drops the “boyfriend at home” bomb on him early on.)

Like in Part II, the new bad kids suggest not so subtly that they are not above murder, thievery, extortion or rape to get their way. They are also very blatantly racist.

Part III is by far the worst chapter of the trilogy, but it helps to tell the whole story. It is nice to have all three Karate Kid adventures together in one big package, although as I noted above, I can’t imagine watching any of the ones other than the original very often.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: December 19, 2021.


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