The Karate Kid Blu-ray Review
The UK edition of 2010’s The Karate Kid comes with exactly the same video as its US counterpart.
Boasting one of the better video presentations that I have come across recently, it hits Blu-ray with a High Definition 1080p video rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is truly exceptional, the close-in images showcasing the distinctive faces in their every porous intricacy. Longer shots – most notably the World Wonder vistas on offer – look simply breathtaking, as do the well-captured topographical shots of the streets of Beijing. Honestly, I have not seen such beautiful location shots in a modern movie for quite some time. The colour scheme is also spot-on, the tones perfectly rendered, the contrast levels managed adeptly and the palette rich and vibrant: deep reds, greens, oranges and even yellows. Black levels are also superior, making for some tremendous night sequences, and some excellent shadowing. With a fine layer of grain that lends the movie a suitably filmic sheen, and simply no image defects or digital artefacts, this film looks undeniably amazing on Blu-ray.
On the aural front things are also exactly the same as for the US copy.
The impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track hits all the right spots. The dialogue is presented clearly and coherently from across the fronts and centre channels (ok, so it takes a while to get used to Jackie Chan’s attempt to chew his English incomprehensibly – an irony considering his English has improved no end over the last 20 years, and now he finally lands a high-profile role, he has to pretend to have worse language skills!!). Effects are well-observed, from the bustling Beijing streets to the hundreds of students chanting in unison at the spectacular Kung Fu academy, to spectacular Chinese fireworks – more commonly atmospheric than overtly bombastic, but accurately rendered across the surround array.
And James Horner’s suitably rousing score (with a hint of Eastern sensibilities) pervades almost every important scene, kicking up the most noteworthy fuss on this superior mix. The song tracks chosen (Jay Sean, Flo Rida, Gorillaz and Lady Gaga to name but a few) can get more than a bit jarring – initially you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a music video (and there are numerous montages that have a similar accompaniment) – but they are also keenly presented, probably producing the most significant helping of LFE action. Overall it is a great track, up there with the visuals as one of the better presentations I have come across recently.
On the extras front, things are the same, which is both good and bad news. After all the US release did not offer up an Audio Commentary, a bit of a missed opportunity for such an extremely popular, newly made, recent release, and the UK edition does not correct this error. Still everything else is present and accounted for.
Just for Kicks: The Making of The Karate Kid
First up we get a reasonably decent Making-Of Featurette that runs at 20 minutes and is hosted by Jackie Chan himself, which is perhaps the biggest saving grace in what could have been just another fluffy promo offering. Complete with a few too many clips from the movie itself, as well a fair amount of unnecessary exposition (pointless if you’ve seen the movie!), fans will nonetheless lap up the behind the scenes footage and the interview snippets from Chan and many of the rest of the cast and filmmakers, discussing their creation, the classic it was based upon, the training (much assisted by Jackie Chan himself), the score, the location and the cast.
The nine short Production Diaries (all about 3 minutes long) are definitely worth checking out, offering a more video-journal-esque take on the production, split into: Training Jaden, Jaden Smith: A Day in the Life, The Forbidden City, From Jackie with Love, The Great Wall, Olympic Village, Director Profile, Taraji P. Henson Goes to China and Wudang Mountains. The titles are mostly self-explanatory – with plenty of offerings centred on not just the superb cast, but also on the sumptuous locations chosen.
On Location: The Karate Kid Interactive Map of China
This is quite a nice little additional feature, narrated by the Director himself, who introduces you to three of the most important locations on offer in the movie – Beijing, the spectacular Wudang Mountains and, of course, The Great Wall of China itself. Each has an accompanying description, and this is more than just a gimmicky interactive geography lesson, fleshing out yet more interesting insight into this wonderful Eastern scenery.
A fairly flimsy introduction to the written language, with simple words and phrases on offer to be examined, and corresponding clips from the movie offering up examples of their spoken use (obviously in the Cantonese dialect).
Arguably the single best extra – a must-see for all fans of the movie – this added scene would have immediately appeared after Dre’s climactic final battle, and sees Jackie Chan’s Mr Han finally confront the evil instructor of the opposing Kung Fu academy. Those who watched the movie will have sorely missed this closing resolution to an integral story arc (something which was dealt with in Karate Kid Part II originally) but I can totally see why it was cut. It is 3 minutes of solid fighting from Chan and it totally overshadows the immediately-preceding Jaden Smith fight. What they should have done was have a scene more reminiscent of the one from the original Karate Kid movies, where the Mr Miyagi/Mr Han character teaches his opponent that brute force is often counter-productive, rather than an extended full-on battle showcasing their varying martial arts prowess. Totally removing the scene – without offering a briefer alternative – was a mistake, as the final film ends rather abruptly without it (even if they’d left in Taraji P. Nelson hitting the ‘evil’ instructor, that would have been something). But it is very nice to see it here, and best watched immediately after your first viewing of the film.
Finally we get a bunch of Trailers as well as a painful Music Video for Never Say Never by that irritatingly little boy Justin Bieber. I wonder whether his voice will ever break. There’s also a DVD version included in this package, although we do miss out on the Digital Copy that adorned the US release.
This 2010 remake is a worthy successor to the Karate Kid mantle, following the story scene-for-scene and, almost, word-for-word, but also instilling it with some superior characterisation from 12-year old newcomer Jaden Smith and veteran martial artist Jackie Chan. Smith’s embodiment of all of his father’s wit and charm, combined with Chan’s arguably best acting performance (as well as indisputably awesome moves) make for the biggest reasons to watch this modern update. But the perfectly chosen, stunning Chinese vistas and the suitably rousing James Horner score only round out the marvellous package. Many will hate it purely because it is such a slavish facsimile of the original – but I feel that it takes the already-perfected inspirational feel-good, coming-of-age underdog story, provides all of the same elements, and then enriches them with the aforementioned outstanding performances, and the beautiful new setting. It’s one of the better remakes that I have ever come across, and certainly the best in a year of numerous 80s reworkings.
On Region-Free UK Blu-ray the movie comes with the same stellar video and audio as its US counterpart, as well as identical extras, again made compelling through a must-watch alternate ending, but let down by a lack of Commentary. Fans will simply have to pick up this release, it doesn’t get much better than this. Newcomers who liked the original, and who are prepared to accept a fitting tribute to the legend, will – if open-minded enough – find plenty to love about this modern update. And if you’re totally new to The Karate Kid, then you could do worse than just skip straight to this great movie. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan make for a great team, and the massive success of this movie makes a sequel inevitable. I, for one, look forward to it. Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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