KARATE KID/COBRA KAI – LEGACIES (COBRA KAI: SEASON 1) TELEVISION REVIEW

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*ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2018

Don’t let your past actions to define you

Growing up THE KARATE KID was my generations ROCKY especially to kids. This movie was part of a wave in the late ’80s/early ’90s to introduce widescreen letterbox movies to the general public.

The first printing of the VHS are all in letterbox; re-prints from 1994 claim to be in wide screen but are pan & scan. GHOSTBUSTERS II was another big title movie released in letterbox only in the first printing, many video stores got complaints about these titles because customer’s thought that there was half of the picture missing, many video store owners called RCA/Columbia to find out if there was a printing problem to only be told that they were meant to be this way.)

So, of course i was a fan, Especially when Part 2 came out even got the head band and was obsessed with the soundtrack especially the song Glory of love by Peter Cetrea. Back when a hit movie guaranteed a hit soundtrack. Some movies lived and died based on how popular the soundtrack was.

Yes The song it’s sappy but now hearing it it will give me pause and might bring a little tear to my eye. Sort of like in that SEINFELD episode when elaine’s boyfriend would hear the song Desperado by THE EAGLES and need to take a pause to ponder it and the feelings plus memories it brought up. Relax it’s not that serious but it reminds me of how innocent and dorky. I and many others were as kids.

The opening scene of Part II was meant to be the ending to this film, although it wasn’t shot until after the second film’s production began. In it, Kreese attacks Johnny for losing the tournament. Miyagi confronts Kreese and passively immobilizes him. Miyagi threatens to strike a deadly blow but instead comically tweaks Kreese’s nose and walks away. Members of the Cobra Kai then drop their belts around Kreese.

Both B.B. Hiller’s novelization of the film and early copies of the script have this ending.

In part 2, I was impressed by Daniel breaking the ice with his hands And too this day anything I see Yuji Okumoto who played the villain In it. (With the name Chozen!!!) I still get a scowl on my face even when playing a good guy (ok, it was a Disney channel movie JOHNNY TSUNAMI)

The writers originally were divided between doing the storyline of Part II on Miyagi’s hometown or Kreese’s revenge. As a compromise, they decided to do Part II on Miyagi to give him more focus and to Part III on Kreese’s revenge.

Ralph Macchio had an interesting career as he never seems to age and though got legitimate work the role. Never let him be free, now he seems to have embraced it or come to peace with it so that it can pay off for him. I will admit it is striking to see him play other roles when I was younger. As I so closely identified him to the infamous role, but now I have to admire his range.

Even if the only time he ever sounded different was in the movie THE OUTSIDERS ironically as a character named Johnny. Strangely the only other movie I was I obsessed with that he appeared in is the movie CROSSROADS. Which was about, blues and a Guitar competition, a beautiful guitar and the sexy Jami Gertz. Then again there was TEACHERS with Nick Nolte and UP THE ACADEMY. Still to this day the only official MAD magazine movie.

I have only been recently introduced to THE KARATE KID theory that Johnny was really the karate kid. This theory marked by an online video as well as William Zabka’s many appearances on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER added fuel to the fire. In HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, Barney insists that William Zabka ‘s character is the titular Karate Kid, and he considers him as a personal hero because of that.

This could be based on an actual fan theory that claims that Daniel is the real bully, while Johnny is the real Karate Kid. The theory gives some plausible reasons, such as the fact that while Johnny’s behavior might not always be right, he never actually gets violent and uses his skills only for defense or de-escalation. Daniel on the other hand is always the attacker.

It is also suggested that Daniel’s motivations to learn Karate is not only to compete with Johnny, but also to take revenge on him. The basic theory is that Johnny never initiated any attack on Daniel (Played by Ralph Macchio) and while not making the best decisions was always trying to either defend himself or deescalate situations.

Daniel was the one always on the attack It Brings to mind should we judge someone for acts they committed in their youth and brand then for it their whole life? Not to mention we also have to see many situations from a different point of view. As most of the time we will never see ourselves as the villain.

The series also puts on a generational difference where the characters are outsider who learn discipline and not in some more emotional feel sorry therapy way, but more a tough love training where they give and earn respect.

Comedian Patton Oswalt once wrote on his website wrote an article about how William Zabka’s Johnny after losing the tournament changed schools and changed his name and that was why he was the bully in JUST ONE OF THE GUYS not having worked out his issues and then went off to college to be the jerky villain in BACK TO SCHOOL.

It’s an interesting article that sums up Zabka’s young acting resume and links some great 80’s movies together and shows the brilliance of Patton Oswalt’s mind. Read the Original Artlicle The man is a treasure

Over the years there have been bits to tie together The Karate Kid legend. Like the music video for the band No More Kings. Which starred and was directed by Zabka and is a Cobra Kai team reunion of all the actors who play his friends and co-stars. As well as a FUNNY OR DIE video of Ralph Macchio having to be the karate kid again.

The new series of course is bathed in nostalgia and allows for a teenage show which is also a kind of reboot and changes the image of Cobra Kai to a place to gain discipline and boost self esteem with a do or die attitude.

As most of the students are the ones being picked on and learning To fight back. Where as Larusso seems to be training the wrong kids and taking them under his wing or at least trusting those he shouldn’t.

The main point of the show seems to be about trying to undo the damage you may have caused previously but it never comes across as preachy as you can understand both sides and their reasoning. Karate kid was an underdog story and Elisabeth Shue as the love interest wasn’t hard on The eyes.

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Former screenwriter Dennis Palumbo has said that he was offered the screen writing job for the film but reacted to the offer by saying he’d be “willing to do it if he (the title character, Daniel Larusso) lost the fight in the end.” Palumbo explained his reasoning: “You can’t have Mr. Miyagi tell him, ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose,’ for 90 minutes and then have to have him win.” Palumbo went on to say, “But that’s because I was being a moron… Now, they made four sequels to that movie, so obviously I was wrong.” (Palumbo’s remarks appear in Tales From The Script.) Though that theory I can accept.

If introduced in my youth i would have gone Insane and my brain would have exploded from my mind being blown and how much i would have argued against it. As I am sure many fans did a double take before maybe accepting it. As we get older we have more of a wider world view and maybe would have looked at the movies and evidence more.

I actually find it interesting how they can play with the ideas that might not have been bought through or maybe were and rearrange it. It might be a conspiracy or maybe the filmmakers were laughing at all along. I am sure as an actor Zabka saw it that way as motivation. As after all no villain ever thinks of themself or sees themselves this way.

According to the commentary track on the home video versions of the movie, William Zabka came up with a loose backstory for the Johnny Lawrence character, in order to better “get the feel” for playing the character. He states in the commentary that he envisioned Johnny as having no father, and that Kreese is the closest thing to a father figure he had in his life.

It was always obvious Cobra Kai member Bobby (played by the late Ron Thomas) was the best fighter. He was more dangerous and sloppy. After all he nearly broke daniel’s leg. Though his fighting style was like using a machine gun when only a patio was needed overkill in his attacks. He would most likely get tired of if he hadn’t taken his opponents out immediately.

Johnny was technical and forceful also more of a leader There are no true villains in the series. As it lays bare, it seems to showcase everyone’s motivation and what can create a monster but it is up to the person to realize what they are to become or are becoming and find the peace within themselves and to be at peace.

As the show shows various arguments and motivations and points of view. Like a standard show most of the situations are due to misunderstandings. While here the roles that were introduced in the teens from THE KARATE KID are reversed. Even though in THE KARATE KID: PART 3. The guy he faced was more of a fight by machine out to destroy if not kill. Mike Barnes was the more alpha version of Bobby. Part 3 was more of a revenge tale which seemed to focus on the long game.

Even though it seemed like all three villains could basically beat him physically. The point was for Daniel to learn all of his final lessons. Stop being a creature of impulse and to finally beat the ghosts from the past and all involved seemed to be too old to be involved in this.

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Which is why we got THE NEXT KARATE KID that was more silly. Yet seemed like a feature film attempt at this with only Pat Morita returning but has future stars Hillary Swank and Jack Black. Not to mention the reboot with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan which felt detoothed yet culturally more open.

Learning lessons that they need to learn. Relating it yet again for a new era and a little more simple. Yet willing to meet In between. Innocent enough for kids, but more for teens, But has the same appeal for adults With each new lesson Johnny teaches in the series. It comes with a new ghost from the past being unearthed. That helps him move forward in his resurrection and helps himself improve while staying rough around the edges.

As in any recovery it doesn’t happen overnight and have to take it one day at a time as relapsing is very easy. You have to be strong but are particularly fragile at that time. The ending of the season was a kind of twist of getting what you wish for. Maybe not how you wanted it.

Especially for Johnny who in trying to do something good helped his son to find a mentor. Who will set him straight but leaves little chance for a reunion and retribution and only reinstated what Daniel already believed but with more insight.

The youth Johnny was mentoring ending up as bad as he was and his students becoming just as bad as those who picked on them for the most part. Letting the chips into their shoulder posess them. Except for a few, the power has spoiled them. The discipline he tries to reinstate leads them to power but might not be the best for all. As he doesn’t seem to teach responsibility and humility.

At least it shows both sides of the tale with a Romeo and Juliet edge, His son played by Tanner Buchanan seems more in the mold of Shawn hunter from boy meets world for the next generation trouble but good hearted somewhere

It also showcases individual versus group dynamics and being true to yourself despite peer pressure. How much personal attention can mean and how you might miss something or it gets diluted if it’s more for a group and you don’t find the strength individually to work at it and believe in yourself.

It shows the complications and pressure comes with being a leader for other and have to remember to help and lead It shows how something made for simple entertainment can last longer than expected and form a legacy that endures but never planned to and can affect people in a way you never expected and looms large in their life.

I like that both characters are right and wrong in their own ways. How a situation can be mishandled and that if going in blindly how hard it is to let go of old feelings that you can’t admit still haunt you, With Johnny more as the Everyman and the show doesn’t hold it’s predecessor or content as holy doctrine How someone can be misguided but try to come back and straighten themselves out.

What i never quite understood is that I get that there will always be someone out there better than you, but it seems Daniel defeats Johnny with a defensive move and he is therefore the true boy wonder and Daniel learns a new technique and defeats the villain in what looks more like a fight (as there is blood involved) in the third movie he gets his ass kicked from training.

Even in the final fights he pretty much gets his ass handed to him but completes one move against Mike Barnes and keeps the title. He doesn’t seem too much of a fighter more a technical fighter than anything. In the thirty years since the film was produced, numerous child psychologists and sociologists have actually theorized that Daniel was more of a bully and instigator than Johnny.

This is due to many of the scenes involving Daniel “standing up for himself” in fact being acts of retaliation against something Johnny has perceived to have done to Ali. Johnny is also observed, in many of the earlier confrontation with Daniel, trying to leave and walk away from conflicts from Daniel, only to have Daniel stop him and, in one scene, sucker punch him. Daniel’s shower prank on Halloween also seems to be completely unprovoked.

Lastly, Daniel having little to no knowledge of karate tournament procedures actually makes him a danger to others in that he could injure someone by not knowing the allowed moves in a tournament setting. Not to mention in these three films. It is never quite explained how the span of time revolves around these films. As they are made in a 5 year span but Ralph Macchio obviously was looking older and yet it seems these films take place over a 1 – 2 year period.

This franchise has an interesting history as far as John G Avildesn being part of the ROCKY franchise and THE KARATE KID movies. it’s not the only coincidences the soundtrack song of “You’re the Best” BY Joe Esposito was originally written for ROCKY III which explains the lyric “History repeats itself”. The song had been rejected in favor of SURVIVOR’S “Eye of the Tiger”. Ironically, Survivor also performed the theme song (“The Moment Of Truth”) for The Karate Kid.

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By KARATE KID: PART 3 Ralph Macchio was already looking a little old for the role at least I think the timeline of films. Which is why though his transformation in part 3, his friendship with Robyn Lively’s character kind of works. They are never romantic as it would have seemed a bit creepy.

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Though also what is rather ridiculous is that it’s all about revenge and you have these characters in their 40’s picking on essentially a teenager torturing him practically. Break his will before a tournament this all seems rather silly, especially as they also seem to hate Asians after fighting in Vietnam. Yet choose to teach a fighting style from Asia.

I guess you can chalk that up to cultural assimilation, bringing a new forefront to the films of gentrification of an ancient art and culture to a degree. While being a product of it itself It seems rather questionable as the first film seemed like a one off movie, But they started filming the sequel 10 days after the first film premiered and that they had 2 and 3’s plotlines on the agenda and choose the revenge plot for 3.

So the bonding plot went first and made the most money out of all three films. Watching the movies now I can see the problems but the first two are still classic to me. Not to mention that Daniel like Rocky and Hulk Hogan to a degree, is never the best fighter.

As like the other two he spends most of the movies getting his ass kicked and then only seems to win in the last moments. Where he gets some kind of second wind. He breaks ice in the second film but in a montage in the third film is breaking multiple bricks at the same time with ease.

The many homages and dedications. it has made it into the lexicon of iconic characters for a generation even with the simple title And the music artist Bat For Lashes even devotes a song to the character Daniel.

The movies made Ralph Macchio a star and heartthrob. It seems to be his biggest starring role, other then CROSSROADS and Then MY COUSIN VINNY. He wasn’t even the first choice he got the role after Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn both turned down the role initially and Both D.B. Sweeney and C. Thomas Howell almost starred in with Mako as Mr. Miyagi. (Mako was already Committed to Making CONAN THE DESTROYER. Though eventually would play a role l.ike Mr. Miyagi in the movie SIDEKICKS)

Going into the second season will be interesting how it proceeds considering Where Johnny and his student are at

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