Coming from the days in which movie sequels weren’t simply a gimmick to garner more money for a franchise, but rather a way to continue with a coherent and quality story, “Karate Kid, Part II” surprisingly accomplishes what you don’t expect. The first movie felt very confined within itself and could have simply stood alone for all time, however, a sequel was made continuing mere hours after the first movie’s events ends. Before the movie begins, its mere existence leaves you questioning if it was truly necessary, especially as it takes its time to give you a reason for its being. Despite this, it’s one of the best sequels I’ve seen.
The price of honor. The power of friendship. THE KARATE KID, Part II. Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita re-create the roles that brought them international acclaim in The Karate Kid. Karate student, Daniel Larusso (Macchio), accompanies his wise and whimsical teacher, Mr. Miyagi (Morita), to his ancestral home in Okinawa. For the boy, it’s a journey to an exotic new world offering new cluesto his mentor’s secret past. For Miyagi, it’s an opportunity to see his father one last time and torekindle a romance with his childhood sweetheart (Nobu McCarthy). But Miyagi’s return also re-ignites a bitter feud with long-time enemy, Sato (Danny Kamekona) – a feud that involves young Daniel in a brilliant collision of cultures and combat. Now, far away from the tournaments, the cheering crowds and the safety of home, Daniel will face his greatest challenge ever when teacher becomes student and the price of honor is life itself.
Mind you, the story itself is fairly basic and there isn’t anything that really blows the first one out of the water. In fact, both movies are fairly tame, not lending well to the hype that is generally associated with either. However, I still consider it one of the best sequels I’ve seen due to the fact that while the further exploration of this franchise wasn’t necessary, it was handled appropriately and with actual focus on the characters rather than gimmick. The only downfall of this sequel is that Daniel, despite being the titular “Karate Kid” character, takes a backseat as the movie focuses heavily on the life of Mr. Miyagi. In fact, Daniel’s life is summed up easily within the first 15 minutes of the movie, complete with nullifying any significance of the romance that felt forced into the first one. Between the recap of the first movie which excluded any evidence of his girlfriend, and her lack of presence here, it really brings to light just how little that subplot really mattered. Strangely, Daniel doesn’t really do anything “Karate Kid”-esque until the very end, and it almost feels as though it was tacked on simply to make the movie to relate to the title.
The actors, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, not only continue their decent acting but have even refined it to be more consistent throughout the movie, whereas they both had some rough edges to smooth out for their characters. The supporting Okinawan characters are all filled by actors that also give decent performances, with only Chozen, played by Yuzi Okumoto, coming off as forced on rare occasion. While the movie was filmed in the prime of the 80’s – much like its predecessor – they fortunately cut down on the blatant 80’s flair. The first one had a bit too much of a fascination with cutting into musical montages, making a handful of scenes feel like 80’s music videos, but the soundtrack has been refined this time around and the movie never strays down such a stray path. There is only a single scene in which the soundtrack becomes so prominent, and as cliché in a romantic context as it is, it’s still done far better than the mini-music videos of the first movie.
Overall, if you enjoyed the first movie then you’ll no doubt enjoy this as well, even though Daniel is less of the focus this time around, so this is Highly Recommended. Although you might be lost on some things not covered by the recap, you could probably watch this one on its own and enjoy it without feeling too lost, but it’ll just make you curious about the movie which spawned it. So, you may as well watch the first one… first.
Sony has released the first two of the films in a double set (I guess the third and fourth are being ignored as best as they can be) on Blu-ray and also by themselves. The individual releases arrive in standard Elite Blu-ray cases with the usual round of inserts inside. The only difference between these and the “box set” is that you forgo a cardboard sleeve to hold the two films in—not a big deal, but the dual set is admittedly a bit cheaper than buying the films individually.
While it seemed obvious to me at first to review the two films A/V presentations separately, after viewing them I realized that it seemed entirely pointless to do so. The films are a mere two years apart in production time so the variance between the two transfers is minimal; not to say that they’re both incredibly flawless and gorgeous pictures mind you. As can be expected from 20+ year old films, they have a big of age tossed into the mix, with a suitably grainy transfer accompanying both films. There’s also a bit of the usual softness and haze that goes into these older films, but everything else you’d expect to see is pretty much kept at a minimum. Banding, blocking and some opening credits wobble is present, but nothing that truly distracts the viewer for more than a few seconds. The two films definitely look their age, but the Blu-ray format offers them up in stunningly clear ways regardless.
Predictably the audio mixes for both films sound dated as well. The DTS-HD 5.1 MA mixes are presented strong and clear in the front channels and…well, little else. As is often the case with older films the audio is a bit muffled and lacking in channel dispersion; the only real spread we get here is from the films soundtracks. The first film is noticeably lacking in surround and LFE output, but the second at least tries to toss some subwoofer action into the mix, albeit briefly and rather mundanely. The two mixes certainly aren’t bad, but they just don’t really evoke any real sense of envelopment. Which is truly fine considering these are rather breezy little films that don’t really need to provide a sonic visual and aural experience; truth be told the films both look and sound better than I expected and I don’t think I can really have hoped for much more than that. Sony did a really fantastic job on both films.
Extras for The Karate Kid: Part II include:
Original Featurette: “The Sequel”
Blu-Pop (TM): Activate the exclusive Blu-pop feature to reveal pop up trivia and more secrets from the film!
After a surprising number of extras for the first film, we get a whole lot of nothing on this second film. That’s to be expected, of course, but a commentary would have been nice at least; the “Blu-Pop” track which featured video clips with the actors on the last film is instead a pure text pop-up trivia track this time around and “The Sequel” featurette is barely over six minutes in length. This is still a Recommended release for fans looking to upgrade, but if you’re new to the series then I’d just stick with the first film for now.
The Karate Kid: Part II is now available on Blu-ray.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter