what the fuck: sony pictures

June 16, 2010

This post has been in my draft box since February, since I received an email from Sony and watched the original trailer for the new The Karate Kid film starring Jackie Chan. After the movie came out last week, I began to write more ranting, angry thoughts about how Hollywood has long relied on the power of well-received plotlines to rope in new audiences, but rewriting my favorite childhood memory and marketing it to the Chinese government is straight up blasphemy. Below are some of my original thoughts on the subject:

I’m sad. No. I am beyond sad. For anyone who has checked out the “about me” page on this here blog or for Facebook friends who have lurked my baby photos, you know how close to my heart the film The Karate Kid is. Aside from dressing up as Daniel LaRusso every Halloween until my grandma finally made me an angel outfit, the film was an after school staple in my house and it’s Japanese martial arts moves and motivational underdog story guided me through dinners, homework and sleep time. As a fellow Italian-American stuck in the San Fernando Valley, I totally understood LaRusso’s plight as he is forced to move from the duurty Jerz to Reseda (which was apparently inhabited by white people back then?). And when the elderly, eccentric-yet-somehow-alluring Japanese maintainence man rescues him from the white-yet-somehow-proficient-in-karate school-asshole, I was jealous. The Karate Kid might have emphasized class differences to create tension and drama, but those dynamics were so inconsequential to my feeble young mind that the movie was always about the endearing relationship that developed between Miyagi and LaRusso.

Now, the sad news. Sony Pictures is remaking The Karate Kid. And yes, it’s worse than we thought. Not only is the film only loosely based on the original childhood classic, but Jackie Chan is playing the “eccentric martial arts mentor” to Jaden Smith’s (Will Smith’s son) bullied-schoolboy attempt. Because the lead character is not the dreamiest of dreamy Ralph Maccio, but instead a scrawny 11 year-old black boy who moves to China with his single mother, the focus of the plot-thickener becomes racial, not class tension.

Although it doesn’t come out until June, I am already fuming. For one, the title of the film–which is clearly only being used for the name recognition–is false advertising. Karate is from Japan (where Mr. Miyagi is from), but the new film takes place in China, where kung fu is the ass-kicking method of choice and Jackie Chan shells it out by the boatload. The producers (surprise, surprise–Will Smith) missed out on this crucial opportunity to change the name, qualm the angry babies of the 80s and separate the film from its original, but maintaining the franchise title even when the story’s details have become so disconnected from the original (at least The Next Karate Kid had karate in it) just shows how desperate the studios are to capitalize on a well-received franchise.

Anyone that has seen Meatballs 2 can attest that this all-in-the-name-of-money name recognition crap is a damn joke (skateboarding alien children, anyone?). If a new generation wants to watch The Karate Kid, then they should probably watch the epic 1984 version. And if Sony is really that desperate to amp up their profit margin, maybe they can just remake the entire Spider-Man franchise that they started nine years ago (oh wait, they already are) and leave The Karate Kid-ing to Ralph Maccio.

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