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Extreme situations require extreme measures: Karate Kid III
Jun 28, 2005 (Updated Jun 28, 2005)
Review by flamepillar
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Daniel loves Mr. Miyagi.
Cons:He already has a "girlfriend".
The Bottom Line: Karate Kid III: Predictable, boring, but occasionally great.
I still remember the night we went with our neighbor/landlady Marie out to see Karate Kid III. I remember Mom suggesting that since Marie was an older lady, we should maybe see a movie that wasn't so violent. I don't remember much how or why the decision was made, but we went and saw KK3 anyway. And I got home just ranting and raving about how great it was!
Recommend this product?
Of course, I was 13 years old.
So after listening to my non-stop advertisements, Mom and Dad rented the movie as soon as it was out on video. As we were sitting there watching it, at some point Dad started making a snoring sound effect, after which they commented about how it wasn't all that great. And I thought "Golly, what's wrong with them!?" Boo hoo.
I now wonder how any 13-year old male could have possibly jived and wailed the way I did about KK3, and I think I have an answer. I don't know if this is some kind of a mental disorder, but in the past I have always had a tendency to fall instantly in love with songs, particularly in video games, just 'cause of one tiny little part I like. Never mind if the other two minutes suck, as long as I got that five-second segment that gives me goose-bumps, I'm more than glad to turn it up and secretly scorn anyone who dares turn my beautiful music down.
And that's how it was with KK3. The last 15 minutes or so, Daniel LaRusso is in that tournament, up against Mike Barnes. Up until this point, Mike has been completely unbeatable. Even Mr. Miyagi never gets a good shot on the guy, he just pushes him around. So all of a sudden, here we are at the tournament. Mike has been beating the living heckfire out of Daniel, and somehow he has managed to hurt him more than Johnny Lawrence did when he brought his elbow down on Danny's already broken knee. Daniel's on the ground, apparently an inch away from death as he screams "Mr. Miyagi it's over! It's over! FORGET ABOUT IT!" And of course Mr. Miyagi has to scream at him to shut up, and buy him off for the fifteenth time with some speech about focus.
(Ending Spoiler Ahead)
Daniel gets up, does a little kata dance (which is actually extremely cool) and at the last second, Mike goes for a head punch. But Daniel grabs it, spins him around, tosses him overhead and flat against the ground, gives him a punch in the gut and scores the winning point. Crowd is on its feet. And there I sit on the verge of tears as I watch Daniel and Mr. Miyagi hug. How frikkin' pathetic.
(Spoiler all done!)
So the last fifteen minutes had me all pumped up, and there I was ready to proclaim to the world from the highest mountaintop that this was the best movie I ever saw in my life. So much for wanting to be a kid again.
Karate Kid 2 was frowned upon by some because it was not a real sequel per se. It began right after the tournament, then branched off into an entirely different type of movie with a different atmosphere, and a whole lot of new characters, and very few of the same philosophical themes. I found that I liked all the new characters -- Kumiko, Yukie, Sato, and even Chozen. When Mr. Miyagi opts, to the beat of swelling music, to save Sato's life in spite of Sato's threats against him, now that's a tear-inducing moment that just about leaves me trembling all over.
There are no such moments in Karate Kid III, but one of its strengths is that it gets back to a more familiar tone, and thus seems better suited as an actual sequel to what happened in the first movie.
The weakest link in this chain is in the love story between Daniel and Jessica Andrews, played by Robyn Lively. Apparently, she was cast because of her slight resemblance to Elisabeth Shue who played the love interest in the first Karate Kid. But Lively lacks the same pep and optimism that Shue so effortlessly exuded.
Additionally, Daniel has become quite a bit of a jerk. In the past, his feelings for the fairer sex left him bound, helpless, and charmed. Now, he has become overconfident in himself to the point of being almost bored at the prospect of falling in love. The spears of his arrogance proclaim "W00T, I did it again." For both of them, it's just going through the motions of a sidestory that they both know doesn't serve the movie in any way whatsoever.
Mr. Miyagi talks of his dreams of opening a Bonsai Tree Shop, and Daniel, in a move that's more idiotic than generous, throws his college money down for the second time to see that it happens. On the other hand, I can't help but revel in the sweetness of it. There is a fine moment when Mr. Miyagi, upon discovering what Daniel has done, finds himself irresistibly touched.
[Mr. Miyagi looks at the contract for his new store, shaking his head]
Daniel: "Did I forget something?"
Mr. Miyagi: "Mm-hmm."
Daniel: "What did I miss?"
Mr. Miyagi: "Your name on lease next to mine. Partner."
The friendship between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel has always shined, and this was a fine display of that mutual admiration and trust between the two. Sometime later, Daniel and Mr. Miyagi aren't getting along too well. Mr. Miyagi holds a picture of Daniel in his hand and says, "Hope confusion end soon, Daniel-san. Miyagi heart empty without you." That's sweeter than the best "love line" from 95% of all romcoms, or even roms for that matter.
We all remember John Kreese, right? The guy who coached the Cobra Kais and coerced them into doing terrible things at the tournament, only to find his hands in webbed blood designs by a couple of car windows he punched out himself due to Mr. Miyagi's mad sidestepping abilities? Yeah, well one of the first camera shots we get here finds him walking down the street all alone. It's hard to do a good "How the mighty have fallen" shot, but this one captures that feeling.
So Kreese meets up with a certain Terry Silver, and to put it in a nutshell, they join forces to re-open the Cobra Kai dojos and get Kreese's life back the way it used to be. But now, Kreese is a humbled man, and he actually shows some reluctance in joining Mr. Silver.
Silver: "They made you suffer, so I'm gonna make them suffer. And suffer and suffer, and when I think they've suffered enough, then I start with the pain!"
John Kreese: "Look, you really don't have to do that."
I enjoy Kreese's change of character. You see bad guys fall to their knees and understand the error of their ways all the time in movies. How often do you see that change manifest itself later on? Do any of them ever relapse back into their evil ways? Inquiring minds want to know, and Karate Kid III actually attempts to do that with Kreese.
Thomas Ian Griffith plays the role of Terry Silver, easily the most over-the-top and maniacal villain in the entire trilogy. When you watch him and then go back and watch the Cobra Kais in the first movie, it's like they're sleepwalking. Terry Silver is a funny, albeit not entirely likable, character. Together with Kreese, he hires Mike Barnes, a karate "bad boy" from a magazine ad. Yeah, "hmm" is right.
Mr. Silver's manner of rising to success is basically paved right out for him. Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel he won't train him for the tournament because "If karate is used to win plastic trophy, karate means nothing to you."
And of course, Daniel is convinced until Mike Barnes steps in, insisting that Daniel participate in the tournament. Harassment ensues, and Daniel finds himself pressed harder and harder to sign up. This sets Daniel and Mr. Miyagi increasingly at odds with each other, to the point Daniel takes up training under Mr. Silver at the Cobra Kai dojo. The way that Silver seduces him is actually so nice that for a moment, on Daniel's behalf, you really want it to be true.
Mr. Silver puts Daniel to work right away beating on a mannequin of 2x4's, knowing he'll do more damaging his hands, elbows and feet than he will learning. But he pushes Daniel to the limit, sometimes to the point of bleeding...
"You wanna be beaten because of a little pain, be my guest. I'm not gonna be a part of that. I make wimps into winners, not the other way around! Christ, I'm wasting my time!"
Then he just stands there out of Daniel's view, listening to Daniel pummel away on the wood mannequin, smiling to himself, looking a little down and to the right of the camera. I only mention this because I have about a dozen pictures of myself imitating that shot of him 'cause I think it looks funny.
Well, this is not good for Daniel physically or mentally; all it does is cause him to get angry quicker and start lashing out at people like Mr. Miyagi. Sometimes the way he talks to Mr. Miyagi in this movie is so mean, it's almost too much. Tack on that Mike Barnes is constantly harrassing Daniel, who doesn't know that he and Silver are in it together. It's like a timebomb just waiting to explode.
Still, I can't help but get a little juiced when Daniel reaches the pinnacle of his success under Silver's training. It's just a great moment when he realizes what insane power he has, regardless of how misdirected it might be.
Mr. Miyagi's wise words are a rare find in KK3. I am dumbfounded that the same guy (Robert Mark Kamen) actually wrote the first two movies and this one. In the first two movies, Miyagi cut loose like a psych professor -- "Never stop war by taking part in one," "Never been attacked by tree," "Now use head for something other than target!" Here, he sounds like a high school junior doing an essay on metaphors. The only profound words of his have to do with comparing Daniel to a bonsai tree. Stuff about growing his own way because the roots are strong. Which is neat, but I prefer witty to rehearsed.
The fighting is not nearly as ballbusting as it was in the first two, either. Judging by the skills Daniel had learned up to that point, I'd say he should've had no problem taking Mike Barnes completely apart. Instead, Mike holds him up by the shirt, while Daniel punches him in the face twice and the guy doesn't even flinch. To a 13 year old, "Yeah, that guy's tough!" but good grief, is it ever forced. Even some of Mr. Miyagi's fighting scenes are a disappointment. He ends up taking a cheap shot at Silver and then spinning him off into a mirror, but it looks like Silver is fully cooperating with him in falling for it. Mr. Miyagi vs. Kreese is only slightly better, with an instant five-hit "combo" by Miyagi that lasts all of 3-4 seconds, and decks Kreese instantly. What makes it better is that it is well shot.
Overall, Karate Kid III is pretty much average as they come. The DVD is as barebones as can possibly be, with only subtitles in several languages to distinguish it from a regular old VHS tape. The plot is decent, despite being replete with potholes (not plot holes!). When it's not focused on sidetracks, it's shoving the same thing in our face again and again -- Mikey's a meanie, Danny and Mr. Miyagi are out of money, it's driving everybody apart. Only when things start to resolve themselves does the pace pick up again.
Then we get to see Terry Silver go bananas (WAAA!) and a presumably dead character come back to life. It's all pretty exciting and weird and preposterous.
But sometimes a last desperate attempt to cling to nostalgia is better than no attempt at all.
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