Second Union

Second Union

FRANCHISE REWIND: The Karate Kid, Part II (1986)

The Karate Kid, Part II, 1986 (Ralph Macchio/Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) Columbia Pictures

“When my father died, I spent a lot of time thinking I hadn’t been such a great son. It seemed to me like I could have listened a little more, spent a little more time with him together… I felt so guilty, you know like he did everything for me and I didn’t do anything for him. Then one day I realized… that I did the greatest thing I ever did for him before he died: I was there with him… and I held his hand… and said goodbye.”

Because of the unexpected success of the first Karate Kid movie, it was inevitable that a franchise would start, and director John G. Avildsen wasn’t about to let this opportunity get away as he had with Rocky. The trouble with Rocky was in dealing with the enormous talent, ego, and ambition of screenwriter/actor Sylvester Stallone who would shortly take over directing duties for the three sequels that followed.

Avildsen was a film director who weathered a lot of crazy storms. He survived in the industry because he adapted. The Karate Kid is a different beast. It plays with the same rhythm in each movie but, unlike the Rocky series, slightly alters the formula. It does engage in the same time-travel narrative. The opening titles feature scenes from the first movie and take up about five minutes of screen time. This movie was released two years after the first movie. Did we forget that quickly?

This first sequel begins minutes after the first movie ends with the triumphant victory of Daniel LaRusso. Emperor Palpatine is so angry at his Head Bully student he beats him mercilessly in the parking lot until Mr. Miyagi comes to his defense. We jump forward six months (still time traveling, which means 1984 lasted 18 months) and a semi-reset in that Daniel no longer has a girlfriend. We do see an enormous mane of curly blonde hair hugging Daniel after his victory. I guess Ali’s rich family threatened to kill her pony or whatever. In fact, nobody’s around except for Mr. Miyagi.

There was a scene in the first movie in which Miyagi gets himself good and toasted on the anniversary of his wife and child’s death at an internment camp. We get a little backstory into Miyagi, and this is one of the scenes that would earn Pat Morita an Oscar nomination. In the sequel, Miyagi receives a letter from Okinawa informing him that his father is gravely ill. Daniel decides to join him on his sojourn back to his native land: Hawaii! I mean Okinawa, but Okinawa looks an awful lot like Hawaii. It’s “Movie-Japan!”

There is a little bit of As Okinawa Turns melodrama. A young Miyagi dug this chick, Yukie (Nobu McCarthy) who was dug by this other guy, Miyagi’s rival Sato (Danny Kamekona), and even though these guys are now collecting Social Security, they still have a grudge, and Sato wants to duke it out with our boy. Dames is trouble! They’re also awesome, as embodied by gorgeous young Tamlyn Tomita (in her debut) as Kumiko, Yukie’s niece. She dreams of being a dancer. Damnit Tamlyn – be a dancer! I know you can do it, baby!

There’s a really cute scene where she makes Daniel some tea. We have a role reversal here. Daniel-San becomes Miyagi’s confidante (and mentor, in a way). There’s a wonderful bit here where he comforts Miyagi after his father’s passing. That’s really what these movies are about. They’re not about karate and karate championships and sweet, sweet revenge. They’re about the bond between a young man and an old man, and the complexities of both.

The Karate Kid, Part II had only a slightly higher production budget and was still an enormous hit for Columbia Pictures. If there’s one thing … one thing … I don’t absolutely love about The Karate Kid, Part II, it’s the Peter Cetera song, “Glory of Love,” (originally written for Rocky IV) which played nonstop on top 40 all through the summer, fall, and winter of 1986. It’s one of the catchiest, virus-like pop songs of all time. The song is a disease meant to infect the listener. I started writing a novel a few years back (I never finished it) which I titled, Pop Song Eats The World. I think this was the song. If I had a favorite Chicago or Peter Cetera song, it would probably be “Stay The Night,” just because the video is so awesome. Check it out sometime. You’ll be glad you did!

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