Title: Cobra Kai
Directed by: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Starring: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan
Release Date: May 2, 2018
Reviewed by: Scott Green
FA Scorecard: A
The year was 1984. It was one of the most productive years in history for Hollywood as they pumped out legendary films like Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, The Terminator, Amadeus, The Neverending Story, Footloose, Sixteen Candles, Red Dawn, Gremlins, Purple Rain, Police Academy…. The list goes on and on. It’s not stretching things to say it was an epic year. But that was also the summer that introduced us to Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid. This turned out to be a modest little film that brought in only 90 million in the box office but earned a permanent spot in our hearts forever.
Ralph Macchio played Daniel. An everyday teenager forced to move from New Jersey to California with his mom, Danny was trying to get a new start in life. His hopes are quickly crushed when he meets Johnny Lawrence (played by William Zabka), the jealous ex-boyfriend of the girl who caught Daniel’s eye. Johnny is the star student of Cobra Kai, a Karate Dojo that teaches that enemies deserve no mercy. This sets up one of the most memorable David vs Goliath stories of courage, strength, bravery and of course karate. The Karate Kid spawned 3 sequels as the story evolved around Daniel and the relationship between him and his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. Far more than karate, he goes on to teach Daniel so much more than merely how to “Wax on, Wax off.”
Thirty-four years later, The Karate Kid still holds such a treasured spot in our hearts that when a brand new series was announced promoting the return of the original stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, it immediately began trending on Facebook. Every subsequent announcement, trailer, interview and behind the scenes featurette has also trended. Let’s face it, at some point in all of our lives we’ve quoted this movie. Airing on Youtube, Cobra Kai is a special series created specifically for Youtube’s Red subscribers.
As a long-standing fan of The Karate Kid, I had mixed feelings about this announcement. When Hollywood starts messing with the classics, you can’t help but sense a nostalgic excitement mixed with a fearful dread that they will most certainly ruin your childhood favorites. When I clicked PLAY on the very first episode, I held my breath in anticipation, braced myself for the unknown, and I watched.
By the end of that first 27-minute episode, I was sucked right back to the same feels I had in 1984. I was smiling like a giddy school kid all over again. It’s truly an amazing thing to revisit old beloved characters after so many years of being apart.
Daniel is now all grown up, married with 2 kids, and the owner of the most successful car dealership in the valley. Johnny has fallen upon a streak of bad luck after losing to Daniel in the 1984 Karate tournament. A fallen man with a broken marriage and a son who has disowned him, Johnny is one glass of alcohol away from complete breakdown. At the bottom of the pit, Johnny believes that he can get a second chance at life if he reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. This would be his chance to reverse things and make life right. He trains a group of misfit kids in what he knows of the art of Karate. The problem is that the only Karate style he knows is ‘Strike First! Strike Hard! No Mercy!’ Along the way, he is reunited with Daniel and the old feud between them quickly reignites. Except this time, their families are in it with them.
Cobra Kai doesn’t poke fun at The Karate Kid, but instead lovingly pays homage to it in each episode. Old familiar characters, locations, and props pop up from time to time, but the show doesn’t shy away from developing all new characters with all new drama of their own. Cobra Kai is the perfect blend of nostalgic memories and a realistic modern feud that rivals anything you will find on television today. It has all the heart, humor and love that made the first film so endearing and it packs loads of modern adventure and intrigue to keep you coming back.
I confess to having teared up a time or two as respect was paid to the memory of Mr. Miyagi. Through the power of flashback scenes, it felt so proper and respectful how they integrated the lessons he taught Daniel. Those same lessons now come into play as Daniel teaches a new student with a similar background.
Cobra Kai has everything you could ever hope for in a modern-day Karate Kid sequel. There is even a breath-taking finale at the 50th Annual Karate Competition. No spoilers here, the end of season one sets up a whole new level of drama for season 2.
Cobra Kai scores huge here. I’m still amazed that YouTube Red picked this up and not Netflix. It’s more than worth a free trial to YouTube Red. Trust me, you WON’T be sorry.
Parental Warning: While The Karate Kid has always been considered a mostly family-friendly film series, Cobra Kai takes its liberties with moderate profanity and some mature subject material involving crude sexual references about male genitals and oral sex. Please note that this would be a rated a STRONG PG-13. Proceed with caution.