It’s surprisingly good! Kiai! Mash people up.
Ask yourself, how many things from the 80s were actually good? Not many things right? The fashion was bad, the cars were boxy, the music was meh, and the hairstyles were the absolute worse! But admittedly there were a number of iconic film franchises in the 80s- Rambo, Rocky, Indiana Jones, Back to the future all come to mind. And Karate Kid with Mr Miyagi, ‘wax on wax off’, and that freakin’ crane stance kick……. Deserves an honourable mention when thinking back to 80s films.
So admittedly I was intrigued when I first noticed ‘Cobra Kai’ pop-up on my Netflix recommendations- “Awww, Netflix how did you know that Martial arts is my thang!”
The premise behind Cobra Kai is that 34 years has passed since the days of the Karate kid. The bully Johnny Lawrence i.e. the star pupal of the first iteration of Cobra Kai dojo is now a 50 year old unemployed loser, while Daniel Larusso is a successful businessman with a loving wife and kids- both men pretty much living out all the stereotypical things your parents tell you when you’re growing up i.e. if you slack off as a kid, you’ll grow up to be a bum, or vice-versa if you work hard, everything in your adult life will be perfect ……….
In the present both men have long since left their pyjama kiai days behind them, but due to a number of unexpected events which unfold throughout episodes 1-5, that lead both men to reprise their interest in the way of the open fist. And like all Americanised Martial arts films, after a short build-up and an intense training montage- there’s a tournament and an eventual predictable outcome (was it actually predictable?).
But what made Cobra Kai intriguing which got me particularly excited in the second half of the series was that Cobra Kai flipped the script on the usual American teenage action drama. I.e. The villain from the 80s Karate Kid was now the main protagonist and could be described as the ‘good guy’. Whilst Daniel Larusso the geeky goody Two-Shoes from the 80s, could now be described as the ‘bad guy’ this time around, being vindictive and unable to let the past go. While the next generation of ‘Karate kids’, the nerds and the misfits become the dirty Cobra Kai students, like their 1980 predecessors. While the delinquent petty criminal character of Robby Keene, takes on the Daniel Larusso role from old- right down to sustaining an injury in the crucial moments of the ‘All Valley under 18s tournament’.
The series leverages flashbacks from the original Karate kid film to further link the two stories together, while the series stays very present and captures quite well the generational gap between parents and their kids. While the producers and story-tellers have not shied away from depicting how the 21st century US really is, right down to some pretty non-PC moments. However they balance this out by showing some glimpses in how an ideal USA might look-like, being more inclusive, tolerant and accepting- adding in morals to the story.
From my point of view, I can’t believe that the original actors who played Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny (William Zabka) are the same actors who are playing these roles all these years on. And you know, when a child actor becomes an adult, they’re usually a bit weird? Yeah, you know what I mean? Like they still sound like their old child selves, or that you find it hard to accept that they’re all grown up now. But for both Ralph and William, they’ve aged well. Not to say that they still look youthful, but they’ve aged well into their adult selves. So much so that I wasn’t completely sure if they were the same actors? And they’re actually quite good actors, considering that they haven’t done much acting since Karate kid and being tight casted as ‘That Karate kid guy’, and that ‘Ass-hole bully guy from Karate kid’. So for this single fact alone, Cobra Kai was worth watching if you were a fan of the original movie.
And I have to admit, each time they had a fight scene or when they depicted training from inside the CK dojo, in lines kicking, punching and kiai away! I have to admit, I experienced a surge of adrenaline course through my vanes which def sped up my spin-cycle efforts (oh yeah, I watched the entire 10 part series, during my lunch-time spin-cycle sessions). Those Karate scenes so emotive, that I’m currently considering taking up Karate, even though I’m an old geezer!
So if you’re like me, who grew-up in the 80s and the Karate kid was an iconic film for you, and taking a trip down memory lane back through the 80s is a welcomed thing? Then please check out Cobra Kai, it’s a lot better than you think.