Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Daniel Should Have Lost

That title should really read, "Why Daniel Should Have Lost Twice."

First, I want to start by saying that I love The Karate Kid. It's got to be one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm not exactly sure where I would rank it, but it's probably somewhere in my top 100. Also, in my opinion, part 2 might be just as good, maybe better. That being said, I have a sort of problem with the way those things turned out.

Okay, it's not a problem, per se. I do enjoy the happy ending of seeing the underdog win against seemingly impossible odds. But I just don't think Daniel-san should have won either of the fights that he participated in at the climax of both of those films. It should go without saying, I will be spoiling the endings to Karate Kid, parts I and II. If you haven't seen these movies, you might want to go read something else. Actually, don't read something else. Find these movies and watch them right now. You're long overdue.

In the first one, Daniel makes his way through the tournament, taking out black belts left and right. And this is perfectly logical, since he's been learning karate for about three months. Meanwhile, the kids who have been training for years drop like flies. But it's very easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief that a kid from Newark with no martial arts experience can rise in the tournament ranks during a brief montage while listening to an inspirational song.

So Daniel gets to the semi-finals where he faces the only halfway decent kid from the Cobra Kai squad. I mean, he's still a dirtbag, but he's a dirtbag who has been shown to have a conscience at several points throughout the movie. He basically destroys Daniels knee because Sensei Kreese ordered him to do so. He felt really bad about it, but the damage had been done. The doctor on the scene informed Daniel that the tournament was over for him. But then Mr. Miyagi works his magic and Daniel's knee is miraculously better. This means he can fight Johnny in the title match. Of course, he wins, but he really shouldn't.

Johnny goes for the bad knee. This is all thanks to Sensei Kreese's advice to "sweep the leg." When Johnny sweeps the leg, that should be the end of it. But Daniel gets right back up. Then he starts to get into the Crane position, ready to deliver that final blow. I never took karate a day in my life, but I can't imagine that this is actually a good move. I mean, think about how long it takes Daniel to set this up. Yeah, it's a matter of a few seconds, but any fool can see what's coming. Unless you're the bad guy who's supposed to lose so the underdog can win and make the audience cheer. When Miyagi first introduces Daniel to the Crane Technique, he tells the kid that "if do right, no can defense." We find out that that's not exactly true in Part II.

In the sequel, it makes no sense for Chozen to antagonize Daniel throughout the movie. But he does. And it begins the moment they meet. There's no logical reason for it. But our underdog needs a villain to take down in the final act. So there you have it. But as Miyagi points out, their fight isn't about points or who walks away with the tournament trophy. The fight between Daniel and Chozen is life and death.

Chozen is the kind of guy who will not hold back when his honor is on the line. He was described by Daniel's love interest as "Sato's best student." Daniel's been training with Miyagi for a year at best by this point. Chozen has been training with Sato (who would have been teaching the same techniques) for his entire life. At least, that's the most likely scenario. And if Chozen has that much experience and is looking to take Daniel's life, logic dictates that Daniel should not have survived his own sequel.

Of course, Daniel begins this fight by leaning back on the Crane kick. Makes sense, right? I mean, it won him a trophy at the end of part I. Why wouldn't it save his life this time around? Well, that's because we find out that Miyagi's "no can defense" thing was way off. Chozen blocks it like he's been blocking that same kick since he was three. We see the fight progress and we watch as Chozen lands blows that break a stone statue. This means that each hit that lands somewhere on Daniel's body should break bones and cause some severe internal bleeding. Just when Daniel is down, probably about to lose his life, the citizens of Tome Village begin banging their pocket drums and the Karate Kid is suddenly inspired to get up and win the fight.

I get it. The audience wants a feel good ending. I'm just putting it out there that, in reality, Daniel should have lost both of these fights. But please, don't allow my cynicism to stop you from enjoying these classic films. They're still excellent movies and I watch them any time I get a chance.

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