Two words got me interested in this film from the moment the trailer finished: Jackie. Chan. Not that I’m a huge Jackie Chan fan. I have seen Rush Hour 1 and 2 and a couple of his other western films but I haven’t not seen anything of his asian films. (though I am aware that the Police Story franchise is supposed to be fantastic.)
The moment I watched that trailer and saw Jaden Smith getting beaten up by a gang of Chinese boys and then Jackie Chan (in the Mr Miyagi role from the original) coming to his rescue, you couldn’t take the stupid grin off my face. When the bigwig executives sat down and worked out who was going to play the two key parts (Daniel and Mr Miyagi in old money) the person who suggested “Will Smith’s son, you know, the whiny one from Pursuit of Happiness” and Jackie Chan should have been given an instant promotion.
So the film itself? I loved it. I didn’t expect to. I’m not a huge fan of the first. I liked it but only as a bit of classic cinema and a key part of 80’s movie nostalgia. I began watching this film thinking that I would like the “fighting bits” and the yawn through the “building of relationships bits.” I couldn’t be more wrong.
Jaden Smith was fantastic as Dre, the young boy who is forced to move to China by his Mum and then finds himself being bullied by a jealous Chinese boy who doesn’t like the attention he is giving a young Chinese girl. The early fight scene between Dre and the bully is brutal! Dre is slammed on his back, punched in his stomach and looks to be genuinely hurt. In fact all the way through the bullying scenes of the film, I really felt sorry for Jaden Smith’s character.
Jackie Chan as Mr Han is also brilliant. He plays the old, frail and worn out maintenance man well which makes the “rescue” scene even more exciting. I really like Jackie Chan’s style of martial arts. It isn’t “one man takes on an army with little injury” but instead a mix of slapstick and martial arts which was really appropriate for the scenes where he fought teenage boys. The choreography here was superb and a real testament to every single person who had to “fight.”
This intricate and complicated choreography made the performance by Jaden Smith and every other “child” actor in the film even more impressive. By the end of the film, after the training and bonding scenes between Dre and Mr Han and the other “building of relationships” scenes, you could actually believe that Jaden Smith’s character was that good at Kung Fu (I wouldn’t fight him!!)
So, what about the bits between the fighting that I thought would be boring? I loved them too. This film is two and a half hours but uses that time well. It doesn’t rush through the “character” scenes, trying to get from one fight scene to the next but instead takes it time to show each character’s story and why they are doing what they are doing. I wasn’t bored once!!!
Jackie Chan got to flex his acting muscles when we caught a glimpse of Mr Han’s backstory and the early part of the film where Jaden Smith’s Dre tries to fit in with a new school and new home are really heartbreaking in places.
The next obvious point to mention is how it compares with the original. I’m not usually a huge fan of a remake unless it serves a purpose (for example bringing a films poor special effects up to modern day standards or making a film closer to the original book it was based on) but this actually bettered the original. Parts of it felt forced; the “jacket on, jacket off” technique is no where near as clever or subtle as the “wax on, wax off” from the original and there was much more of an surprise impact when Mr Miyagi opened a can of kick-ass than there is when Mr Han does it but this still stands up alongside the original and definitely surpasses it in places.
They even do a good job of placing lots of nods and hints to the original in this one for those with a keen eye, though Dre’s high kick is no where near as iconic as Daniel’s crane kick. It would have been pretty cool to see some sort of cameo from the original Daniel too (Ralph Macchio).
So overall, I loved it. It had fantastic fight scenes, great build up of each character’s individual story and ended with a rousing, brilliant finish. I will say this though; there is no need for an unnecessary, tenuous sequel!!!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)