Daniel accompanies his wise and whimsical teacher, Mr. Miyagi, to his ancestral home in Okinawa. For the boy, it's a journey to an exotic new world offering new clues to his mentor's secret past. For Miyagi, it's an opportunity to see his father one last time and rekindle a romance with his childhood sweetheart. But Miyagi's return also re-ignites a bitter feud with long-time enemy, Sato - a feud that involves young Daniel in a brilliant collision of cultures and combat. Now, far away from the tournaments, the cheering crowds and the safety of home, Daniel will face his greatest challenge ever when teacher becomes student and the price of honor is life itself.
After a brief recap of the previous film - well, more like another 80s montage, only classier - 'The Karate Kid Part II' picks up exactly where we last left off. Both director John G. Avildsen and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen ('The Fifth Element,' 'The Transporter') return for this follow-up to the popular martial arts drama. They avoid running the risk of the montage feeling contrived by using it as a reminder of what made the first movie so special. While part one followed the relationship of a mentor and his student, part two features some history on the sage-like instructor. Whereas the first focused on a wise handyman who can seemingly fix anything / a bonsai master who can mold something special out of nothing, this sequel centers on the mentor's broken and wounded past.
The filmmakers also take the first few minutes to jog our memory of the original movie's theme. In part one, Daniel's journey in learning karate imparts him wisdom, important lessons on confronting life's challenges. On this second journey, one with greater attention given to the karate master, the theme is made very clear only minutes after the karate tournament. Reprising their roles as student and teacher, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita are walking to the truck when they see John Kreese (Martin Rove) cruelly yell at Johnny (William Zabka). Rescuing the Cobra Kais from their cruel sensei, Mr. Miyagi could easily strike a fatal blow to Kreese. But instead, he honks the man's nose and walks away. Daniel wonders why, and the wise Mr. Miyagi explains, "For man with no forgiveness in heart, living worse punishment than death."
This new lesson will obviously play as the overall theme. Only, Daniel's realization of its value and significance won't take place in the Valley but abroad in southern Japan (actually Oahu, Hawaii). Six months after the altercation with Kreese, Daniel is single again and his mother is moving to Fresno. On the same day Mr. Miyagi offers Daniel room and board while attending college, he receives a letter about his father being deathly ill. After some convincing, Mr. Miyagi agrees to have Daniel join him in Okinawa. There, he learns of Mr. Miyagi's past and the life-long quarrel which forced him to flee his hometown. While dealing with this clash, Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel the secret of his family's karate style: a block and defense move he calls "the drum technique."
With the plot and premise put into place, the film shows some potential at repeating the same success as the first installment. But by the end, it doesn't really come close. Granted, it's entertaining enough - thanks partly to 80s nostalgia - and really no more corny than part one. The issue is with a storyline that meanders along in similar fashion as the original, which makes it far too predictable in offering any surprises. In fact, the Sato (Danny Kamekona), Chozen (Yuji Okumoto (Editor's Note: In addition to his acting career, Okumoto is also the oft-seen owner of Seattle's popular Kona Kitchen. Check it out!)), and Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) characters are near mirror replacements of Kreese, Johnny, and Ali. They might as well wear signs around their necks which read corporate villain/evil sensei, bad guy chosen to fight hero, and Daniel-san's love interest. Why mess with a structure that worked so well the first time?
About the only thing which keeps the film slightly above average is Mr. Miyagi as a more prominent focal point. By the time this sequel arrived in theaters, the eccentric but enlightened character had already become a cultural phenomenon and attained a Yoda-like prominence. As far as anyone could gather, the wise old man possessed few if any questionable traits or issues needing repair, like Daniel. But in 'The Karate Kid Part II,' we learn he is very much human and he carries many personal regrets. From my eyes, this above all else is the where the interest lies and gives the film some value. Still, it's not as good as the original, but it makes for a nice follow-up to a unique, one-of-a-kind friendship.
Sony gives 'The Karate Kid Part II' a pretty good video presentation, and fans will surely find much to enjoy. But unlike its predecessor, this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) isn't quite as consistent, though it has several impressive moments featuring Hawaiian scenery. Although clarity and contrast are in good standing order, resolution is slightly below average and shadows are pretty murky in several sequences. Blacks noticeably waver a tad and can appear a bit weak in a few scenes, but they're pretty deep through most of the movie's runtime. While the limited source is likely responsible, the high-def upgrade is not a complete loss, as a good chunk of the transfer is attractive. Colors are bright and stable, especially the many reds and greens, with strong variation in the other hues. All things considered, the Blu-ray comes with a acceptable picture quality and plenty of highlights for fans to enjoy.
Though it doesn't much compare to its predecessor, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is fairly attractive and inviting. The design is a front-heavy track, so surround use is limited to the storm scene at the end of the second act. A couple of discrete effects sound a bit forced and artificial, but it's a decent moment of envelopment. The soundstage is where most of the action is located, and it's a well-balanced presentation with surprisingly wide dynamics, convincing acoustics, and clean, intelligible vocals. Low bass is also reserved for scenes that require some depth or give some realism to punches. The best aspect of the lossless mix is Bill Conti's engaging score as it really adds to the imaging and fills the room. In the end, it's an enjoyable soundtrack with little to complain about.
Unlike its predecessor, this Blu-ray edition of 'The Karate Kid Part II' arrives with a substandard assortment of special features. Or more to the point, it is downright inadequate for a favorite 80s film series.
While it doesn't quite hit the same success as its predecessor, 'The Karate Kid Part II' is entertaining enough and a pretty good follow-up to the popular martial arts drama. The real highlight is seeing this journey center around Mr. Miyagi and learning more about his life in Okinawa. The Blu-ray features a good audio/video presentation, but the supplemental package is mediocre at best. Overall, fans will find little to complain about outside of the puny bonus collection.