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Reading: Does the Karate Kid Have a Kung Fu Dream? Hong Kong Martial Arts; between Hollywood and Beijing

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Does the Karate Kid Have a Kung Fu Dream? Hong Kong Martial Arts; between Hollywood and Beijing

Author:

Gina Marchetti

University of Hong Kong, HK
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Abstract

This analysis of the martial arts choreography in The Karate Kid (2010) examines the contradictory matrix in which action films produce meanings for global audiences. A remake of a 1984 film, this iteration of The Karate Kid begins its imaginative battle over martial arts turf with English and Chinese titles at odds with one another. For Englishspeaking audiences, the title of the film promises a remake of the popular 1984 story of a displaced Italian American teenager (Ralph Macchio) trained by a Japanese American sensei (Pat Morita) to compete against the local karate bullies. However, the 2010 version has another identity competing with the first. Its Chinese title translates as Kung Fu Dream – Japanese culture, karate, and domestic American class and racial politics out of the picture. In this version, an African American youngster (Jaden Smith) moves to Beijing from Detroit and is taken under the wing of a drunken kung fu master (Jackie Chan) to battle a group of wu shu/san da villains. With the change of choreography comes a shift in the ideological battles taken up by the film’s plot providing a different take on race, class, ethnicity, and geopolitics against the backdrop of the ‘rise’ of China. This essay explores what this shift in martial arts choreography says about the Hollywood, Hong Kong, and Mainland Chinese industries involved in its production. In addition, it explores how fans have come to grips with the depiction of karate, traditional kung fu, PRC-style wu shu, and various screen iterations of a range of martial arts in the film.

How to Cite: Marchetti, G., (2014). Does the Karate Kid Have a Kung Fu Dream? Hong Kong Martial Arts; between Hollywood and Beijing. JOMEC Journal. (5), p.None. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/j.2014.10273
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Published on 01 Jun 2014.
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