There’s something about the follow up to “Karate Kid” that just gets the formula right. It doesn’t feel like a cheap cash grab like “Ghostbusters II,” and acts like an extension of the narrative from the first film like “Aliens.” The original “Karate Kid” was about the underdog Daniel overcoming his bullies through the art and discipline of karate. The writers now turn the coin to Mr. Miyagi to explore his enigmatic origins. It’s a smart move and a very clever turn to add pathos and a really complex sense of humanity to Pat Morita’s iconic character. “The Karate Kid” sequel is Miyagi’s film. We learn a lot about the character in the sequel, prompting sensei and student to feel like two very complete individuals with their own demons to battle.
The writers are tasked with wrapping up Daniel’s storyline, then shifting over to Miyagi and pull it off for the most part. After the competition, Daniel watches Miyagi gain the upper hand in a violent confrontation outside the arena with Cobra Kai Sensei Kreese, displaying mercy. Over the course of the many months Daniel’s life changes, as his car breaks down, former love interest Ali leaves him for a football player (Ali really wasn’t worth the bruises, after all, eh?), and Daniel is forced to relocate with his mom once again. Miyagi offers to keep him as a house guest for a few months, but all is interrupted when he’s called back to Okinawa to see his ailing father who is dying. Tagging along with him, Daniel and Miyagi head to his old village to re-open old wounds which involve a fateful fight between Miyagi and Sato, an ex-student of his father’s that never happened.
Intent on completing the ages old feud, Sato and his nephew Chozen Toguchi, begin to taunt and harass the pair, prompting Miyagi and Daniel to confront the aggression. The setting is completely different this time around, setting primarily in China, and Ralph Macchio re-visits the character without missing much of a beat. He’s helped by a strong supporting cast, which includes the beautiful Tamlyn Tomita as villager Kumiko, and Yuji Okumoto, who is a very menacing new antagonist for Daniel. Chozen topples original film’s foe Jonny in that he’s willing to murder Daniel, just to prove his honor to his sensei Sato. “The Karate Kid, Part II” isn’t a flawless effort (but then neither was the original) but it at least acknowledges the original film and uses that as a spring board to add to depth to the world presented here, rather than just repeat the same old beats. It’s a worthy companion to the original underdog drama and the logical end to Daniel and Miyagi’s story arc.