I have seen plenty of sequels. Remember what I said about The Karate Kid (1984) and its low-budget? When you have a film that surpasses its budget ten times over like the original, there is bound to be a thirst for follow up productions. What is strange about The Karate Kid Part II (1986) is that its first almost ten minutes are scenes from its predecessor. I am an advocate of an installment in a series, be it part of a trilogy or longer, being able to stand on its own. Sure, there should be hints as to its place with its related movies. Yet, I have never seen something as overt as in the second of the Newark teenager turned Californian karate champion flicks. I guess the producers were worried that people would forget about their smash hit, which had only come out two years previously?
Two years do not go by in the timeline of The Karate Kid Part II. After the aforementioned strange prologue, the film picks up with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), er, in the communal shower after his victory in the All Valley Karate Tournament? Why this is necessary, I have no idea, particularly with Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) waiting outside. My apologies. My Safe Environment training is responsible for this digression. At any rate, as they leave the venue, the defeated Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove) is physically assaulting his star student, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), for losing to Daniel. Mr. Miyagi steps in, and easily side-steps the punches Kreese throws at Mr. Miyagi, resulting in two broken car windows and a karate sensei on his knees in pain. Mr. Miyagi then raises a hand to strike Kreese, reminding the disgraced teacher that there is no such thing as mercy, before changing his mind, “booping” Kreese’s nose, and walking away. Now we jump ahead six months. A visibly shaken Daniel arrives at Mr. Miyagi’s house with a beat-up front fender, the result of letting his now ex-girlfriend use his car, all proceeding her dumping him for a college football player while wrapping up prom. To make matters worse, he believes his mother wants him to come to Fresno with her for the summer, meaning Daniel will be taken away from his karate training with Mr. Miyagi. Always knowing how to calm the young man down, Mr. Miyagi gives Daniel some breathing exercises and sets him to work building an add-on to his home. When Daniel asks why this is being done, Mr. Miyagi says that he had spoken with Daniel’s mother and that the student would be able to stay with his teacher for the summer. At the same time, distressing news arrives from Okinawa, Japan, the land of Mr. Miyagi’s birth: Mr. Miyagi’s father is dying. Daniel takes it upon himself to go with Mr. Miyagi because why not, and on the way to the island Daniel begins reading all he can. He does this to go along with the bits about Mr. Miyagi’s past about which he had recently been informed. Mr. Miyagi had learned karate from his father, but his father had also taught his best friend Sato (Danny Kamekona). They would have remained best friends if it had not been for Mr. Miyagi falling in love with Yukie (Nobu McCarthy), the woman with whom it had been arranged for Sato to marry. When Sato found out, he challenged Mr. Miyagi to a fight. As is customary, these matches are to the death. Rather than fight his best friend, Mr. Miyagi left for the United States. You might think that over forty years might heal old wounds. When Daniel and Mr. Miyagi land on the island, they are greeted with a car driven by Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto). Rather than taking them to Mr. Miyagi’s ancestral village, he drives them instead to a warehouse owned by Sato. This is where they find out that Chozen is Sato’s nephew, and that Sato still has a grudge against Mr. Miyagi. Further, he owns the property on which Mr. Miyagi’s former home sits, and has been busy aggrandizing himself through various investments. Finally, he still wants to fight Mr. Miyagi. Instead, Mr. Miyagi leaves, and makes it to his village in time to be with his father during his last moments. Sato is there as well, and out of respect for his former teacher, gives Mr. Miyagi three days to mourn. During that time, Daniel exposes the corruption with which Chozen, acting in his uncle’s name, has been treating the village. Needless to say, the karate trained Chozen is not pleased. The three days pass and Mr. Miyagi has no intention of fighting Sato and instead returning to California, until Sato says that he will bulldoze the village of Mr. Miyagi does not fight. This keeps Daniel and Mr. Miyagi in place, and they are on hand when a typhoon hits the village. In the midst of it, they end up saving Sato from a collapsed building. Further, Daniek rescues a little girl from an electrical pole (no idea how she got there), a feat Chozen refused to attempt. This act proves to be what is needed to patch up the friendship between Mr. Miyagi and Sato, who agrees to give the deed to the village to Mr. Miyagi and rebuild in the wake of the storm. He also agrees to host a festival the next day. The one person not on board with the newfound peace is Chozen, who challenges Daniel to a duel to the death in the middle of the festivities. In a mirror of Mr. Miyagi and Kreese from the beginning, Daniel has Chozen on his knees and is about to strike before booping his foe’s nose.
The Karate Kid Part II is just as cheesy as its predecessor. They did not spend much more money on the sequel, and made just as much money off it. While I may not understand the appeal of these movies, I can at least appreciate the messages of mercy and true bravery as a practicing Catholic. I will start with the latter. Throughout their time on Okinawa, Daniel cannot understand why Mr. Miyagi remains unflustered by Sato constantly calling him a coward for not fighting. At one point Daniel asks whether or not Mr. Miyagi cares what people would think about such a rumor. Still, Mr. Miyagi is unmoved, and he counters by asking why he should believe a lie. What a great way of looking at truth. One of the few complete truths in the world is that God loves us, more than we can ever comprehend. It should override any of the lies we are told by others, or even ourselves, and it is meant to fill us to overflowing with a joyful light that I wish I could better share. It should also embolden us to live the Gospel. What I am not doing with that last thought is not showing mercy to myself. Mercy is infused into this movie. It was certainly merciful when it ended. Sorry, I could not resist. At any rate, while it was going on, Daniel could not understand why Mr. Miyagi would not finish Kreese. Daniel felt like Mr. Miyagi would have been right to do so. However, the lesson that Mr. Miyagi instills at every opportunity is that strength and power are not the same thing. Some of this is echoed from the previous film, and it is reinforced in the Miyagi family dojo rules. The first of these is that karate is for defense only, and the second rule is to refer back to the first. When an opponent is defeated, there is no point in delivering an extra blow. The point has been made. Humiliation lingers with a person, and ends up causing bigger problems in the future. If God did not grant mercy, and mercy were not part of the plan for salvation for us all, then this world would be a much darker place.
I did not mention the love story in The Karate Kid Part II. It is tacked on and unnecessary to the plot. One might argue that it gave Daniel the motivation he needed at the end to defeat Chozen because Sato’s nephew threatened Kumiko (Tamlyn Tumita). On the other hand, I doubt, given how they present Daniel’s character, that he would have simply let her die. At any rate, it is not a bad movie. It is just silly and derivative, the only thing separating it from its predecessor is the fact that it is set in Okinawa, though filmed in Hawaii.