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Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather.

Swirling Sharks, Fading Dragon

If you’ve been following the Hong Kong entertainment circle with me ever since I put up my first website on Xoom way back in 1997, you’ll know that I enjoy tracking the ups and downs of sports just as much as I enjoy tracking the ins and outs of HK entertainment.  Both have the ability to take me on wild rides that offer the highest highs and the lowest lows.  Watching Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Zhou Yu (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) kick Cao Cao’s butt in RED CLIFF this summer gave me the same “hell yeah!” buzz I felt last December when I watched the New England Patriots achieve a perfect 16-0 regular season record.  Conversely, the deep disappointment I felt when the combined talents of Jet Li, Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Peter Chan Ho-Sun amounted to an Brandon Changunderwhelming result in THE WARLORDS mirrored the disappointment I felt when the Patriots failed to complete a perfect season by losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Another thing that intrigues about sports and HK entertainment is seeing how prospective talents succeed or fail.  Watching prospects go to brilliant careers, middling careers or just plain washing out is always interesting.  Seeing how the likes of Peyton Manning and Lewis Hamilton succeed while the likes of Ryan Leaf and Hector Camacho Jr. turn into busts is just as fascinating as tracking the chain of events that led Edison Chen Kwoon-Hei of Vancouver to idolhood and the chain of events that kept Brandon Chang Cheuk-Nam of Toronto (right; you may remember him from such films as THE TOUCH and SILVER HAWK) in relative obscurity.

I go into this long preamble because sports and the entertainment circle intersected for me again recently when I read that a “re-imagining” of THE KARATE KID is in the works.  Rumours about a remake involving Will Smith and his son Jaden had been swirling for more than a year but talk died down after Smith’s publicist issued a denial.  Now that the rumours have turned out to be true, I wonder if another part of the early talk — that Jackie Chan will be taking the “Mr. Miyagi” role — will also come to fruition.  As a longtime fan of Jackie Chan’s work, I hope that this portion of the rumour is false because, if he takes part in the project, I think his career will effectively “jump the shark”.  The idea of Jackie Chan doing a version of “Mr. Miyagi” makes me think of sad sights in sports like David Beckham going to America to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Michael Jordan putting on a Washington Wizards uniform,  Emmitt Smith signing with the Arizona Cardinals and Wayne Gretzky playing for the St. Louis Blues.  Though there may have been good arguments for all those moves, they each signalled to fans that these once dominant figures in their respective sports were no longer great.  If Jackie Chan pulls a “Mr. Miyagi”, fans who have been admiring his work since his DRUNKEN MASTER and SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW days will look back years from now and say to themselves that this is when Big Brother Jackie moved on to the “senior tour” portion of his career.

Jackie Chan

I bet some of you are now thinking: “What’s he talking about?  Jackie Chan’s career has already jumped the shark!”  True, legitimate arguments can be made that Jackie Chan is no longer great.  Instead of making memorable high energy action films like DRUNKEN MASTER II, he’s doing voice work for cartoon monkeys and churning out bland, forgettable work like RUSH HOUR 3 and THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM.  Combined with some off screen stuff that have chipped away at his star power, his celebrity certainly doesn’t cast as large a shadow as it did during his heyday of the late-1980s/early-to-mid 1990s.

Nevertheless, there’s still some fire left in the aging dragon.  ROB-B-HOOD, his last “Hong Kong movie”, was a step up from a sub-par THE MYTH and the dreary NEW POLICE STORY.  The upcoming THE SHINJUKU INCIDENT shows some potential as Chan collaborates with the usually solid Derek Yee Tung-Sing (ONE NITE IN MONGKOK).  Despite mediocre reviews, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM still pulled in over US$20 million on its opening weekend so the “Jackie Chan brand” here in the West is still reliable.  As a result, he’s currently on location in New Mexico shooting a new Hollywood film THE SPY NEXT DOOR.

Why, then, would participating in a KARATE KID remake cause Jackie Chan’s career to jump the shark?  Because at this point in his career, Big Brother Jackie can’t afford to be associated with any box office bombs and a KARATE KID remake has huge potential to be a box office bomb.  Consider the following:

- Apart from rare instances like OCEAN’S ELEVEN in 2001, remakes are usually known for being either commercial or critical failures.  Take, for example, remakes like THE PINK PANTHER (2006), PLANET OF THE APES (2001), GET CARTER (2000), PSYCHO (1998) and ALFIE (2004).  Jackie Chan himself was involved in one as AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (2004) was largely panned by critics and bombed at the box office.

- The buzz surrounding the remake is overwhelmingly negative.  Go to any discussion board about the project and note that the majority of posts question the need for a remake of THE KARATE KID.  Also, note how many times the words “vanity project” pop up.

- The original movie succeeds because it had an unique chemistry and was able to delicately balance schmaltz and action.  Recreating that sort of “mojo” will be very difficult.

- On a film discussion board, one Jackie Chan fan expressed optimism that a remake has solid potential. The poster argues that Will Smith is the only bankable superstar left in Hollywood and that he consistently makes good business decisions. He also holds out hope that the reported Chinese investment in the remake will mean that Chinese martial arts should get a good spotlight and scenes showing the “Chinese Mr. Miyagi” teaching kung fu should look really cool — especially if the “Chinese Mr. Miyagi” turns out to be a serious character who uses “Pai Mei teaching techniques”.

Gordon Liu as Pai Mei in KILL BILL VOL. 2

Setting aside the question of Will Smith’s business acumen, while there is some validity to the argument that a re-imagining of THE KARATE KID with a serious tone might be cool (this type of re-imagining worked out great for remakes like BATMAN BEGINS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), the star is going to be 10 year-old Jaden Smith so odds are the film is going to be more like SPY KIDS and less like KILL BILL 2.  Put it this way, it’s doubtful that the Cobra Kai-type bullies are going to be burying Jaden Smith alive forcing him to fight his way out using one-inch punch technique.

Chinese Fortune Telling SticksAdd all that up and you don’t need a tube full of Chinese fortune telling sticks to figure that this remake is more likely to be jeered than cheered.  Yes, the project may bring a big paycheque and yes, there may be some prestige in being associated with Will Smith but if THE KARATE KID remake bombs and THE SPY NEXT DOOR bombs then whispers that Jackie Chan has “lost it” and is “over the hill” will become a chorus.  Someone in Big Brother Jackie’s camp needs to point out the downside of being involved with the remake and urge him to stay far, far away from it.  Instead, his camp should urge him to go back to his roots and re-establish his core fan base by going ahead with a third ARMOUR OF GOD movie.  Like John Elway, Jackie Chan should cap a remarkable career by going out on top doing what he does best for the team that everyone associates him with instead of signing up to play out the string on some foreign team.

Image credits: Han Entertainment (Brandon Chang), Associated Press (Jackie Chan), Miramax (Gordon Liu/Pai Mei), Dragon Gate Shop (Fortune Telling Sticks)

6 Responses to “Swirling Sharks, Fading Dragon”

  1. Jeff Hsieh Says:

    Jackie Chan is a fame whoring, money grubbing fraud who’s lips are glued onto the ass of the Chinese government. He can’t act, he’s phony and he sold out a long time ago.

  2. glenn Says:

    Yes, I think he “jumped the shark” quite a few years ago along with Jet Li, for that matter.

    The two things I liked about The Karate Kid were: it was a showcase for Pat Morita who I knew as a kid from Happy Days and guest spots on The Odd Couple and other shows. I was a bit surprised at how effective he was in the first film. And there are subtle touches to that character that make it uniquely Japanese-American as well.

    (I can’t believe I’m defending a Pat Morita role over a possible Jackie Chan version!)

    And the first Karate Kid managed to illustrate some Zen truths in a very simple, effective, and respectful way for a mainstream American film.

    Admittedly, all of the things that I liked about the Karate Kid have been lampooned and so watered down in sequels that, at this point, a remake can’t do much more damage can it?

  3. RC Says:

    I agree Jackie Chan jumped the shark a long time ago. I don’t know about Jet Li though, he kicked ass in Fearless and The Warlords.

    Will Smith should get Jim Kelly to play Mr. Miyagi, that would be cool. Is he still alive?

  4. Will Says:


    Are you a fan of the evil New England Patriots? Say it ain’t so!

  5. Tracy Says:

    Hey! I’m a fan of the Patriots. I liked them since they wore red and had that sorry excuse for a logo.

    I also would not like to see Jackie Chan at Mr. Miyagi. It should go to a newish/older Asian actor.

    This movie will launch Jaden’s career. It should launch the new Mr. Miyagi’s career too.

  6. Audrey Says:

    Jackie’s movies are still OK but I agree with the posters above about him jumping the shark.

    I also think he’s the fakest star who ever faked. His shameless shilling for China would bother me if I thought he was sincere but he’s not he’s transparently doing it because China is where the money is. It’s the same with his charity work and his fawning over kids. It’s all about his image, deep down you know he doesn’t really care. Copyright © 2002-2021 Ross Chen