So last night I got a sneak peak of the first two upcoming episodes of Youtube Red’s new series ‘Cobra Kai’ AND ‘The Karate Kid’ side by side on the big screen! Yeah, I’ve been super pumped about the new series as The Karate Kid still remains in my top five favorite movies of the 1980’s and maybe even of all time. I like it that much, so as a big fan I’m gonna give it to you straight. The first two episodes of Cobra Kai are everything you’d hope them to be and then some especially if you’re a fan of the original 80’s classic. If you’ve somehow never seen The Karate Kid, you really should do so first to fully appreciate this series, but if not I still think it’s got just as much to offer to those who don’t know the history of the franchise. Here’s some of the basic story set up in the first two episodes without spoiling anything, as a good deal of the stuff I’m about to tell you about the plot is in the trailers for the show…
Original stars/rivals Ralph Macchio as ‘Daniel LaRusso’ & William Zabka as ‘Johnny Lawrence’ return and both look amazing in 2018. In fact they look so eerily similar to the way they did in the 80’s at times it’s a bit surreal. The story here picks up in the present day & former high school mega bully karate champion Johnny is no longer the rich “cool guy” he was back in the 80’s. He’s a jaded, down on his luck alcoholic who still spends a fair amount of his days reminiscing about the glory days of his high school years. Despite all of that from the very opening he also displays he can kick ass just like he used to just as well. He ends up accidentally saving a high school kid from a major ass kicking from a bunch of bullies. Not out of the kindness of his heart but because they’ve possible messed up his 80’s sports car in the process of doing so.
From this point on the show slightly mirrors some of the events of the first movie. The boy he saves later asks him to teach him karate and Johnny mirrors Miagi in the complete opposite way. A series of coincidental events inspires Johnny to try and get miserable his life back in order by way of the old Cobra Kai slogan “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy” and in doing so decides to open his own business, a new karate dojo called…yep, Cobra Kai! I don’t want to spoil these first two episodes but what I will say is that the show gives equal screen time to both Daniel LaRusso and Johnny this time around. We get to see things decades later from both perspectives and this actually is one of the best things about the show so far.
We see Johnny isn’t quite the bully he used to be but rather more of a broken man at this point. The cool guy from high school that ends up with nothing later in life and longs for those good ol’ days. We really shouldn’t like the modern day Johnny but there’s just something about the guy here that’s really charming as he navigates through the vastly different landscape of 2018. One of the best parts is how he relates to the modern teenager and tries his best to push the completely out of date “Cobra Kai mentality” on his new students. It’s quite hilarious, the comedy is razor sharp without being a spoof on the original it actually keeps in tone quite well with the original franchise.
Next we see Danielson who’s no longer the poor teen from Reseda, this time it’s him who’s supposedly “living the dream” with the seemingly perfect life, big house, beautiful wife and kids. There’s some great moments where it’s clear Mr. Miagi, who’s now deceased still greatly impacts his daily life in so many ways. RIP Pat Morita…It’s the chance meeting he has with Johnny that quickly reignites some of his old memories and when Daniel spots the new Cobra Kai dojo in a nearby strip mall he’s instantly shaken. It looks like the rivalry is back on but there’s so much more than that here to digest at least in the first two episodes. We get a great look at two iconic movie characters now in their 50’s and how they see the world today, dealing with their children, technology and just growing older in general. We also see teens of today and just much they contrast drastically with the teens of the original 1984 movie.
These first two episodes totally exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t sure if the series would be corny or just a bad modern rehash of the old movie, I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. It also looks great as well. Both Macchio & Zabka totally shine as their original characters as they face the reality of the modern world, perhaps though this new rivalry is exactly what these two need to ignite a spark to their daily routines. I’m so on board and will most definitely be checking them out on May 2nd on Youtube Red, I really hope this show is a success but at least we’ll get one season which is a true sequel to the original franchise-BONZAI!!!