Ok as a HUGE fan of the first two Karate Kid movies and fan of the third installment for all the wrong reasons, I’ll admit that up until recently I’d never given ‘The Next Karate Kid’ from 1994 a watch or for that matter a fair chance. I’d always wrote it off as some irrelevant, unrelated knock off of the franchise. However, as I’d rewatched some of the first season of Cobra Kai, once again I’d realized just how much I missed Mr. Miagi and how even more awesome the show would have been if he was still with us. I thought what I’d give for just one last adventure with the character.
Then I’d read in an interview with the creators of Cobra Kai that they’d addressed the 1994 sequel as cannon in the series and slightly teased how all of those movies characters are on the table for possible appearances in future seasons of the show. It dawned up me quickly, after all these years there was indeed one last adventure out there with Pat Morita in his legendary role that as a Karate Kid fanatic I’d ignored for all these years. It was finally time to put my snobby Karate Kid purist attitude aside, to see a movie 27 years in waiting!
So I’m here to report that not only is ‘The Next Karate Kid’ a way better film than ‘Karate Kid 3’ but I think it’s imperative that Hillary Swank return to her role as Julie Pierce in Cobra Kai. Clearly she has a story to tell Daniel with her history with Miagi and she also shares his karate style, something that would make for a great plot element in the series. As far as the fourth installment of the Karate Kid franchise goes, it really was so sweet to see Mr. Miagi in this role, in a movie I’d put off for some reason for so long. It felt like a rare treat to see it when I finally did as I was also surprised at how wrong I’d been, the movie was by no means the flimsy carbon copy sequel I’d guessed it was. Nope quite the contrary, Hillary Swank and Pat Morita both kick ass here in a movie that has a true heart of it’s own and explore more into the history of the Miagi character.
We delve into his past as he heads off to Massachusetts to accept a prestigious award for Japanese American soldiers of WWII & also meets back up with an old friend, Louisa Pierce, the widow of his commanding officer. At Pierce’s home, they catch up on old times, war stories and there he meets his next student, Julie Pierce. The troubled teen is taken under Miagi’s wing and she even finds time to care for an injured hawk at her school. Miagi sees quite early on that she, like Daniel has got some true karate potential and also anger management issues of her own to take care of. She’s also got some problems with some weirdo violent militant Frat boys that need taking care of, something Miagi is happy to help with! The great thing here is that it goes a lot of different directions, we don’t have Daniel’s story for Hillary Swank retold like a “Force Awakens” Karate Kid sequel. Instead she nurses a bird of prey, visits a Buddhist monastery where she befriends a group of charming monks, learns karate and also finds time to fight an elite group of assholes not in a tournament either but in a real damn bare knuckle brawl!
So yeah, I was wrong The Next Karate Kid is a cool movie that not only adds to the Karate Kid legacy but it also expands the story of the late great Miagi. It’s a sweet 90’s sequel that seriously deserves a second chance from Karate Kid purists and fans of Cobra Kai alike. Let’s face it, if the Netflix show can snag Hillary Swank, who’s an incredible actor to come back as Julie Pierce, they’re going to be utilizing the secret weapon of the franchise. I’m sure we’ll be seeing her in the near future on Cobra Kai but in the meantime I think the fans need to give this little 90’s gem a re-watch. There’s so much fun to be had in The Next Karate Kid and I’m glad I finally saw it almost three decades later for my first viewing! A welcome slice of epic lore that makes the Cobra Kai series missing character, Pat “Mr. Miagi” Morita that much more special and severely missed by all the fans….