One of the rites of passage when it comes to martial arts films is watching the iconic movie, The Karate Kid. The film franchise began in the mid 1980’s until its fourth and final film premiered in the early 1990’s. The stories followed the coming-of-age journey of teenagers who are forced to stand up for themselves, and face their bullies by learning martial arts from a skilled mentor. Who could ever forget the classic mentor, Mr. Miyagi, who is still used as a character reference up to this day? The films were a massive success, and became instant classics for the years to come. It didn’t take long before an animated series, video games, and other kinds of merchandise were created to cater to the growing fanbase of the film franchise. In 2010, a remake of the famed franchise, starring Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) and Jackie Chan (The Rush Hour movie franchise), focused on the art of kung fu, and was re-introduced to a new generation of martial arts fanatics.
The Karate Kid Version 2.0
Worry not, the action does not stop there. The back-to-back successes of the movies ushered in a new era for the hit franchise. By 2018, a television series called Cobra Kai, was created as an extension of the original The Karate Kid movies. The martial arts comedy-drama series, created by Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine), Jon Hurwitz (Harold & Kumar films), and Hayden Schlossberg (American Pie 4: Reunion), follow the lives of protagonist, Daniel LaRusso, portrayed by Ralph Macchio (Ugly Betty) and antagonist, Johnny Lawrence, portrayed by William Zabka (Cake: A Wedding Story), who are also characters from the original film franchise. The announcement of the series must have sent the long-time fans on a full-blown nostalgic spiral. Who would have thought that the movies would follow them through the 21st century, and give avid fans the sequel they were only hoping for? Having the original characters also reprise their roles makes it all the more special.
Throwback to the Previous Seasons
The series is set 34 years after the 1984 film, and covers the adulting woes of the respective main characters. The storyline starts off from a middle-age Johnny’s point of view, who is at the crossroads of his life, as he contemplates on reopening the Cobra Kai karate dojo (“karate hall”) to train a new generation of karate students. This major decision comes with some strings attached, as it will most likely re-open old wounds and rehash his long-standing rivalry with Daniel. The series certainly did not disappoint, and was met with good reviews from fans and critics, as well as major award nominations. After its successful first season, the show was renewed for a second season, which was released last 2019. It was not long enough before a third season premiered last January 2021. There’s no stopping the martial arts mania, as a fourth season is currently in the works, while Netflix just announced the show’s renewal for a fifth season. Looks like The Karate Kid franchise has not lost its luster even after all these years. There are still a whole lot of badass kicks and strikes to watch out for.
Viewers who grew up with Daniel and Johnny are able to see a different side of them, as they deal with real adult problems. In the most recent season 3, Johnny’s star student, Miguel, played by Xolo Maridueña (Parenthood), suffers a severe injury from a brawl. This incident forces Johnny to join forces with Daniel to prevent more violence from happening, and finally take down John Kreese, played by Martin Kove (Cagney and Lacey), who took control over the Cobra Kai karate dojo from Johnny. The series’ other cast members include Courtney Henggeler (The Big Bang Theory), Tanner Buchanan (Designated Survivor), Mary Mouser (Body of Proof), Jacob Bertrand (Kirby Buckets), Gianni DeCenzo (Coop and Cami Ask the World), Vanessa Rubio (Bonding), and Peyton List (Diary of a Wimpy Kid film series).
What Fans Can Look Forward to
The upcoming season 4 premiere is set to bring back a well-known villain from the past. In a recently released teaser, the menacing karate instructor from the third movie of the previous film franchise, Terry Silver, portrayed by Thomas Ian Griffith (Hollow Point) is seen returning to the Valley to wreak havoc once again. Call it déjà vu, but this reunion of sorts is definitely worth looking forward to. Even though season 4 has not premiered yet, Netflix has season 5 already locked and loaded. It’s safe to say that viewers still have ample time to further enjoy the much-loved series.
Cobra Kai season 4 returns to Netflix in December 2021.