For the new Trilogy Collection - Sony is going back to the well with The Karate Kid on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. This coming-of-age film about a young man learning to stand up for himself through the discipline of Karate is just as poignant today as it was when it hit theaters so many years ago. A genuine 80s classic. Not content to simply reauthor the same disc, Sony is giving The Karate Kid an upgrade for this new 4K release with a new Dolby Vision HDR pass, the same great Atmos audio mix, and some new bonus features in addition to all of the legacy content. As it’s the best of the series it comes Highly Recommended
The Karate Kid was a genuine video store gem when I was a kid. My local Mom and Pop shop maybe had all of two copies and it was always rented. In that time of the long long ago you couldn’t just buy a tape (at least not at a decent price) so you just had to keep going to the store and hope that it was there. Because this happened with so many movies we wanted to see, my dad made sure to always tape everything we rented. That first bootleg tape of The Karate Kid didn’t last long. As a little squirt, it was the only thing that I watched that wasn’t Superman or didn’t star Arnold Schwarzenegger with “Conan” in the title.
As an adult, the film still hits. I don’t often pull this off the shelf but it’s an important piece of the collection. I’m not usually a big fan of the “coming-of-age” drama because more often than not it’s a pretty trite affair. The genre is usually boiled down to an overly simplistic platitude that makes your eyes roll. But there’s something genuine about John G. Alvidsen’s little film. It may be a little too “Rocky with Karate” at times, but the relationship dynamic between the teacher Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), and the troubled yoot Daniel (Ralph Macchio) makes this film special. It’s the magic in the bottle the sequels would keep trying to recapture but you can only experience learning “wax on, wax off” once. The sequels are fun for a watch here and there, but three follow-ups and a remake can’t touch the majesty of this first outing.
For a more in-depth take on John G. Avildsen's The Karate Kid, check out our original Blu-ray review written back in 2010.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Karate Kid sweeps 4K Blu-ray legs for the second time with a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray set that is currently exclusive to The Karate Kid Collection. This isn’t a simple repressing of the old disc. This has been reauthored to include Dolby Vision HDR, the same strong Atmos audio mix, but also includes some new on-disc bonus features. The disc loads to Sony’s standard menu structure with bonus features along the right side of the screen and a traditional menu along the bottom.
For its second round on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, The Karate Kid gets a new Dolby Vision HDR pass. Essentially this is the same 4K restoration as the previous disc - so don’t expect anything drastically different. The HDR10 grading is exactly the same. But that’s not a bad thing, this disc was already pretty damn terrific and truthfully if Sony had wanted to simply repackage the same discs again - that’d been just fine. Details are excellent throughout with impressive facial features, costuming textures, and production design are all appreciable.
The notable differences with the Dolby Vision pass over the HDR10 are some improvements during dark shadowy night sequences or bright white locations like inside the Cobra Kai dojo. Black levels are a bit better resolved - like when Miyagi shows Daniel why he’s been working so hard for their first true Karate lesson. Karate Gi’s are a brilliantly crisp white. Primaries red, blue, and yellow have plenty of pop - but I didn’t notice enough of an enhancement there over the HDR10 disc. All in all a fine upgrade, but if this is the only film in the series you love, it’s not enough of one worth buying the full set for.
Since the 2019 release already had a great Dolby Atmos mix, Sony in all their wisdom thought it best to include only a Dolby Digital 2.0 track this outing…
Just kidding! It’s the same great Atmos track as before. If there are any differences I couldn’t tell. The height channels come alive the most during the big school dance and the Karate tournament - otherwise, they’re mostly used to add atmospheric effects and dimension to the mix. Here’s an excerpt from our original review:
"The mostly front-heavy presentation maintains an attractively wide and broad soundstage with a good deal of background activity spreading across the three front channels and into the off-screen space. Occasionally, some of that activity fluidly moves into the top heights, such as Johnny's gang of motorcycles roaring across the screen, the chirping of birds in the distance or the chatter of the audience sitting at the tournament, and Bill Conti's score also enjoys the extra breathing room by bleeding into the overheads. With excellent precision and definition in the mid-range, the score, song selections and few bits of action reach the higher frequencies with outstanding acoustical detailing while maintaining great fidelity and warmth. The surrounds are put to good use as atmospheric effects nicely extend the soundfield with the cheers of spectators in the last quarter of the movie. While dialogue reproduction is superbly clear and intelligible throughout, the low-end is adequate and appropriate for a teen drama with some appreciable weight in the music."
The Karate Kid UHD disc picks up a couple of new bonus features for this release. Weirdly, the great audio commentary still hasn’t been brought over to the 4K disc so you still need to run the Blu-ray to enjoy that. But, we now have some new deleted scenes. It’s all of three minutes of new materials but still, it’s more than nothing.
4K UHD Blu-ray Disc
1080p Blu-ray Disc
The Karate Kid is an 80s classic. A huge success in its day, the film remains the peak of the franchise undiminished by two sequels, a reboot fourth film, and a decent if unmemorable modern remake. Now with Cobra Kai kicking ass on Netflix, the originals are well worth revisiting. This new two-disc set from Sony for The Karate Kid 4K collection brings a slightly updated UHD disc now with Dolby Vision HDR and some new bonus features. If you’re a big fan of the franchise this collection set is worth grabbing. But if you’re only in love with the first film, this new disc isn’t worth double-dipping for alone. Highly Recommended