All good trilogies must come to an end… and usually not on a high note. The Karate Kid Part III struggles with a limp rehashed story and a script that wasn’t ready before cameras rolled. The villains are the only ones having any fun as Macchio and Pat Morita look like they’d both rather be in any other movie but this one. Currently exclusive to The Karate Kid Collection, The Karate Kid Part III may be the weakest entry but it scores plenty of points with a great native 4K Dolby Vision transfer and a rousing Atmos mix to match. Bonus features are non-existent. Recommended.
Trilogies rarely end on a high note and The Karate Kid Part III is sadly no exception to the longstanding rule. Notorious for onset turmoil and a script that was far from finished before cameras rolled, it’s a bizarre sequel where the only people who look like they’re having a fun time are the ones who weren’t in the previous films. Newcomers Thomas Ian Griffith as the diabolical industrial polluter Terry Silver, Sean Kanan as the psychotic Karate champion Mike Barnes, and Robyn Lively as Daniel’s plutonic gal pal are the only ones really delivering here. Ralph Macchio looks like he’s doing a caricature of the troubled yoot Daniel while Pat Morita has little of anything to do except look despondent. He may not get a lot of time in the film, but Martin Kove at least looks like he's having a blast!
Now, all low points aside. This film is actually pretty damn entertaining albeit not always for the right reasons. With Sean Kanan and Thomas Ian Giffith being the only ones with any energy, they dial up their characters to 11. How the hell does Terry Silver make billions of dollars dumping toxic waste? And why does he want to destroy a simple teenager so badly? Why is international Karate Champion Mike Barnes so threatened by the one random kid who won a regional Karate tournament? It’s all so goofy, unintentionally hilarious, and is actually one of the funniest Rifftrax commentaries.
If this had been where the franchise left things, things would have been fine. But leave it to the team at Cobra Kai to go and find a way to make this film relevant. It’s still a dodgy movie and not particularly well made, but this last season of Cobra Kai takes these daffy new characters, ground them, and bring them back in a way that works for the series and actually makes the story within The Karate Kid Part III better than what the final film could deliver.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Karate Kid Part III dumps some nuclear waste on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time as part of The Karate Kid Collection. This is a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray set. Pressed on a BD-66 disc, the discs are housed in a standard sturdy 2-disc case with slipcover. 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.
While the weakest entry in the series, Sony gives The Karate Kid Part III some genuine love on 4K with an impressive 2160p Dolby Vision debut. This outing may not be as sharp and crystal clear as the previous films in this collection, but it’s still pretty damn good. Part of the issue at play here is there is a prevailing haziness that seems to be a production design choice. Interiors at the Cobra Kai dojo often look as though someone was smoking a stack of cigars right before filming so details don’t exactly pop off the screen. The unimpressive locations of this outing compared to the previous films don’t help matters either. Most of the action only takes place in Miyagi’s Bonsai store or the pottery shop - and they look good but there’s also not a lot to absorb. Even setpieces like when Daniel and Jessica harvest the Bonsai tree - the rear-projected background has always been painfully clear and now it’s even more obvious. Thankfully for some key outdoor scenes and the final Karate tournament, the film picks up some visual punch.
Throughout the Dolby Vision HDR manages to impress. Again locations aren’t that dynamic or interesting, but Daniel living with Mr. Miyagi or the big third act confrontation at Cobra Kai showcase some impressive black levels. Primaries get plenty of attention - a scene in a nightclub or the final tournament offers up plenty of color pop. Skin tones are healthy and natural throughout. Whites are crisp and brilliant without any blooming issues. All in all, this is a great presentation and a marked improvement over past home video releases, but compared to the other two films in the trilogy it’s not as visually arresting.
Much like the visual stylings, the Atmos mix for The Karate Kid Part III isn’t exactly a stunner. It works, it finds places to be active and engaging, but at the same time, a lot of the film’s locations don’t call for a dynamic atmospheric presence or pinpoint object effects. When Daniel and Jessica go after the Bonsai tree and are almost left stranded in the water, the crashing waves and the whirling wind effects open up the mix fully engaging the height and surround channels. Interiors tend to be pretty front/center focused without a lot of surround movement in the soundscape. Some flourishes here and there, but nothing to blow your hair back. Once again the big final Karate tournament is the main highlight giving the mix plenty of engagement. Likewise, Conti’s score gets a lot more life and attention here for the big final swell. All around not a bad mix, flipping over to the older 5.1 mix it’s definitely an improvement and a cleaner more engaging listing experience, but comparing this Atmos mix to its franchise siblings it's alright on its own but not as strong.
And given its status in the franchise, The Karate Kid Part III gets the absolute least amount of attention. Given the recent season of Cobra Kai, it’d been a lot of fun for Macchio and Griffith to do a commentary together. Alas, it was not meant to be. Instead, we get everything that is amazing about the film’s theatrical trailer in 1080p… that’s it.
4K UHD Disc
The Karate Kid Part III is well… The Karate Kid Part III. The film is still pretty bad with the main returning cast going through the motions - but the new blood of Thomas Ian Griffith, Sean Kanan, and the brief turn from Martin Kove give the film some fun energy with their over-the-top performances. Now thanks to the latest season of Cobra Kai, it’s actually genuinely worth revisiting beyond just the unintentional hilarity. Perhaps not as impressive as its siblings, the film does pick up a welcome and noteworthy A/V upgrade over past releases with strong 4K Dolby Vision transfer and Atmos audio to match. Sadly bonus features are still a washout for this entry. Whether or not you watch it straight or for a laugh, it’s an entertaining entry. Recommended.