Celebrating thirty-five years since its original theatrical release, John G. Avildsen's The Karate Kid remains one of the best underdog sports drama ever. Featuring memorable performances by Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, the film is an intelligent and inspiring coming of age tale about discovering that the journey to success is just as rewarding as the final result. The classic 1984 martial arts drama enters the Ultra HD tournament with a beautiful HDR10 presentation, a satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and one brand-new featurette, making the overall package Recommended for the whole family.
Thirty-five years later, The Karate Kid has rightfully earned its place in movie history and has become a cherished cultural phenomenon thanks to a devoted fanbase that has led to funny interpretations, endlessly parodied and a popular web series. Not only does it have many memorably repeated lines ("Man who catch fly with chopsticks, accomplish anything.") and one of the most popular montages around, but it also overcomes its cheesy title by featuring an intelligent and poignant story with strong direction and a terrific cast of actors. While I much prefer his performance in Crossroads, Ralph Macchio is excellent as Daniel, and Pat Morita is superb — the finest role of his career — as the wise, meditative mentor. The martial arts drama lives on as a celebrated classic of the 1980s, and like Rocky, it is one of the best underdog movies around.
You're the best! Around! Nothing's gonna ever keep you down.
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 Ultra HD Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates the 35th Anniversary of The Karate Kid on Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via sonypictures.com and Movies Anywhere. When redeeming said code, users have access to the 4K Dolby Vision version with Dolby Atmos audio. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc, and both are housed inside a black, eco-elite vortex case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background.
The 1980s teen classic enters the Ultra HD tournament to prove it's the best around with a beautiful HEVC H.265 encode. While it may not beat out some of the best of the best titles currently available, this UHD is a definite win over its 2010 Blu-ray predecessor. Taken from a brand-new restoration and remaster of the original camera negatives, this 2160p transfer boasts a noticeable uptick in definition and clarity, with a couple of scenes even coming close to demo-worthy. It’s not always a night and day difference, with several moments looking softer and poorly resolved than others, but on the majority, viewers will be quick to note sharper lines and edges around cars, buildings, various furniture and the fine threading of clothing. The picture quality is consistent and stable, awash in a thin layer of natural grain, making it all look attractively film-like.
Although the original photography was never the flashiest or much of a looker, the cinematography nonetheless benefits from the jump to UHD, displaying enhanced contrast levels and brighter, more intense whites. However, the boost also creates minor spots that run hotter than normal, which whitewash the finer details, such as the flames of the fire pit on the beach. Notwithstanding, specular highlights are a noteworthy improvement, making the sunshine glimmer off the surface of cars and water with a vibrant, true-to-life intensity, brightening the entire frame. On the other end of that scale, brightness levels are very dynamic and full-bodied with excellent gradational details and differences between the various shades, delivering pitch-black shadows that don't obscure background information, providing the 1.85:1 image with a gorgeous, cinematic quality.
Speaking of the slightly restrained look of the original cinematography, the overall palette is also moderately limited, especially for an 80s flick. Nevertheless, colors noticeably benefit with primaries, in particular, looking quite sumptuous and rich, displaying deeper, more vivid reds in Daniel's jacket, animated blues in the sky and fuller greens in various plants and foliage. There is also a bit more pop and variation in the secondary hues even though it's not a significant, dramatic jump. The 1948 Ford Super De Luxe now has a lemon yellow shine to it while the Cobra Kai uniform has a bright, true-to-life yellow, and the orange in Daniel's back patch is a vibrant tiger shade. Facial complexions appear healthy and revealing with improved coloring in the various skin tones, making for an overall 4K HDR10 presentation that greatly improves on its HD SDR counterpart. (HDR10 Video Rating: 84/100)
The remastered video is accompanied by another well-welcomed upgrade, delivering a pleasantly enjoyable and satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack. In all honesty, the object-based presentation is not a significant improvement over the previous lossless version, but kudos to Sony nonetheless for not drastically altering the original sound design while still lightly enhancing a few key aspects.
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. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 78/100)
The same set of supplements from 2010 are ported over and can be enjoyed on the accompanying Blu-ray while the Ultra HD features a brand-new retrospective.
New Bonus Feature
When talking about The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi put it best when he explained to Daniel-san that "not everything is as seems." The film is an intelligent and inspiring coming of age tale about discovering that the journey to success is just as rewarding as the final result. It also features one of the most memorable performances in movie history by the late Pat Morita. The classic 1984 martial arts drama enters the Ultra HD tournament with a beautiful HDR10 presentation that improves on its Blu-ray predecessor and a satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack. A new (short) retrospective, on the UHD disc, joins the same set of supplements from the previous Blu-ray, making the overall package recommended for the whole family.