See Johnny and Daniel reignite their rivalry in the upcoming sequel series.
YouTube Red is producing 10 half-hour episodes to bring us back into the world of Daniel LaRusso, Johnny Lawrence, and martial arts drama. Back in August, we learned that Ralph Macchio (Daniel) and William Zabka (Johnny) would be reprising their roles from the 1984 movie The Karate Kid. Checking back in on characters we really haven’t known for more than three decades is an interesting way to talk about the changes and surprises we’ve all encountered in our lives since we were kids. How different should things be?
The teaser trailer for Cobra Kai has arrived. And, they assure you, some rivalries never end. Watch it here:
“I just don’t know why you’d ever want to bring back Cobra Kai.”
You know, that would be a very good question.
When the news was announced that Macchio and Zabka would be back, the two actors did a round of interviews. They likened the angle to Creed. The series’ concept is to approach the renewed rivalry from Johnny’s perspective. It’s clear that their lives have taken different paths. So far as has been openly discussed, it sounds like Johnny hasn’t had the easiest time. Apparently, Johnny will be seeking a purpose by going back to something he knows: the Cobra Kai Dojo. Things get complicated when Daniel’s son joins.
Things are even more complicated for Daniel because he’s lost his longtime mentor, Mr. Miyagi. In that loss of balance, it would seem like a betrayal for his son to seek out the No Mercy fighting style preferred by the Cobra Kai. Macchio made it clear that the story angle was the primary reason he’s decided to come back to this character.
The key question, then, is how will their rivalry be defined?
At the end of the original Karate Kid, Johnny walks over to Daniel to personally hand him the trophy. Johnny tearfully tells him, “You’re all right, LaRusso!” It’s very clear that balance and anger management and finding a way to belong will again be major themes of the story. However, the end of the movie makes it feel like Johnny squashed his beef in defeat. Which is what makes that tagline “Some Rivalries Never End” worrisome.
Creed is a great example of the next generation’s evolution of a rivalry. The Rocky franchise has worked well as it morphed Apollo Creed from bitter rival to coach to friend. And Creed was able to work so well with that. Despite it not being a Rocky-centric movie, it’s arguably the best Rocky movie.
On the other hand, you have films like The Best of Times where Kurt Russell and Robin Williams get stuck trying to relive a fateful high school football game. Rich, complex emotions are where these types of things live and die. Nostalgia is perfectly fine, but! If that’s the appeal, Cobra Kai could leave a lot on the table.
It’s easy to fall back into a competitive, angry rut with former rivals. Particularly when you’re lost and angry. So, fight. Rage. Get angry. But, give us emotionally complex characters. The story is what got Macchio and Zabka back together after all these years. Make it a good one.