The Karate Kid appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. While not a dazzler, the Dolby Vision presentation satisfied.
Due to the nature of the source photography, sharpness occasionally was a bit iffy. This was an issue mostly in wider shots, as those could be somewhat soft.
However, this wasn’t a real concern, as the majority of the movie boasted nice clarity and delineation. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to become an issue, and edge enhancement remained absent.
Source flaws also failed to appear. To the joy of the anti-DNR (digital noise reduction) brigade, the movie came with plenty of grain. That wasn’t especially attractive, but it represented the original photography, so I didn’t mind it. Otherwise, the film lacked any signs of defects.
Colors looked surprisingly good. A lot of mid-80s flicks haven’t held up well in this regard, but Kid boasted a broad, lively palette that provided solid reproduction of the hues. The disc’s HDR added impact and heft to the colors.
Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows looked clear and smooth. HDR brought depth and range to whites and contrast. Again, the transfer didn’t look stunning in an objective sense, but it was more than satisfactory.
Similar comments greeted the peppy Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Kid. While not an action extravaganza, the soundfield delivered a good feeling for the various environments.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, much of this stayed with general ambience, and various vehicles moved around the spectrum in a pleasing way. Music boasted strong stereo delineation and moved to the rears in a decent manner as well.
The back speakers didn’t demonstrate a ton of information. However, they added a good sense of environment, and a few more vivid elements – like vehicles – popped up in the surrounds.
The quality of the audio became the most impressive aspect of the track. In particular, music sounded great, as both the score and the many 80s pop songs appeared lively and full.
Effects didn’t have much to do, but they were clear and concise, and speech seemed satisfying. The lines were consistently natural and accurate, without edginess or other problems. Given the movie’s age, I thought a “B+” was in order, as this was a very nice soundtrack.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? The Atmos audio offered similar quality compared to the BD’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, but it brought out a somewhat more active soundfield.
As for the Dolby Vision picture, it showed superior definition, colors and blacks. Like I implied in the body of the text, this never became an impressive image, but it replicated the source well and acted as an upgrade over the Blu-ray.
On the included Blu-ray copy, we open with an audio commentary with director John Avildsen, writer Mark Kamen, and actors Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, sets and locations, stunts and karate, and general film notes.
While a peppy commentary, this one rarely becomes especially informative. Oh, we get decent bits and pieces along the way, but I can’t think of many genuinely interesting nuggets. Though it’s an enjoyable listen, it doesn’t tell us much.
For something new, we find an interactive feature called Blu-Pop. That’s a goofy name for the standard picture-in-picture program.
“Blu-Pop” mixes text factoids with pop-up interview remarks from Macchio and actor William Zabka. The text components discuss basic facts about cast/crew and karate, while Macchio and Zabka go over characters and performances, cast and crew, and various aspects of the shoot.
This turns into a mini-commentary, and it’s a pretty good one. Both guys have some good stories to tell, and they flesh out their sides of the production well. We don’t find a ton of redundant info from the commentary, so “Blu-Pop” provides a satisfying overview.
A mix of featurettes follow. The two-part The Way of The Karate Kid runs 45 minutes, 25 seconds and provides comments from Avildsen, Kamen, Macchio, Morita, Zabka, and actor Martin Kove. The program looks at story and development, cast, characters and performances, Avildsen’s work as director, shooting the karate, and a mix of movie specifics.
With 45 minutes at its disposal, I hoped for a deep look at the production from “Way”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell us a ton that we don’t already know from elsewhere, and it tends to seem a little soft in terms of content. It’s pleasant and reasonably informative, but it just doesn’t become memorable or especially rich.
Next comes the 13-minute, three-second Beyond the Form. It includes notes from martial arts master/choreographer Pat E. Johnson.
He tells us about his work on the film as choreographer and trainer of the actors. Johnson contributes some decent notes about the production, but he tends to wax philosophical about martial arts more than I’d like; really, in a show like this, we just want to know about the movie.
East Meets West: A Composer’s Notebook lasts eight minutes, 17 seconds and offers info from Avildsen composer Bill Conti. They discuss the score for Kid and make this a pretty tight and informative glimpse into the craft of film composing.
Finally, Life of Bonsai goes for 10 minutes and gives us material from bonsai master Ben Oki.
He chats about the art of trimming those little trees. His comments offer some minor insights into his work, but it’s more interesting to see the trees themselves.
The 4K UHD comes with some new materials, and these begin with Remembering The Karate Kid. In this 10-minute, 22-second reel, we hear from Macchio, Zabka and Kove.
The actors reflect on story/characters, how they got their roles, performances, and various memories/thoughts about the film. Nothing revelatory occurs, but the show offers a pleasant overview.
“Happen” makes Johnny look even more psychotic than usual, and “Sit” displays a juvenile prank Johnny plays on Daniel that leads to another brawl. “Disqualified” shows more of the aftermath of Daniel’s severe leg injury, and “Fight” gives us a little more of Daniel at the tournament.
None of these seem like the movie needs them. However, they offer some interesting unused tidbits.