Culture & Criticism Since 2003
It seems an odd combination, doesn’t it? A movie about super heroes, and a movie about karate fighters. The only thing they have in common, it would seem, is that they are continuations of movies made years, even decades, before. One of the sequels isn’t even a movie, but rather a 10-part series of 27½ minute episodes.
Both take different approaches to the time gap. Incredibles 2, coming some 14 years after the original, picks up seconds after the end point of the first movie. Being animated, none of the characters have aged at all.
Cobra Kai is a continuation of a movie made 34 years ago called The Karate Kid, and it has an element that sounds like a truly hideous gimmick that might be doomed to failure – the same actors who played the teenage adversaries in the original movie are now middle-aged, and events cause them to rekindle their antagonistic relationship, dragging their families and children into the mix.
The Incredibles may not have changed in 14 years, but the world, and how the world views superheroes, certainly has. Captain America is a Nazi, and a fringe (lunatic) character named Deadpool is now a major motion picture franchise. 2018 is a much darker era than 2004.
But both revisits succeed, and given the differences, it’s odd that the same element is the very reason why they work so well: character development.
Cobra Kai readily embraces the passage of time. The two antagonists aren’t just bitter middle-aged saps trying to relive the glory days of their youths; instead, they have developed, maturing in ways both unexpected yet wholly consistent with their original characters. Their interplay, and their place in the broader context of the story, is at once sophisticated, honest, and endearing.
Unlike so many revisits to old movies, the series faithfully keeps the spirit and tone of the original. And this fact makes for a fine television series.
Incredibles 2 builds on a movie already recognized for humanizing supers in a way never attempted in Hollywood before. In the sequel, the characters are even more multi-layered, compassionate and sophisticated than in the original, yet these changes take place without disturbing the spirit and tone of the production, helping to build a story that both defies and complements the current zeitgeist. Viewers will also note a unique antagonist; the power of the media to control minds. A common motif in science fiction, it’s a theme rarely seen in feature films intended for mass consumption.
Solid story telling, augmented by superbly-realized and fully dimensional characters, are the secret to the success of both Cobra Kai and Incredibles 2. It’s a gimmick Hollywood might want to consider in other movies.
Bryan Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Canada and raised in London. He has lived in the Mount Shasta area since 1990, which he regards as the finest place on earth. Jamieson has spent the past 25 years as a graphic layout technician, web designer and writer, with over a thousand essays, a dozen short stories, and two novels – Ice Fall and Snow Fall – to his credit. In addition to his wife of 30-plus years, he normally lives with a dog and several cats, none of whom are impressed by him. Reach him through The Electric Review.