Cobra Kai rekindles the 34-year-old rivalry from the endearingly cheesy 1984 film Karate Kid in this surprisingly satisfying series from YouTube
The film industry is currently being forced to confront its off and onscreen past like never before. Reboots of childhood-defining franchises continue to provoke both dizzy joy and vicious rage, every step forward met with sneering outcry from those who want to make cinema “great again” by keeping it the same. Looking back at the films and TV shows we loved growing up, almost all of them contain some line that now makes us cringe, some value that now seems poisonous, some actor we now know more about.
How do you deal with a past you can’t reject out of hand completely or embrace altogether? That’s essentially what belated Karate Kid sequel Cobra Kai is about.
After Daniel LaRusso’s iconic (and illegal) crane kick floors the big blonde bully Johnny Lawrence in the explosive finale to the 80s classic, Cobra Kai’s camera crawls slowly in on his prone form, and then flashes forward to a future in which Johnny is a bleary-eyed bigot and LaRusso is a smiling success story with a pair of overprivileged kids. Immediately it scratches the itch that has spurred so many to flood the internet with fanfictions: we want to know what happened after the end credits rolled.
Ralph Macchio (as LaRusso) and William Zabka (as Lawrence) settle back into the skin of their old characters like they’ve been living them all along, lending both a charm that goes beyond mere nostalgia.
Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel about courage and discipline while Johnny was ruined by a Jordan Peterson-esque leader who worshipped unfeeling machismo. As the highlight reels from their glory days continues to play within their minds, they are both tasked with passing on what they have learned to the next generation.
As well as being an outrageously fun continuation of an adored movie, Cobra Kai packs a genuinely poignant punch.
Cobra Kai is a YouTube Original and currently available on YouTube