Cobra Kai - Nostalgia and Reboot done right
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
I generally do like nostalgia and obviously especially related to the time of my youth. Yet, like so many people I often get disappointed when it comes to movie reboots.
The problem often is the very fine line between pleasing the die hard fans of the original and trying to approach a brand new audience. Plus maybe the feeling that the heart was not always behind it but that it has been more of an attempt to make some easy money (banking on the hope that fans will show up anyways).
Therefore a genuinely good and creative reboot is such a refreshing thing to witness.
Enter “Cobra Kai”.
Like many other people I only got to see it recently once it dropped on Netflix.
What they did right?
1. They kept many original characters but introduced a fresh host of new characters.
The original was a coming of age story, so without introducing new characters of that age bracket it makes it virtually impossible to still fit within the genre (or theme). It can be possible to change genre but would change many ramifications including the original formula and why it worked back in the day. And both storylines (old characters vs new characters) are important and well interwoven. It does not feel like the old ones are just dragged along to please the old fans while making a completely different movie/series. And it does not feel like the young ones are just there to simply repeat the plot of the original or as a cheap attempt to get some younger viewers while only really wanting to tell the ongoing story of the original cast. No, both sets of characters get a decent amount of screen time and are well developed.
2. They took a nice spin on the original story.
Some of the characters are not who they used to be in the original (they have evolved) and they have even swaped places/roles to a degree. The rich “bully” from the original (Johnny Lawrence) who had it all and was the king of his community (High School jocks), is all of a sudden the underdog. Poor, unpopular and someone nobody recons with or wants to have anything to do with. Which was kind of the part of the Karate Kid (Daniel LaRusso) in the original movie. Daniel LaRusso is now very wealthy, maybe not a “bully” but kind of a snob and the king of his community as a successful business man and kind of minor local celebrity. All because of the events of the original. Which is brilliant. You still have similar kinds of figures and relationships but it makes sense and feels very organic to where they have evolved through the years.
Many reboots don’t dare to touch those dynamics. The baddie always stay the baddie and motives rarely change, whilst the goodie stays the goodie. Nobody seems to have learned much which makes all previous episodes and all future episodes kind of a waste of time. If nothing ever changes and if we will always end up at the same spot again, why even bother?
Cobra Kai shows genuinely new challenges but also shows that some things did change and is not afraid to let you root for the former baddie and at some points even specifically not root for the former goodie or at least poking a bit of fun at him.
(And the Cobra Kai champion now is kind of the good kid whilst the Miagi student is more of the “troubled” kid. It’s more complicated than that, the Characters have more dimensions but it is not just a continuation of the original)
3. They integrated fan fiction and have genuine fun with the franchise.
There is a really popular theory that Daniel LaRusso was the actual bully (see here: https://youtu.be/C_Gz_iTuRMM). I love that the series actually mentions this. And there are quite a few moments where it feels very tongue in cheek how they talk about their franchise and the original story. Making fun of the famous kick (that is now mostly a gimmick for LaRusso’s car dealership), making fun of the “child labour” training principles of the Miagi Karate training and more. They do not ignore the critiques or the parts that have been a bit cheesy but embrace them. Which in retrospect makes the original more enjoyable to watch.
4.It is a very good sequel and it is a very good stand alone show.
Like I said, it makes perfect sense how the story continues and feels very organic. It is completely rooted in the “Karate Kid Universe” yet it is a genuinely good story which you could enjoy without having seen the original. It’s a clear bonus if you have seen it but the story holds up just by itself. Again, other films are often either just a new movie that has nothing to do with the original and just tries to sell it to a pre-existing audience or is just a lame rehash of the original movie. Kobra Kai manages to find that balance.
That’s my top 4 reasons why I think that Cobra Kai is a genuinely good show and recommend watching it.
What did you think about the show? What else did they do right? What do you think did they mess up?