Andre "Dre" Parker
Dre Parker is the twelve year-old protagonist of The Karate Kid. After the death of his father, Dre's mother accepts a job transfer from Detroit to Beijing, hoping to start a new life for them in China. Dre is deeply unhappy about the move, and quickly finds himself the target of the local bully when he's nice to the girl that he likes. Nothing appears to be going right for Dre, he's unable to get used to the Chinese way of doing things, he has no friends asides from Meiying, and he's constantly harassed by Cheng and his friends at school.
Dre's luck starts to turn around after meeting Mr. Han, a mysterious janitor who saves him from Cheng and his friends. After Mr. Han confronts Master Li, the leader of the studio that trains Cheng, he inadvertently agrees that Dre and Cheng will face off in a kung fu tournament. With that, Mr. Han agrees to train Dre in kung fu.
- Affectionate Nickname: In a nod to Mr. Miyagi referring to Daniel as "Daniel-san", Mr. Han refers to Dre as "Xiao Dre", "xiao"/(小) literally meaning "little" and used in this context to respectfully refer to children.
- All of the Other Reindeer: He has an extremely hard time fitting in with his peers, not only because he's an American completely out of his element in Beijing, but he accidentally provoked the local bullies, with everyone fearing the potential association.
- Badass Adorable: It doesn't even look like he's gone into puberty yet.
- Blatant Lies: Claims to have run into a pole after getting into a fight with Cheng. Of course, Sherry doesn't buy this.
- Calling the Old Woman Out: While he reaches his breaking point, he calls his mom out on not taking his feelings into consideration and how unhappy he is from moving to China.
- Chekhov's Skill: Snake charming, which Dre uses to psyche Cheng into losing control.
- Constantly Curious: Mr. Han is annoyed because of all of Dre's questions.
- Trains harder to help Mr. Han get over the incident in which his wife and son were killed in a car accident.
- Ends up finishing the tournament with a broken leg.
- Disappeared Dad: His father dies shortly before the start of the film.
- Easily Forgiven: Meiying's father is impressed with Dre reading a note of apology in Mandarin (with help from Mr. Han), and also agrees to attend the tournament with the rest of the family.
- Fish out of Water: Moves from Detroit to Beijing, China. Played for Laughs, as well as some drama.
- Fragile Speedster: He tells Mr. Han that he thinks himself one of these, since he can run really fast. True, but once Mr. Han's through with him, he becomes a Lightning Bruiser in terms of kung fu tournaments. Took a Level in Badass indeed.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: His Chinese is rather poor...
- The Hero: The movie focuses on him learning kung fu to defend himself from the bullies of the Thug Dojo.
- Idiot Ball: Throws a bucket of dirty water on Cheng and his friends to get revenge, and gets his ass brutally kicked.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Between Dre, who is around twelve years old, and Mr. Han, who appears to be in his fifties.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: In his typical boastful fashion, he claims to have been taught by a Brazilian and tries unsuccessfully to demonstrate a Capoeira ginga and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mão de vaca on Mr. Han, who is obviously not impressed.
- Kung-Fu Kid: Dre quickly becomes quite talented in kung fu.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Recklessly charges at Cheng (and lands a slap which doesn't do much) when the latter goads him into a fight. It doesn't end well for Dre.
- Mighty Whitey: Downplayed. Dre goes to China and quickly becomes as competent at kung fu as the locals, but there is nothing in real life to prevent one of any nationality becoming a talented martial artist, and while he learns a truer form of the art from Han than the perversion Li teaches Dre's adversaries, the ultimate endgoal is not to surpass them, but be accepted as an equal.
- Mouthy Kid: Dre's attitude gets him into a lot of trouble, especially with his mom. However it's heavily implied this is due to his father's sudden death.
- New Transfer Student: He moves to China.
- Phrase Catcher: "Pick up your jacket!"
- Sleep Cute: Towards his mom on the plane ride to China, and with Mr. Han on a train during his training.
- Took a Level in Badass: He starts off the movie getting pushed around by a group of bullies. In the end, he beats them fair and square in a kung fu tournament.
- What the Fu Are You Doing?: He doesn't really know kung fu until Mr. Han gets through with him.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo: Applauds one of Meiying's performances at a time when it is inappropriate to do so.
Mr. Han is a mechanic, janitor and handyman who works at the apartment complex where Dre and his mother are living. He keeps to himself for the most part, but is notably the one member of staff who appears to be the most fluent in English. He ends up intervening when he sees Dre being beaten up by a group of bullies from school, and takes care of his injuries. Mr. Han even confronts Master Li, the man who is training the bullies to 'show no mercy' at the 'Fighting Dragon' studio, and ends up agreeing that Dre will face off against his bully in a kung fu tournament. With that, he decides to train Dre in kung fu, and despite himself, ends up becoming very close to the boy.
Mr. Han lost his wife and son during a car accident that was his fault. He was arguing with his wife and not focusing on the road, and ended up crashing. He's never forgiven himself for it, and spends his spare time fixing the car, only to destroy it again on the anniversary of their deaths to remind him of what happened
- Almighty Janitor: A literal janitor played by Jackie Chan, who is also a master in the ancient art of being Jackie Chan.
- Big Damn Heroes: Before Cheng could finish off a helpless Dre, Mr. Han appears out of nowhere, blocks Cheng's fist, and advises him to go home.
- Chekhov's Skill: Fire cupping, which he uses near the beginning and climax of the film to heal Dre.
- Cool Old Guy: It's debatable about how old he is (he appears to be in his early to mid fifties), but Mr. Han is certainly cool.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Effortlessly defeats Cheng and his friends without actually hitting any of them in the first place.
- The Cynic: Unlike Mr. Miyagi, Mr. Han has not found peace in his life and is rather bitter.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Accidentally killed his wife and son in a car accident, because he was too busy arguing to focus on the road. He feels very, very guilty over it.
- Deadly Dodging: When he defends Dre from bullies he never actually hits any of the kids, probably so the audience doesn't lose sympathy for Han and because it looks really cool.Dre: How'd you do that out there? You, like, didn't even punch them. They beat each other up.
- Deadpan Snarker: Describes the pole that Dre supposedly ran into as "interesting".
- Death Glare: He gives a hard one to Master Li for letting one of his students try to break Dre's leg.
- Establishing Character Moment: We meet Mr. Han the same way we meet Mr. Miyagi in the original: Dre goes to Han to help fix an issue with the water in their apartment, only to find Han trying to catch a fly with his chopsticks... and then he swats it with a flyswatter. This establishes that while Mr. Han is meant to be the Mentor Archetype like Mr. Miyagi, he isn't the same zen-filled Master of All as his original counterpart. He is blunt, cynical and is struggling with something hard.
- Heal It With Fire: Twice in the movie, he uses chauva fire cupping to heal Dre's wounds. The technique is indeed a real and ancient Chinese form of physical therapy still practiced today, but the capabilities shown in the movie are heightened beyond its real-world applications (for instance, it will definitely not repair broken bones), though it does allow for the sight of Jackie Chan wielding healing fire with his bare hands.
- Heroic BSoD: Breaks down in tears as he reminisces the anniversary of his wife and son's death, who were both killed in a car accident he blames himself for. Dre, determined to train harder, helps him out of it.
- Hypocrite: Averted in the final film, but got potentially hit with the alternate ending, where he prepares to deliver a finishing blow to a downed Li as he reminds him of the Fighting Dragons' "show no mercy" mentality, going against what Mr. Han taught Dre. Fortunately, Mr. Han relents when Dre shakes his head in disapproval.
- Intergenerational Friendship: With Dre, who is around twelve years old. Mr. Han looks as if he's in his fifties.
- Meaningful Name: Mr Han. "Han" is the name of the ethnicity that makes up the majority of China, so it's sort of like calling him "Mr Chinese Man".
- The Mentor: To Dre, training him in preparation for the tournament.
- My Greatest Failure: He considers the car accident that took his wife and son to be entirely his fault.
- Parental Substitute: Ends up becoming a father figure to Dre.
- Sarcasm Mode: Notes that, after doing his "jacket on, jacket off" technique for several days, something significant is missing: Dre's smarmy attitude when he puts his jacket on the ground.
Cheng is initially the seemingly main, later secondary antagonist/villain of the movie. A fifteen-year-old kung fu prodigy who finds fault with Dre when he takes an interest in Meiying, as it's implied that Cheng has feelings for her. Cheng's top student at the 'Fighting Dragon' studio, which is run by Master Li, and he studiously follows Master Li's motto of 'show no mercy'. Cheng has a small group of dedicated friends who are willing to join in with bullying Dre, to the point of physically attacking him despite the unfair advantage. After Cheng is stopped from beating up Dre by Mr. Han, it's decided that he'll fight Dre in an upcoming kung fu tournament, with the agreement that he will leave Dre alone if he wins. He's as good as his word and even presents him with the trophy. It's implied Cheng has a newfound respect for Dre after this.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The top student in Master Li's studio, and the most arrogant of them all.
- Big Bad: He initially seemingly appears like this when he's first introduced in the film due to being Dre's arch-nemesis/primary threat and standing in his way of Meiying, but later gets reduced down to the secondary when Master Li emerges from the shadows as the hidden, true main villain because he is a greater, deadly threat than Cheng and also had much bigger, more diabolical plans as Cheng.
- Blood Knight: This dude is a relentless bruiser and brawler who loves to fight, pick on, tease and bully people. If you run afoul of him, then good luck escaping his callous, ruthless, and sadistic wrath.
- The Brute: Massive understatement. He even goes as far as nearly bashing and beating an immobilized Dre to death in the courtyard of his apartment, and then attacking Mr. Han (an innocent old man who initially didn't want to fight and hurt him, he just wanted to break up the fight and told him to leave). In U.S. traditions, that's crossing the line.
- The Bully: At best, Cheng does give a verbal warning at first... and "relatively" harmless acts (such as knocking over Dre's food tray at lunch) but sufficiently piss him off and he'll give you a beating of a lifetime.
- Character Tic: Has a notable habit of glaring at others.
- Composite Character: He is this movie's incarnation of Johnny Lawrence, with a little bit of Chozen Toguchi here and there. He is The Bully who attacks Dre until the two face off in the tournament, where he ultimately starts respecting Dre and congratulates him over his victory like Johnny. He is also an Asian character who harasses the American protagonist, has a sarcastic sense of humour and frequently has a Slasher Smile in his crueler moments like Chozen.
- Contrived Clumsiness: Deliberately knocks over Dre's lunch tray and sarcastically says "Sorry!".
- Deadpan Snarker: He has a super sarcastic, snarky and dark sense of humor, and isn't afraid to make light of very dark, evil and miserable situations.
- Death Glare: Is fond of using it. It's scary for a teen, too.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Dre wins his respect after the former defeats the latter in the tournament finals; Cheng takes it a step further by personally awarding the trophy to Dre, and lightly tapping his shoulder a few times complemented with a smile.
- Demoted to Dragon: To Master Li, with Cheng being his top student and his second in command.
- The Dragon: He's the second-in-command and top student to Master Li.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While he comes off as a huge, colossal jerk, his love for Meiying was genuine.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Cheng may be a bully and have no problems with beating Dre to the point of knocking the latter out, but when his sensei coerces him to break Dre's leg near the end of the tournament, Cheng is genuinely horrified and nervously reluctant to do so.
- Graceful Loser: Has no hard feelings losing to Dre in the tournament finals, and takes this a step further by personally awarding the trophy to him.
- Gratuitous English: He can speak English as well, mostly when harassing Dre.
- The Heavy: Cheng is this in the first half of the movie: the "acting" evil villain/antagonist who seemingly appears to be the Big Bad that drove the main plot forward until Master Li was revealed to be the true, hidden main villain. Cheng served as this because he was Dre's arch-nemesis and initially drove the plot of the film (at least for the first half of the movie), which makes Master Li the actual Big Bad and the evil one ominously behind the whole plot.
- I Gave My Word: After losing to Dre in the finals, not only does he stop harassing him, he also personally presents the trophy to Dre.
- Jerkass: A big one. Actively harasses, teases and bullies Dre (especially with friends) given the opportunity to no end and seems fond of making Dre's life miserable. His jackassery dies down a little after he is ordered to leave Dre alone until the tournament, where he at worst delivers verbal taunts.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Granted, while he technically started their first fight, Cheng did tell Dre to mind his own business when talking to Meiying about the importance of her recital.
- Kids Are Cruel: He's an arrogant and rebellious, jerkish teen who ruthlessly, shamelessly, and sadistically makes Dre's life miserable when the opportunity presents itself, every time he gets the chance to, without showing or feeling any remorse, mercy or pity.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Inflicts this twice on Dre.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Complements on Dre's speed before giving him a beatdown.You're fast... but not fast enough.
- Smug Snake: That smirk he flashes while walking away in the cafeteria scene transcends cultural boundaries.
- Stepford Snarker: He makes so many rude, snarky and sarcastic comments throughout the film.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Not only does Dre win his respect after the former defeats the latter in the tournament finals, but he also personally presents the trophy to Dre.
- Undying Loyalty: His allegiance to Master Li. Subverted by the end.
- Would Harm a Senior: He has no problem attempting to assault Mr. Han for defending a helpless Dre. It doesn't end well for him and his friends, however, as Mr. Han effortlessly floors them without breaking a sweat.
- You Have Failed Me: In an alternate ending scene, Li is displeased with Cheng's loss in the tournament, and prepares to deliver a slap before being stopped by Mr. Han.
The main antagonist and hidden main villain of the film. Master Li is the head of the 'Fighting Dragon' studio, and his motto is to 'show no mercy' anywhere. He is very harsh, tough, abusive, intimidating and brutal towards his students, and will physically hit them if they don't agree with him. He agrees that Cheng, his top student, and Dre will face one another in a kung fu tournament with the stipend that Cheng will stop harassing Dre if he somehow wins. Master Li, however, is willing to fight dirty to make sure that Cheng wins, and orders another student to damage Dre's leg so he can't compete any further. When Dre insists that he can continue fighting, Master Li demands that Cheng breaks his leg, much to Cheng's reluctant horror.
- Big Bad: The film's main antagonist and true, main evil villain. He leads the corrupt Fighting Dragon studio, and teaches his students a new form of child abuse: to be cold, cruel, ruthless, brutal and sadistic to their opponents no matter what. Even Mr. Han tells Dre "no bad students, only bad teacher".
- Dirty Coward: Orders one of his students competing against Dre to damage his leg and prevent him from progressing in the competition. Takes this a step further when he demands that Cheng break Dre's leg.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: He is an abusive, very harsh, tough, struct, furious and brutal sensei to his students
- Evil Counterpart: to Mr. Han, obviously. While Han teaches proper kung-fu to Dre, Li teaches terrible kung-fu to his students.
- Finish Him!: He ordered Cheng to break Dre's legs in the fight.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Of the whole movie. Also, not only did he have much bigger and more diabolical plans than Cheng, but he also has the ability to harm Cheng (his own top student), as well as personally bring pain to Mr. Han and even Dre.
- Hate Sink: Mr. Han describes him as a terrible man teaching his students terrible things, which Dre also lampshades on since he already got beaten up twice by them to prove it.Mr. Han: (about Master Li) That's not kung fu. That's a bad man teach them very bad things.Dre: Well that bad man teaching very bad things hurt, a lot
- Kick the Dog: Is already known to be a Jerkass, with the way he teaches his students to show no mercy to their enemies. But he steps into this territory when he slaps one of his students who didn't finish his opponent completely.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Puts heavy emphasis that his students should never show mercy to their enemies, even encouraging his students to attack them while they are defeated. Nearly gets a taste of his own medicine in the ending at the hands of Han after Han pins im down and recites his own creed back at him.
- The Man Behind the Man: He is Cheng's brutal kung-fu coach who coerced, abused, and forced him to behave the way he is. Even Mr. Han points out that he's a bad man who teaches his students very bad things.
- Manipulative Bastard: The scene of him ranting and lecturing about being ruthless, sadistic, hard-as-nails, tormenting and terrorizing by showing no weakness, no pain, and especially no mercy anywhere or anytime (continuing to beat up your enemy even when they're down, maliciously ranting and raving that enemies deserve pain), based on his belief that mercy is for the weak, is completely flawed and delusional, making him look like this and a complete jerk to his own students. Basically, he harshly teaches a new form of child abuse: Kids beating up on each other.
- Sarcastic Clapping: His reaction when Dre decides to stay in the tournament with a leg injury.
- Serious Business
- Sore Loser: His reaction to Cheng's failing was negative at best, and in an alternate ending scene, he prepares to beat Cheng for failing the tournament, only to be beaten by Mr. Han in a fight, and later got punched by Dre's mother for sending his students to attack her son.
- Unseen Evil: He is absent for the first half of the movie. When he finally appears on-screen in person (and is revealed to be the true main villain) he's as scary, intimidating, monstrously tyrannical and powerful as he was made out to be.
- Would Hurt a Child: Won't hesitate to hit his students if they don't agree with his "show no mercy" mentality. He also threatened to bring great pain to Dre if Mr. Han and him did not show up to the tournament.
Meiying is Dre's love interest, a sweet girl who plays the violin. She's introduced to Dre when he compliments her on her music, and she inadvertently appears to cause the conflict between him and Cheng. Meiying wishes she could help Dre more against Cheng, but as their families are friends, it makes it difficult for her. Meiying is the one who teaches Dre about Chinese customs, and in return he helps her to take time out from her busy schedule to just be a kid; though this backfires when she's almost late for an important recital. Meiying is forbidden from speaking to Dre after this, but he's able to win her father over when he apologizes for bringing dishonor to their family, in Chinese no less.
- Elegant Classical Musician: Meiying is extremely talented at playing the violin, and while she's still young, strives to be elegant when she plays.
- Gamer Chick: She's really talented at DDR, to the point where she doesn't have to look at the screen.
- Girlish Pigtails: Both varieties, though she usually wears bunches rather than braids.
- Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: While Meiying is quiet and soft spoken and loves to play the violin, she also enjoys video games and is happy to run around the city with Dre.
- Neutral Female: To some extent, she never actively gets between Dre and Cheng, but she does try to tell Cheng to back off. Understandable because her family are friends with Cheng's family, and it would damage her family's reputation should she actively fight back against him.
- Nice Gal: Meiying is nice to everyone and goes out of her way to help Dre.
- One Head Taller: Is actually a little taller than her Love Interest, Dre.
- Spell My Name with an S: It's Meiying, rather than Mei Ying.
A boy living in China who befriends Dre as soon as he moves in.
- Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Having lived in China for a while, he boasts fluency in Mandarin, as seen when he attempts to convince Cheng to leave Dre alone, only to be aggressively told off.
- Token Black Friend: Inverted; he's the white best friend to Dre's black. As soon as Dre moves to China, Harry starts being his friend but then disappears after a third of the way into the film. He does show up at the tournament at the end, but only if you watch closely.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: He seems to be set up as a friend, a translator and a general supporter and help to Dre. But nope, after about a third of the way in we only see him in passing at the tournament. This is a Shout-Out to Freddy from the original film, who fades into the background after Daniel starts having run-ins with the bullies, but finally does re-appear in his cheering section. Also a weird case of Truth in Television; when in a new/unfamiliar location, people of similar backgrounds (national, cultural, and occasionally even ethnic) tend to stick together, if only initially. This is what happened with Dre and Harry - having seen that Dre is an American, the kid offers to help show Dre around the place, but quickly vanishes into the background as Dre figures things out and makes his own friends (and enemies). Harry is sitting there watching the tournament with Dre's mom and Meiying, further mirroring Freddy from the original. He just doesn't really say anything or do anything noteworthy.