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Film / The Next Karate Kid

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Spoilers for all The Karate Kid films preceding this one, including The Karate Kid Part III will be unmarked. You Have Been Warned!

The fourth movie in The Karate Kid series, released in 1994.

Nine years after the last movie, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and Daniel have parted ways and the venerable old man found a new student to help, Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank), who is the maternal granddaughter of an army buddy of Miyagi's and his wife Louisa Pierce (Constance Waters), with the Pierce family grieving after the deaths of both Julie's father (Louisa's son) and his wife. She is struggling with a para-military group that almost runs her high school, with the leader Dugan (Michael Ironside) just as ruthless as Kreese from the earlier films. This time he takes her to a local monastery to learn about peace of mind.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Or school security in this case.
  • Accidental Pervert: Mr. Miyagi opens Julie’s bedroom door after she closed it, only to discover Julie changing and he unwittingly sees her bra. He immediately realizes his mistake and hastily backs out again, but Julie is nevertheless not amused.
  • Arrow Catch: As a birthday present, the Buddhist monks at the monastery present Julie with an arrow caught in mid-flight by Mr. Miyagi, in a demonstration of Zen archery.
  • As You Know: Julie ranting about her parents' death after being called by her mother's name is one of the most horribly awkward and forced pieces of exposition ever.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Ned tells Dugan that he caught Julie smoking while pulling a pack of cigarettes out of his own pocket as proof.
    • Dugan trying to claim the reason Eric's been beat to hell and back and his car just exploded from being doused with gasoline is just a "car accident."
  • Blindfolded Vision:
    • Mr. Miyagi blindfolds Julie to teach her to anticipate and block "attacks" (swinging sandbags) using only her other senses.
    • The Buddhist monks bowl perfect strikes with their eyes closed while at a bowling alley and pass their secret on to a hotheaded bowler by making him wear a blindfold.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The workers at a gas station start to harass Julie and Mr. Miyagi for little to no reason. But when one of the workers challenge Mr. Miyagi to a fight, he uses Deadly Dodging to make his opponents hit each other.
  • Call-Back: The "karate waltz" scene, where Mr. Miyagi teaches Julie how to dance the waltz under the guise of teaching her a new kata, reminds one of that The Karate Kid Part II scene where Daniel shows Kumiko the old children's toy that is the basis of Miyagi-Do Karate and shows her some moves, only for the latter to tell that they look a lot like her o-bon dance, and both start to dance to her rhythm on the bridge.
    • Another Mythology Gag is the reappearance of a (vocal) variation of the "Fascination" waltz song during the aforementioned scene, as previously heard in The Karate Kid (when Johnny attempted to reconcile with Ali at the country club) and The Karate Kid Part II (when the song played on the radio after Chozen picked up Miyagi and Daniel at the airport).
  • Chekhov's Skill: Julie lays out Ned in the film's climatic fight through what she learns of "controlling her senses" in Mr. Miyagi's blindfold exercise and bending her knee "like a praying mantis" before striking.
  • Cherry Tapping: Miyagi has Dugan at his mercy, but rather than dishing out a finishing blow, he simply blows him down like a leaf.
  • Cock Fight: Inverted. Ned gets jealous of Julie and Eric hanging out and challenges Eric to a fight.
  • Cool Car: Eric's car, at least until the end of the movie when the Alpha Elite squad smashes its windows and then blows it up.
  • Continuity Nod: Miyagi makes several passing references to "Daniel-san" in The Next Karate Kid, to the point of muttering that it was rather "easier to live with boys" when he inadvertently takes a peek of Julie in her underwear when he walks into her room.
    • Julie is briefly shown doing the "Wax On, Wax Off" technique during her Training Montage.
    • Mr. Miyagi also blindfolds Julie during her training with the same headband Daniel wore in the first three films.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Ned displays this when Julie gets close to Eric. Even before they established a relationship, Ned told Eric that she was his.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Multiple:
    • Julie against Ned
    • Miyagi against Dugan
    • On a darker note, Eric against the members of the Alpha Elite, but only because they're ganging up on him and not letting him fight fair.
  • Dirty Cop: While he isn't quite a cop, Ned fits the archetype. His Establishing Character Moment is framing Julie for smoking when she refuses to go along with his attempted sexual assault.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Alpha Elite's modus operandi. Turned down for a date? Frame the girl and have her suspended. Embarrassed by a student? Set his car on fire and order your goons to kill him.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Julie to Daniel.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Alpha Elite may have been willing to beat up Eric, but they weren't expecting Colonel Dugan ordering them to finish him off. Though the only other reason they don't do it is because they're interrupted by Julie and Miyagi's arrival.
    • When Dugan tells Ned to "put [Julie] away", the latter stares at Dugan with a horrified look.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Averted. Dugan and his cronies have to physically douse Eric's car in gasoline and light it on fire to make it explode.
  • Evil Mentor: Colonel Dugan, trainer of the shady school fraternity dubbed the "Alpha Elite" who teaches the group's members to strictly enforce the school rules, even using physical force, if necessary.
  • Frame-Up: Ned falsely claims he confiscated a pack of cigarettes from Julie after catching her smoking on the school premise, which gets Julie in trouble.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The monks Julie and Miyagi stay with. She learns to be this after trying to kill a cockroach.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: The gas station bullies start a fight with Miyagi, who beats them up in this manner. He armlocks one guy then uses him to hit down his buddies in conjunction with using him like a meat shield.
  • Internal Homage: As in the original film, the first karate lesson Mr. Miyagi tries to teach Julie is the "Wax On, Wax Off" technique, which Julie initially rejects and returns to much later in her training.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Dugan is shown forcing the Alpha Elite to attack him during gym class, brutally beating them in turn, until Eric refuses, pointing out that all Dugan is doing is showing off his skills without actually teaching them anything.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Colonel Dugan. He seems awesome when he's beating up teenaged boys but he can't face a real opponent in Mr. Miyagi.
  • Nice Guy: Eric. He's the only one to be kind to Julie at the school and watches Angel while she's away at the monastery.
  • Not Good with Rejection: If Julie rejects any of Ned's advances, he punishes her in some way.
  • Parental Substitute: Following the death of her birth parents in a car accident, Julie is raised by her grandmother Louisa; after Mr. Miyagi offers Julie's grandmother a stay at his house in LA, Miyagi stays in Boston where he appoints himself Julie's caretaker.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: Angel the hawk. A slightly more realistic example than most in that Julie never intended to keep her long-term and only wanted to help heal her, plus she also freaks out over anyone but Julie coming anywhere near her. Though the fact a fully-grown wild hawk would perch on a falconer's glove at all puts in this territory.
  • Pet the Dog: After being introduced snubbing Miyagi when her grandma introduces him, Julie is shown looking after an injured hawk.
  • Plot Hole: Louisa slips and calls Julie "Susan", her mother's name, as if Susan was Louisa's daughter and she was flashing back to fighting with Susan the same way, but then it turns out it was Julie's father who taught her karate, having learned it from his own father, who was Miyagi's friend and Louisa's husband, so it's weird that Louisa would accidentally use her daughter-in-law's name.
  • The Power of Love: What makes Eric leave the Alpha Force after Colonel Dugan forbids him from answering the phone call from Julie, even though he'll lose that place in the Air Force Academy that Dugan had promised him and that was going to be his future.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Though Julie never looks horrid, she's definitely got more of a tomboyish style until she does her hair and puts on a dress for the prom.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Dugan, who insists on going by the title of "Colonel" and running his Alpha Elite squad like they're some prestigious military academy instead of a school security force.
  • Tame Her Anger: Julie learns to do this after getting suspended from school.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Ned arrogantly underestimates Julie for being a girl. Imagine his complete shock after she rightfully beats his stupid sexist ass in.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Ned arrogantly thought he could beat up Julie, but when Julie started to kick his ass in with him not scoring a single hit, he starts to lose it. He even cheats by temporarily blinding Julie by throwing mud at her eyes to get a cheap shot in, then breaks down again when Julie still flattens his ass in spite of the cheat.
    • Dugan gets angry when his other cadets refuse to fight Julie after seeing how she kicked Ned's ass. Finally, Miyagi tells Dugan to put his money where his mouth is and come fight himself. Miyagi kicks his ass effortlessly, Dugan unable to comprehend how he could lose to an old man.
  • Villainous Crush: Ned has one on Julie and stalks her throughout the movie.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: Julie's grandmother calls her "Susan!" in the middle of a heated argument, the name of her late daughter-in-law. This turns out to be a Berserk Button of Julie and she yells at her grandmother for trying to bring her mother back by calling her by her mother's name.