the karate kid cobra kai crane kick William Zabka

Cobra Kai takes old, unseen Karate Kid footage to make Johnny the protagonist: Watch

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May 1, 2018

One of the more iconic shots in all of ‘80s filmdom has to be the All Valley Karate Tournament-ending crane kick that Daniel-san delivers to jerkwad Johnny’s face (perhaps illegally) at the end of The Karate Kid. Now, all these years later, with the release of Cobra Kai waxing, we get a chance to see that kick from a whole new perspective. 

As you can see in the totally awesome BTS featurette below, which finds co-creators and executive producers Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine), and Jon Hurwitz (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) delving more deeply into the real protagonist of the upcoming YouTube Red series, the kick takes on a whole different meaning when you see it from Johnny Lawrence’s (William Zabka) nose.

In order to flip the script and make Johnny the sympathetic character – no small task, mind you – Cobra Kai climbed back into the archives to dig up some of John G. Avildsen's old footage that kicked off this whole journey, way back in 1984. 

“When you watch Cobra Kai, and you see that first couple of minutes of the show, you’re seeing footage from the original movie, but you’re seeing 17 or 18 shots that have never been seen before to give you a clearer sense of Johnny Lawrence’s side,“ explains Hurwitz.

For example, instead of showing the iconic crane kick from the wide, heroic view, which shows the whole audience basking in Daniel-san’s ultimate triumph, they take the never-before-seen close-up shot of Johnny, which shows very clearly the agony of defeat.   

“The cool thing about that shot is it changes the perspective of the scene, from the wide triumphant angle where everybody’s cheering, and with that close-up, now you’re feeling the pain of that kick, and it suddenly twists things from triumph to defeat,” says Schlossberg. 

That face-shot is also the point where it all starts going south for Mr. Lawrence. And now, in present day SFV, Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) is the BMOC running a successful car dealership, while Johnny is the one who has been bullied by life (deservedly so, perhaps, considering what a complete and total A-hole he was in high school). When a chance encounter with a bullied-youth puts Johnny in the role of Sensei, he brings the Cobra Kai school back from the mat. Alas, those old hateful lessons have no place in Danny LaRusso’s Valley.

We'll soon see how this old rivalry rekindles when Cobra Kai debuts tomorrow, May 2, on YouTube Red.