Ralph Macchio explained how Cobra Kai saved Karate Kid 3 by breathing new life into the film’s characters. Karate Kid 3 was the third installment in the Karate Kid film series and the final Karate Kid film to star Macchio as Daniel LaRusso. The first Karate Kid film was a success and quickly gained a sequel, Karate Kid 2. While Karate Kid 2 received mixed reviews, it was still a huge box-office success. Unfortunately, the franchise derailed with Karate Kid 3 which received largely negative reviews from critics.
While Karate Kid 3 marked Macchio’s last appearance in a Karate Kid film, it didn’t mark his final appearance as LaRusso. After a 29-year hiatus, Macchio reprised his role as LaRusso in 2018 for the Netflix original series, Cobra Kai. The series is a direct sequel to the Karate Kid films and follows LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) 34 years after they fought in the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament. Cobra Kai has brought back many characters from the original films, including Karate Kid 3’s Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) and Mike Barnes (Steve Kanan).
That’s a good question. And one I’m getting a lot, and I like it. My opinion of the film has not changed. It’s mainly because I felt at the time it just wasn’t moving the character or story forward. And the heightened cartoon element of it. It didn’t seem as grounded as the original film. But I will say this much, it has given such light to the Cobra Kai series. And you bring these actors back, be it Robyn Lively or Sean Kanan or Thomas Ian Griffith, and the writers do such a beautiful job of giving them backstories and nuanced, layered elements to the characters.
Cobra Kai leans into a little bit of that superhero element and some of the tone that the Karate Kid III had, but it earns itself because the characters have more nuances than how black and white and superficial I felt they were in Part III.
Macchio’s criticism of Karate Kid 3 has never really been a secret. He has relayed his disappointment in the film several times in the past across various interviews and podcast appearances. Essentially, his disappointment in Karate Kid 3 comes down to his belief that the story didn’t develop the characters enough. He especially felt this for his character, LaRusso, who didn’t seem to move forward or go anywhere despite time passing by. Additionally, he criticized the film for practically rehashing the events of the first two films but adding cartoonish tones to it through the villains and violence.
The majority of Macchio’s criticisms of the film are valid. After all, the film did receive widespread criticism and was even nominated for five Golden Raspberry awards at the time, meaning Macchio certainly wasn’t the only one disappointed in it. Meanwhile, it can’t be denied that the film had a very basic plot that was noticeably similar to Karate Kid in which LaRusso gets caught up in a love triangle, gets frustrated while training with Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), and then fights in a big karate tournament in the end. Of course, while Karate Kid 3 had its shortcomings, it did boast characters with enormous potential and quality actors. Cobra Kai wouldn’t have been able to put such a masterful spin on the likes of Silver and Barnes if Karate Kid 3 hadn’t laid a foundation for them. Ultimately, while Karate Kid 3 was disappointing, it wasn’t a complete waste as its characters have been revitalized by Cobra Kai.