Ralph Macchio Thinks Karate Kid III Is Bad, But Cobra Kai Has Helped Redeem It

There's something truly heartwarming about the way Ralph Macchio has embraced his most memorable role as Daniel LaRusso in "Karate Kid." Macchio has had quite a journey from his humble beginnings in New Jersey to becoming one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the '80s. Daniel's transition from the bullied new kid living in Reseda to the undisputed All-Valley State Champion isn't all that dissimilar. Macchio is forever linked to the character and seems really at peace with that fact. But even he would never have guessed that the first film would go on to generate three sequels (remember "The Next Karate Kid"?) and the successful series "Cobra Kai" that began on YouTube before moving over to Netflix.

It's one thing to play the same character over multiple decades, but sitting down to write a memoir about living with the "Karate Kid" legacy is something entirely different. In his new book "Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me," Macchio goes into detail about the sense of ownership he has over the character that made him famous. On the press tour for the book, he's also talked in length about how he still doesn't think "Karate Kid Part III" is a very good movie. That's the beauty of having a series like "Cobra Kai" and writers like Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg who embrace the cheesiness of "Part III," unabashedly. 

Losing sight of what made the original great

During an interview with ScreenRant, Macchio addressed his frustration about the overall corniness of "Part III" and how it felt like an over-the-top version of the original.

"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."

All of the elements were there, in theory, to make a great threequel and end the trilogy with dignity. John Avildsen ("Rocky") was back as the director, the moving pan flute score from Bill Conti was still prominent, and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita was still killing it as Mr. Miyagi. The main issue with the film was probably the introduction of an intensified version of Johnny (WIlliam Zabka's character in "Karate Kid"), in the form of newcomer Sean Kanan who played the insufferable Mike Barnes in "Part III." 

The intensity was turned way up in "Part III" which Macchio now sees as something that was unfair to the new actors coming aboard. With "Cobra Kai," they all have a chance at a redo. 

"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 makes Part III a better movie

Now that "Cobra Kai" has been around for five seasons, the opportunity to flesh out the characters played by Robyn Lively, Sean Kanan, and Thomas Ian Griffith has finally presented itself. Fans already got to catch up with John Kreese (Martin Kove) and even Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue) in that wonderful cameo in Season 3. Macchio told ScreenRant that the somewhat histrionic tone of the series and "Part III" actually ended up complementing each other perfectly. "'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,'" he said.

Expanding the world of "Karate Kid" in "Cobra Kai" has been an unexpected addition to the lifelong conflict between Johnny and Daniel, but the series hasn't necessarily made the original a better movie. The feeling of the "Cobra Kai" series has a distinct Afterschool Special vibe that works remarkably well with the melodrama of "Part III." With the attention and care the series has given the characters this past season, the show has truly improved upon a film that Macchio felt was a disappointment at the time.