May 26, 2011
Review - " Kung Fu Panda 2 " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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As stated, the great strength of Kung Fu Panda was in its balance (insert Buddhist pun). The comedy was fun, Jack Black
was well-suited to the role of Po; the martial arts action was epic and exciting to behold (even with cartoon animals); most of
all, the script was so good, on so many levels, that there were multiple times when the film gave me goosebumps, or even
had me choking up (R.I.P. Master Oogway). Kung Fu Panda 2 is a much more slick and polished product than the original -
and the keyword here is “product.”
Like this summer’s other big animated feature (Pixar’s Cars 2), Po and Kung Fu Panda are a recognized brand now, and
inevitably that change in awareness was going to affect the film. Where the first installment had breathing room to build a
tight and cohesive multi-layered narrative, this sequel just dives right into a formulaic summer blockbuster plot. After ten
minutes we have the conflict, villain, and the lesson Po needs to learn all set in place at rushed speed. Where the first film
implemented action sequences at logical and organic points in the story, this sequel functions more like a three-act
superhero movie: fight sequence in the beginning, pivotal action sequences in the middle, big set piece climax at the end.
While some of the action is definitely slicker (now that Po and the Furious Five have more cohesive group techniques), a lot
of it inevitably falls into that category of jumbled, no-stakes, hard-to-follow sequences you see in so many modern action
flicks. A slightly disappointing downturn.
and destiny that made the first film so great.
I will say that the writers - Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, with help from others - do a wonderful job of tying off some of
the lingering plot threads from the first film (for example, the gag about Po, a panda, thinking he’s the son of Ping, a goose).
The script weaves those dangling threads into a new story that ties together both the narrative and thematic arcs of Po’s
story, while simultaneously expanding the scope and size of the Kung Fu Panda world. They even manage to leave the door
open for a third film
If there is one pleasant surprise in the movie, it’s Lord Shen. Like the villain in the first film, Shen is more complicated than
your standard cartoon antagonist, and the film wisely touches on some of the deeper issues that have twisted an otherwise
skilled and wise kung fu master into a would-be tyrant. With Gary Oldman handling the voice, Shen truly becomes a full-
fledged character/foil for Po, and not just the new face our heroic panda has to pound on.
The first Kung Fu Panda was a great movie that arrived on low expectations; Kung Fu Panda 2 is a good movie that arrives
on high expectations. Despite its drawbacks the kids will still love it, it’s still epic and entertaining for adults, and the movie
still manages to say something inspired and meaningful - even if it takes a little longer to do so.
While not as epic and awesome as its predecessor, Kung Fu Panda 2 is still a pretty good sequel.
Kung Fu Panda 2
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman,
Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, James Hong.
In this second chapter, Po the Panda (Jack Black) is now The Dragon
Master, living alongside his idols The Furious FIve - Tigress (Angelina
Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu),
and Crane (David Cross). Po finally has the life he dreamed of
(battling bad guys as a Kung Fu legend), but that happiness is soon
shattered. One day, while in the midst of battle, Po is confronted by
the Wolf Boss (Danny McBride), a villain whose armor bears a
strange insignia - one that sends all kinds of repressed memories
flooding back into Po’s mind, depicting his days as a child and hinting
at his true origins.
These unlocked memories knock Po off his kung fu center, and he is
instructed by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to learn new techniques
of inner peace and harmony if he wants to both settle his soul and
take his kung fu to the next level. Of course there is little time to
meditate: The Furious Five (and Po) soon learn of the evil Lord Shen’
s (Gary Oldman) return - a nefarious kung fu master who is
connected to the wolf bandits, and has developed a new weapon that
could conquer both kung fu and China itself. The Furious Six set off
for the city to stop Shen and save the day.
And so, it is on the road to avoid all the hard questions facing him that
Po inevitably meets his destiny - one which goes far beyond his initial
quest to become The Dragon Warrior.
Thankfully, most of these
issues begin to clear up
some time past the halfway
mark of the film. What we get
towards the end is the
smarter, more meaningful
and resonant Kung Fu
Panda that many critics fell in
love with. The filmmakers
indulge less in arbitrary
action and Jack Black
schtick, and spend more time
developing Po and
expanding those of themes of
identity, mentality, harmony
With the exception of the
final set piece (a battle on
the sea), I can’t say the
new locales of the sequel
were all that exciting. Most
of the movie takes place in
cities and/or buildings
which (impressive though
they are) is a stark contrast
to the open terrains and
plush Chinese countryside
featured in the first film.
The good news is that the
film ends on a strong note,
with an epic and (literally)
explosive battle that should
leave you Street Fighter
fans especially satisfied.