The Panda’s Back!

The Panda’s Back!

Worth It
Jun 28, 2011
2 Comments

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, page but I really, diabetes and pregnancy really, really loved Kung Fu Panda. I took my kids to see back in 2008 and was totally surprised. It was well-written, amazingly voiced and animated with a distinctively fresh style. On top of that, it was simply great story-telling. So, of course, upon hearing of the sequel, I instinctively groaned and feared for, yet, another brutal follow up. That’s the way it always goes. Hollywood makes a great movie, that movie makes millions, then greed dictates the need to slap together a sequel so the company can cash in on the hype. Of course this pattern typically results in pathetic sequels. So, did the Kung Fu Panda franchise fall into the usual cycle of corporate tyranny?

Well, let’s start with a brief overview. Kung Fu Panda 2 finds our loveable hero, Po, as a part of the Furious 5! (Although I guess that makes them the Furious 6). He is still the Dragon Warrior and is still as rotund, funny and tender-hearted as ever. The movie introduces the new villain almost immediately. We learn of a power-hungry peacock named, Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman…excellent). He has a brutal history of doing whatever it takes to ensure he rises as ruler of China. He’s blinded by his pride and he’s one nasty dude. We then learn of Po’s curiosity about his origins. Clearly, he knows that his father (a goose) is not his birth parent. And Po is having flashbacks from his childhood that are causing him to wonder who he really is. Of course, Lord Shen’s villainy gets the attention of Po and the Furious 5 and so begins the driving plot-line. You see, Lord Shen has created a canon (the first of it’s kind) and forces his minions to build dozens of canons and ammunition. His plan is to rule the entire Chinese dynasty and dessimate anyone who gets in his way. It’s a pretty good plan. After all, not even Kung Fu can stand up against the brute power of explosive weapons. Or can it?

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a non-stop action ride. In fact, I felt like it was almost too much. But while the action is constant, I will say that it doesn’t get in the way of the story or message. At the heart of this martial-arts-fantasy-frenzy is a profoundly deep and dark examination of tragedy, rejection and emotional pain. Shifu is training Po to find inner-peace through accepting pain and suffering while Po is slowly remembering the loss of his parents as an infant. This subtext is surprisingly poignant, especially given it’s a children’s animated 3D feature. And then there’s Lord Shen’s emotional journey of pride, rejection and deep discontent. The message is simple: you’ll never find peace and joy until you let go of the hurt and anger. But anyone who’s every dealt with deep-seated hurt knows that this is also emotionally complex and Kung Fu Panda 2 doesn’t lose sight of this truth. The moral of the story is not trite or candy-coated like we find in so many other kid’s films today. Even the original Kung Fu Panda was slightly guilty of that. But this sequel really ups the ante with emotional depth and maturity. It even reminded me of the authentic martial-arts films of the east (Fist of Fury) that have influenced so many other great films in the west (Kill Bill 1 & 2).

Overall, it must be said that Kung Fu Panda 2 is excellent.  The animation is as impressive as the first film. The writing is funny and smart. As with the original, the voice-acting is amazing. And while the action is more intense and constant, Dreamworks managed to increase the depth of story and heart. I like the original just a wee bit more simply because it was the first. There’s that intangible quality you experience when seeing something fresh for the first time. But the sequel is a worthy follow up and will certainly please kids and adults alike.


About the Author

Craig the Critic

Comments:

  1. Really looking forward to this flick – even more so now. I’ve got the original on blu-ray and absolutely love it.

  2. Well, I’d love to hear what you think of the sequel. Let me know when you see it 🙂

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