Kung Fu Panda 2. Now, I have high expectations. The original Panda film holds a special place in my heart so I was worried that this film would fall flat on its face. Well, don’t worry because it’s actually a spectacular film.
In this sequel, we catch up to Po (the Dragon Warrior) and he is confronted with an evil very different than what he has faced before. An evil peacock named Shen has found a way to create explosives and threatens all of China with giant cannons. Even kung fu cannot defeat cannons. Or so we think.
The writers made their first genius decision by offering up a villain that is completely 180 from Tai Lung (the leopard villain from the first film). That film was about Po learning kung fu and defeating another kung fu master. This film faces them against a villain NOT versed in kung fu, so it’s a whole different type of battle. And whereas Tai Lung was ONE villain, we see the Furious Five (plus Po) face much more… numerous… villains this time around (namely a whole army of wolves, led by a one-eyed wolf voiced by Danny McBribe). So, we have bigger scale fight scenes and then we have a head honcho who relies on new technology to defeat the kung fu masters. It’s a brilliant premise and the film succeeds at being a standalone film (not a cookie-cutter copy) AND also retains the same spirit of the first.
In terms of fight scenes, there are some incredible ones. They are on a much larger scale so there isn’t as much of a focus on 1 on 1 battles which were very abundant in the first film. However it is really cool to see Po fight alongside the Furious Five, as an equal. There is much more collaboration in the fight scenes, where the Five really work together and there were some really innovative ways to match up their fighting styles. The use of cannons as a weapon was also well-played, making them feel truly dangerous but not undefeatable.
All of the familiar voices are back but unfortunately they still get relatively little screen time. Jackie Chan maybe said two words. Angelina Jolie’s Tigress gets a few key scenes with Po, which is nice. We have two new heroes (a crocodile and an ox) who are voiced by Jean Claude Van-Damme and Dennis Haysbert (from 24 and Allstate commercials). These two additions are vastly underused and really serve no purpose. We already have like 8 heroes, why add two more?
Now… The first Kung Fu Panda is a visually stunning movie. On Bluray, it is one of the coolest looking films I’ve ever seen. This movie I think has made some major advancements but in general it’s a much darker movie. It doesn’t have the same amount of bright and colorful outdoors scenes as the first. There are some gorgeous scenes, don’t get me wrong, but the first one was a marvel from minute one until the credits rolled. This one looks much nicer but since a lot of scenes are dark with red highlights, it doesn’t carry the same OOMPH the first one had. The cannon effects however are dazzling and the climactic final battle will look amazing on Bluray, no doubt.
Overall, it’s a different film than its predecessor. The story is more emotional (for me anyways) and I think it has a bigger payoff in the end, but it does lack that happy-go-lucky feeling of the first, that gave it an almost unlimited replayability. I have a feeling I’ll end up liking this one more, but watching it less. I think of it in a similar way as Lord of the Rings. I enjoy watching Fellowship of the Ring more, but I don’t consider it the best of the films.
This is a no-brainer. Go see this movie. I saw it in 2D so I can’t vouch if the 3D is worth it, but even in 2D it was a spectacular movie. What are you waiting for?