Movie Review - Kung Fu Panda 2

We all know that sequels suck, right? Thankfully, DreamWorks have changed this with Kung Fu Panda 2. There is so much to like about this movie.

Following on from where the 2008 film left off we join Dragon Master Po and the Furious Five, Tigress, Viper, Mantis, Monkey and Crane as they guard the Valley of Peace from external threats. Unbeknownst to Po, an evil peacock named Lord Shen has planned world domination but the only thing in his way is our friend, Po the but kicking panda.

I am extremely reluctant to label any film as being a "kids" movie and Kung Fu Panda 2 is no exception. This is a movie for kids, families, males, females and even dogs and cats although they should probably go to separate sessions. My wife and I went to watch this and absolutely loved it. I'm a fan of animation and Shaw Brothers kung fu films while my wife likes cute animals and things that make her laugh. In this regard, we both came out of the cinema beaming.

As with the Toy Story and Shrek franchises, Kung Fu Panda 2 is leagues ahead of its predecessor in terms of the quality of animation. In general the most difficult textures to animate have always been water and hair. The physics and textures have to be perfect to be convincing, especially in a movie about pandas, tigers and monkeys which spends about 20 minutes in Gongmen City harbour. The hair is independent and bristly while the water is incredibly fluid and moves naturally. The animation is truly top notch. The use of shadow and light is wonderful.

The voice cast is nothing short of star studded. We are graced by great performances by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Dustin Hoffman and an incredibly witty and heartwarming performance by James Hong as Po's father, a goose. To add to the films Kung Fu pedigree we are also joined by Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh and Jean Claude Van Damme voicing Master Croc. Even when animated, JCVD can't help but show his skills with Master Croc doing his trademark splits left, right and centre. With such recognisable actors in the ring it is not surprising that the voices bring a great deal of comedy and heart to the screen.

There's a great deal of time spent explaining the quarrel between Lord Shen and Po that at times it feels more like a set up for KFP3 than serving the current story. This makes the battle scenes appear rushed and over all too soon. One other gripe is that there was so much action taking place in each scene that it was impossible to completely soak in and appreciate the entirety of the shot. Although a gripe, it will ensure that I buy the movie on Blu Ray so that I can pause and rewind each scene over and over again.

Returning from the first movie are a number of 2D, traditionally animated scenes explaining Po's back story and how he would up at his Dad's noodle shop. Thankfully the standard of this animation is just as vivacious as the 3D scenes. I would be happy to watch a film containing only the traditional scenes. The end credits employ animation resembling paper puppetry and seemed to stretch on for quite a few minutes. Sitting through to the end you not only appreciate how much detail has been put into this sequence but also the enormity of the operation that was just witnessed. 

With Hans Zimmer at the helm it is hard to be disappointed in the score. It is highly energetic and infuses traditional instrumentation through the use of the huqin, liuqin and bawu giving authenticity to the overall film.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is just, if not more fun than the original. It would have been easy for DreamWorks to have released a passable film while still smashing the box office. Thankfully they brought their A game and have given us a film that will undoubtedly give Cars 2 a run for its money at the box office.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is released tomorrow, June 23rd 2011, Australia wide.


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