KUNG FU PANDA 2
Kung Fu Panda 2 stands as a shining example of DreamWorks finally getting the sequel formula right. Building off of the success of the original 2008 hit, Panda 2 delivers more laughs, larger scale, finer animation, and arguably more heart. Jack Black returns as the incompetently powerful Po the panda to battle the next stage in warfare that threatens to make hand-to-hand combat extinct. Joined by the Furious Five, the group wages war amidst the beautiful landscape of China in thrilling sequences of 3D combat that highlight the evolution of the fighting in the first film. With newcomer Jennifer Yuh at the helm, backed by the returning talents of writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger along with the full voice cast, Kung Fu Panda 2 is the latest animated film to blur the lines between the admiration from adults and kids alike, and brings bang for your buck in 3D. Hit the jump for the full review.
Po (Black) is living it up as the legendary Dragon Warrior alongside the Furious Five—Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), and Viper (Lucy Liu). They watch over the Valley of Peace and defeat all threats. But when a new enemy rises in the form of Shen (Gary Oldman) with a deadly weapon, it threatens to irradicate the need for any form of martial arts. Po and his companions must travel into the heart of China to face off against Shen, but the secret to securing the future lies in Po’s mysterious past.
One clear sign that the DreamWorks crew were listening to the criticism and praise of the original is that the hand-drawn animation that took place in the intro of the first film is not only back, but makes a few more appearances throughout. Rendered in 3D, the opening sequences for Kung Fu Panda 2 are dripping with the fine detail that the extra dimension provides to a layered but flat scene. While this may be Yuh’s first feature film as director, she is familiar with the hand-drawn animation as she directed the sequences in the first film. Another interesting addition is how Po fights alongside the Furious Five. Instead of fighting as individuals, they work in tandem to disperse foes in interesting combinations. While they sometimes end up a blur, it never becomes frustrating. The fights are relentlessly entertaining, and the infusion of humor into the skirmishes feels fresh.
Unfortunately, not everything in this sequel is better. One of the weaker parts of Panda 2 is in the main baddie. While Tai Long was capable of single-handedly defeating the Furious Five, Shen has no such skill. Considering he is a peacock, I had my doubts about his ability to fight to begin with. Luckily, they didn’t try and sell him as an overly powerful fighter but instead a thinker. That isn’t to say that Shen can’t hold his own at times; his use of metal talons and daggers hidden within his tail help give him an edge.
Kung Fu Panda 2 could have been a quick cash-grab without any soul. The film was a follow-up to a smash success, and yet I can’t stop thinking about how much the film impressed me. Having been an outspoken fan of the original, it brings me joy to praise its sequel. With the oddity of improving in every facet except for the antagonist, Panda 2 shows that hard work can pay off and DreamWorks can be trusted to improve on a previous product. There is no denying that this film has a smooth confidence, and if this is a sign of the future of the franchise, I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
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