Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 [2011]

Sequels. The comparison to the first can't be helped, even if it isn't deserved. I can happily say Kung Fu Panda 2 holds its own! I enjoyed this one immensely as well.

I have heard that the opening for the first movie was meant to resemble shadow puppetry. This one starts with a sequence that looks like actual shadow play. And no surprise, as the director for this movie, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, directed the opening of the first.

Of course, the first thought that came to mind when I heard there would be a sequel was, "What will it be about?" Well, they took care of that handily. The story of the peacock and the use of gunpowder came through very neatly along with hintings of Po's origin.

Identifying the voice actors for each role made for a fun activity during the first film. Of course, Jack Black was a given, second James Hong. Michael Clarke Duncan's voice is also easily identifiable. I didn't get Seth Rogen until he chuckled after Shifu sent Po bouncing down the stairs. Jackie Chan's voice isn't difficult to hear but Monkey just didn't get enough dialogue for me to make an ID for most of the movie. Michelle Yeoh's narration kind of made me roll my eyes. Her voice is used a lot for that type of thing. Gary Oldman lends his voice to a slimy villain, reminding me of his role in Lost in Space. I wish Dennis Haysbert, of Allstate Insurance fame, and Victor Garber, a.k.a. Jack Bristow, had gotten to speak more. In Garber's case, I wish he'd stuck around.

Dreamworks animated the fight scenes nicely though I wish we could have seen more peacock. Shen's fights hinted at some really cool moves but they were too short. Po's cel-shaded dream sequences made for a very nice change of style from the CG of the rest of the movie.

The Soothsayer eating Peacock's robe because she is a goat made me chuckle. It was a clever bit. The meet-up between all parties at the top of the tower had a nice twist. Both the Soothsayer and Shen are confused that Po doesn't know his past, which, in turn, made me wonder why no one else has ever brought up the panda massacre. It seems like it might be kind of a big deal.

These movies have managed to sprinkle humor into all their scenes very well, even the action ones. When it needs to get dramatic though it does that nicely too. I will say I rolled my eyes again when I saw the tai qi chuan sequences with the droplet of water though. Trite would be the word.

The final fight (oh no I'm comparing!) didn't have as much impact as the first one did though. Po's fat shielding him from Tai Long's nerve striking? That was good. Using Chekhov's 'inner peace' to redirect the cannonballs like water droplets? Not so much. The re-direction technique? Have you seen Shaolin Soccer? It's been done. Again, Shen's fight scene was too short. I must say, his death scene was also a bit too brisk.

The conclusion lacked impact as well. Po returns home, they have a pointless little argument over cooking. Then a reveal of a secret panda society living in the valley. I don't know what to make of this. Possible lead-in to a third film? Not really. A conclusion to Po's origin story? Not really necessary. It just didn't seem to have much of a point.

My verdict: An enjoyable film in it's own right and when stood up beside the first. (^_^)-b