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Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

May 27, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 – A Paramount Pictures’ Release

http://www.kungfupanda.com/

Release Date: May 26th, 2011

Rated PG for cartoon animation/action

Running time: 90 minutes

Jennifer Yuh Nelson (dir.)

Jonathan Aibel (writer)

Glenn Berger (writer)

John Powell (music)

Hans Zimmer (music)

Jack Black as Po (voice)

Angelina Jolie as Tigress (voice)

Gary Oldman as Lord Shen (voice)

Seth Rogen as Mantis (voice)

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc (voice)

Jackie Chan as Monkey (voice)

Dustin Hoffman as Shifu (voice)

David Cross as Crane (voice)

Lucy Liu as Viper (voice)

James Hong as Mr. Ping (voice)

©Paramount Pictures.  All rights reserved.

Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Po (Jack Black), Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), Tigress (Angelina Jolie) and Viper (Lucy Liu) in Kung Fu Panda 2.

Our reviews below:

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Kung Fu Panda 2 Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel that performs above and beyond the call of duty, never feeling like a mere repeat and providing a worthy continuation of the franchise.  Even though it doesn’t surpass the excellent 2008 original which it directly follows, it beautifully builds upon that film’s story and themes, furthering our appreciation of the wonderful characters.

Loveable panda and unassuming Dragon Warrior Po (voice of Jack Black), has continued to further his talents for kung fu with the help of the wise Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and is now fitting in nicely with the legendary Furious Five.  But danger comes in the form of an evil peacock known as Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), who’s threatening their village and all of China.   The villainous bird has created a deadly weapon that requires metal which his army of wolves have stolen from the villagers, and plans on using it to carry out a secret vendetta.

Po and the Furious Five, a group which includes Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross), are the only kung fu fighters who can stop Lord Shen before he blows up China in a sea of cannon balls and fireworks.  But Po has started being haunted by visions of his birth parents, and questioning his identity of being raised by a kind goose named Mr. Ping (James Hong).  The mysterious past he inevitably uncovers leads to some of the film’s most touching scenes.

Under the first time direction of Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the animation here is beautiful, perhaps most notably in the stunning backgrounds and traditionally animated scenes.   The visuals hold up well on their own, so audiences should feel free to save money on the 3D premium.  The action sequences are visually impressive and on a much larger scale than before, with explosions of fireworks placed alongside the nicely choreographed kung fu.  They may prove too much for younger kids, but add to the fun for everyone else.

But beneath all of the action and excitement, Kung Fu Panda 2 has a heart of gold.  Po’s search for his birth parents is touching and honest, leading him to some sincere and genuine realizations on where he places in the world.  The sequences where “inner peace” is discovered by the characters are of particular beauty.  This is an exciting, funny and sometimes very touching example of a sequel done right, and one of the best blockbusters of the still early summer movie season.

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Kung Fu Panda 2 Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Three years ago we got to see Po’s (voice of Jack Black) journey to become a Kung Fu Master in Kung Fu Panda.  It was only a matter of time before a sequel was released, and although this one doesn’t quite live up to the original, it is a worthy continuation of the story and the characters.

In Kung Fu Panda 2, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) gets a message that Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) – an albino peacock in Gongmen City – has built a weapon that can defeat Kung Fu with a bang.  He sends the Furious Five (Monkey, Mantis, Tigress, Viper, Crane) and Po out to the city to stop him.  Once there, they meet challenges, including the army of wolves and gorilla guards that Shen has forced under his control, as well as Lord Shen himself – probably the worst of their problems.  Beyond this, Shen has something to do with Po’s original parents (spoiler, the goose is not actually Po’s biological father), and throughout the film, Po feels he has to discover his roots in order to be able to achieve inner peace, and have the power to stop Shen and his weapons.  A formidable villain, Shen expects everyone to worship the very ground he walks on and has divided Gongmen City (once the proud city of his ancestors) into two groups – those who work for him, and those who don’t.  Neither group does he treat with better respect.  Still he is fun to watch as his evil plans are carried out with a certain grace and style.

At barely 90 minutes, much like the first one, I was surprised at how short the film felt on first viewing.  This could be attributed to the fact that the story is fairly linear in its telling and takes place in a short time frame, but also that there is a lower dialogue to film ratio (quite evident here) when the amount of faster-paced action scenes are taken into account.  In the first film we got to see the slower development of the characters at times as Po first learned Kung Fu and became the Dragon Warrior, and while we do get a few quieter moments, mostly it is quite amped up.  The whole film is a lot darker, with Shen a meaner villain than Tai Lung in many ways.  Although the violence remains on a cartoon-action level, the storyline will be better enjoyed by those 8 & up.  Those a lot younger will most likely just take it as blind action, and depending on the child, may be scared or bored.

The new characters that are introduced are fun, and have enough to do that we are able to believe them as characters with thoughts and feelings.  But because of the short running length, we don’t get to see that much of each individual character beyond Shen and Po.  Their storylines get the most development time (reasonably), although in terms of the Furious Five we do get a few scenes where a bit more is revealed about Tigress (Angelina Jolie) as well.  She is probably the most developed character of the Five.  There is also not a lot of Shifu in this movie as the majority of it takes place outside of the Valley of Peace.

Overall, I liked this one.  The more I think it over, I honestly feel that it is a good follow-up with the right level of progression.  It’s the kind of situation, where yes, they could have done more, but what is put on-screen is a satisfying continuation.  The music and voice work remain good as well, and thanks to technological advancements, the animation is even more stunning than before.  Besides well-choreographed fights and many explosions (both of which are always fun to watch), there are some beautifully crafted scenes here, including important ones featuring the manipulation of a water droplet, which leads to a spectacular finale – in itself which has elements to make it a memorable favourite put to screen.

Just a note: Although I saw the 2D version, Kung Fu Panda 2 is in 3D as well.  Judging from other 3D films I’ve seen, I think it would probably work well at times, although the colour palette of the film is already quite dark so there would be a picture dimming effect.  The film is quite enjoyable in 2D though, so if you don’t want to pay the surcharge, just go see it regular.  This is one well-worth seeing though – and totally different market I know, but adults, this weekend pick Kung Fu Panda 2 over The Hangover Part II.

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Kung Fu Panda 2 Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

A few years ago, everyone was introduced to the Dragon Warrior, an unlikely hero who happens to be a lovable panda with a goose for a dad.  Now Po the Panda (Jack Black) is back in action.  An evil peacock named Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) wants to take over China and its kung fu.  Shen uses fear to get what he wants, bullying his wolf army into serving him.  Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), on the other hand, teaches Po how to seek inner peace.  It is this lesson that Po and the Furious Five must use to save everyone from Lord Shen.

Kung Fu Panda 2 brings back the Furious Five in all of their original glory, but this film is mainly about Po.  For the first time, he begins to wonder who his birth parents were and what happened to them.  This one is also a lot darker than the first movie.  Lord Shen is much more cruel than the original’s Tai Lung, and although much of the fighting is cartoon level violence, this time there is a real sense of peril.  It deserves its PG rating, and would be suited to school age kids and adults.

The animation here is really good.  I liked the character design, ranging from the Five who have the look and feel of their species, to the wolves who have a very stylized but still recognizable look to them.  Lord Shen is both elegant and sinister, with beautiful white feathers and sharp metal swords and cock spurs.  Like before, Po captures the look and personality of a panda to a tee.

The action sequences are cool, the voice acting is good and the plot adds to the original.  Kung Fu Panda 2 is a good film that older kids and adults will enjoy.

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Kung Fu Panda 2 Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a thoroughly pleasing follow-up to the original Kung Fu Panda where lovable Panda, Po (Jack Black) trains to be a kung fu dragon warrior with Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).  This time Po has to confront his past and obvious adoption by Mr. Ping (James Hong), a hard-working goose who owns a noodle shop, as well as the evil peacock, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) whose actions many years ago cost Po his family.  The only way Po can make peace with his past is to achieve inner peace.  For that, Po needs the guidance of Master Shifu and his fellow warriors, the Furious Five at his side.

The animation in Kung Fu Panda 2 is wonderful, from the beautiful Chinese paper cut-outs in the opening credits, to the richly textured landscapes, right down to the realistic water and water droplets.  The film is always pleasing to the eye, even in the darker battle scenes with the wolf warriors and the metallic weaponry.  Peacock Lord Shen is especially well-animated.  His feathers and the weapons they conceal are beautifully detailed.  The animation works really well in 2D, and there is already so much depth that 3D just seems superfluous.

There is a lot of kung fu action in this one.  The battle scenes are a little more fast paced and lack some of the more interesting one-on-one martial arts encounters from the original movie.  The wolves, Lord Shen and all of his weapons are a little scary for the youngest of viewers.  However, most kids and their parents will find it just right.

Kung Fu Panda 2 has just the right mix of heart, humour and action.  With a solid voice cast, beautiful animation and music, this is a sequel done right..  It gave me great inner peace seeing Po and his pals back on-screen.  Watch the closing credits for hints of a third installment.

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Kung Fu Panda 2 Review by Tony

*** (out of 4)

Kung Fu Panda 2 takes panda Po (Jack Black) and the Furious Five to the palace of the peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), as foretold by Shen’s ewe soothsayer (Michelle Yeo), to defeat his plot to use artillery to destroy kung fu and take over the country. Along the way Po masters the teaching of inner peace and discovers how his own origins are linked with his destiny with Shen.

KFP2 is a good sequel to KFP (2008), which mainly dealt with Po’s training under Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), who appears more briefly here. The more intimate one-on-one combat of the original is replaced with busier pitched battles that are more violent and harder to follow though admittedly spectacular with the fireworks shot from cannons in the form of dragons and other terrible creatures. This is the first feature by Jennifer Yue, whose experience in animation art design is reflected in the traditional title and flashback sequences as well as in the film as a whole. I don’t think I missed much with the cheaper 2D version, and suspect some of the darker scenes would suffer in 3D.

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Consensus:  Following the excellent 2008 original, Kung Fu Panda 2 boasts beautiful animation and strong action sequences, making this a sequel done right as it furthers the adventures of the always appealing characters.  ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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