Reviews: Kung Fu Panda 2
If you've seen my review for the first movie, then you'll know that I loved it. With this movie I . . . liked it. Okay let me explain, I did love this movie, I seriously did and still do, but when I first saw it I couldn't shake a feeling that I wanted it to be better. I don't know how and I'm rather annoyed with myself for it, but there it is. Perhaps because I was surprised at how much depth the first movie had, my expectations for this movie grew beyond reachable standards. Okay, now for the real review. This is a great sequel, practically perfect in every way. Instead of rehashing the first movie the sequel does what it should, continue the story. The Furious Five now respect Po as an equal and Master Shifu has accepted his role as Master Oogway's successor. The villain, Lord Shen is interesting in that he's not using some forbidden mystic art to defeat everyone, he is using technology to try and make Kung Fu obsolete, namely through use of the cannon. The basic plot runs that Shen, who was once the heir to a prosperous city before being banished, returns and claims the city for himself, but not before making an example of one of the great Kung Fu masters who reside therein. After receiving word of this, the Furious Five and Po set out to stop Shen. Now if the movie were just this plot, it might've been in danger of falling flat. However, there is another plot running parallel. Mr Ping, Po's father, confesses that he found Po as an orphan(and seriously, who didn't think in the first film that he was gonna make this confession, they even phrased it the exact same way), after Po sees Lord Shen's insignia and has visions of his parents. This in turn leads Po to try and figure out the secrets of his past, which only Lord Shen seems to know. The emotional core of the movie is carried in Po's search for truth. It continues the character growth from the last film in a very good way. The moral lesson is once again handled with skill, it is not your past that makes you who you are, it's how you choose to react to it, something both Shen and Po echo. This film is, at the very least, just as good as the original, if not better. I have no idea why I couldn't enjoy it more on the first viewing. On later viewings I have really come to appreciate it. Take my word for it, it's awesome, you won't be disappointed.
Not as good as Number 1
This is your classic Portal 1 vs Portal 2 debate. Which is better? Now I LOVE Kung Fu Panda. Its a thing of beauty. It didn't need a sequel. The story was self-contained, it tied up all loose ends, and with How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek 4, its my all-time favorite DreamWorks CGI film. When Panda 2 came out, I have to admit I was overall impressed. The scenery, the locations were gorgeous, and the villain, Lord Shen, is pretty damn awesome too. Regretfully, all the other characters were pretty forgettable. The whole "Mr. Ping ain't my dad" subplot got way too much attention. Why? The Christmas special already established family is where the heart is, didn't it? That's the message I took with me. What difference does it make? Cause you say so story-writers? Its true a sequel can never be as original as, well, the original. But that nagging question is still begged: Is this better than the original? Short answer: No. Panda 2, unfortunately makes three egregious dumb cliches that managed to spoil the story for me.
- 1. The Worf Effect. Po at the end of the last film WAS A DRAGON MASTER. He dwarfed the Furious Five and even Master Shifu in terms of battle prowess and raw martial arts skills. The second still has him idolizing the failure-five, and now he can't even keep up with Shifu... what?!
- 2. The "Chosen One" Prophecy. Oh God No! A goat, Soothsayer, has a vision that "a warrior of black-and-white" will defeat Shen. That's all the story summarized to its bare working parts folks. Now, I HATE PROPHECIES. I detest them. They are self-fulfilling and dominate the plot. The villain tries to prevent "Teh Prophecy" and hero, fulfills it. How anticlimactic and pointless. Whoever thought this was a good idea?
- 3. THOSE. FLASHBACKS. Together with point 1, Po is crippled, burdened with memories of his mother. These flashbacks are horrendous because they keep reoccurring over and over and over... well you get the point. To get the same flashback popping in and out during awesome fighting scenes and character developments isn't as annoying as it is frustrating.
A definitive 'perfect sequel'.
One of Kung Fu Panda's greatest strengths to me was how strongly its characters and their perspectives drove the story. Every fight scene, witty exchange, or moment of growth had a reason that reinforced who ever it was centered around. Now imagine that quality times two, and SKADOOSH—this film. The premise of Po's story in the sequel is now one that's less about self-respect and confidence no matter what even you thought of yourself, and is now one of true self-discovery and how the past doesn't need to make your decisions for you. While it goes without saying that it's less than subtle in that approach—seeing as how the phrase "inner peace" is spoken no less than a dozen times in this film—it never felt like it was for the sake of flaunting a message, but letting the character of Po learn it; I don't even remember the last time I saw a scene as empowering in an animated film as "Po Finds the Truth", and it's this kind of quality execution that matters most to excellence, not how many twists and turns can be thrown in or how much exposition is needed to back it up, and even parts that may have had traces of that are addressed with the same kind of quality characterization that the first one had, even more in fact. The film's most effective humorous moments felt like an evolution of the kind of tension-cutter moments that were in the first one, like Po finally meeting Tai Lung after what was probably the most emotionally-driven fight scene. Yet, the arguably more fleshed out characterization here, particularly with the villain, made for humor that was not only more genuine, but more successful in its punchlines. The "Free the Five" scene only had me laughing harder and harder the more it was building itself up. If there was one problem that I had to point out, it's that the film is a bit shorter than the first one. However, the pacing of each scene was so on the mark that not only did I not notice at first, but I didn't give a damn when I finally did. Every scene was as long as it needed to be with as much humor, emotion, or action as it needed to have. I'm one who believes a perfect film doesn't need to have literally zero flaws, but what shortcomings it has aren't pertinent to the quality of the work at hand. It helped Kung Fu Panda be so great, and it's what makes Kung Fu Panda 2 my all time favorite animated film.
A good sequel to a good movie
It's always nice to see a sequel that matches up to the first film. Kung Fu Panda 2 is one of those sequels. It does all those things that good sequels do: it expands on the story. The main characters go on new adventures, face new and different adversaries, and they themselves continue to grow as characters. In this movie, Po and the Furious Five must stop the psychotic Lord Shen from taking over China with his new weapon that not even kung fu can stop: a cannon. All the while, Po must face his past and learn what REALLY happened to his people. (er, pandas) Tigress gets some more lines and character development in this film, though I regret that I can't say that for the other characters. That's the only real problem I have with the movie, though. I also want to compliment the fight scene choreography. The martial artist characters are animals, and the animators take advantage of this, leading to some very creative and fun to watch fight scenes. What I really love about this movie is that both of it's storylines (the martial arts stuff and the "find my past" stuff) are cliche, but the movie KNOWS this and has fun with these cliches. It's always been painfully obvious that Po was adopted (what with his father being a goose and all) but it's funny that they don't address it until now. All in all, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a rare movie sequel that not only matches the first movie in quality, but may even be a little better. I'm really hoping future films in the franchise continue this trend.