Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movie Review - Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 - ***

Directed by: Jennifer Yuh

Starring (voices): Jack Black, Gary Oldman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu

Review:  Here we have a movie that is a sequel and opened on the same weekend as another sequel in ‘Hangover Part II.”  The originals of both were smash hits and one of the sequels is getting great reviews, the other is not.  You can probably guess which one is getting the good reviews based on seeing my initial rating.  The obvious point of a sequel first and foremost (in most cases anyway) is to capitalize on the success of the first film.  Your occasional example of a true story arc that takes more than one movie like Star Wars, The Godfather, and Lord of the Rings, not withstanding, Hollywood generally just wants to make more money with a sequel.  This does not automatically mean it’s going to be a poor film, but is one of the leading indicators into what makes a poor sequel.  In trying to capitalize on what made the first one successful, Hollywood often rips off the formula from the previous movie.  This does not lend itself well as people don’t want to see the same exact thing and sequels like that usually don’t do as well.

‘The Hangover Part II’ appears to be exactly that from the reviews so far.  It appears to be a movie where the exact same plot of the first movie was rehashed with the same characters and everything.  The filmmakers didn’t try to be original or have a story that happens organically.  Thankfully, Kung Fu Panda 2 did not retread the storyline of the first movie.  This sequel picks up right where the first one left off and succeeded in giving more backstory to the characters and making the Kung Fu Panda universe more expansive. 

Kung Fun Panda is beset on another adventure when long banished Peacock Lord Shen has returned to his homeland in an effort to try to take over all of China with his newfound weapon (which is a gigantic cannon).  As Lord Shen constantly reminds us, Kung Fu is no match for his weapon and he will soon lord over China which will mean the extinction of Kung Fu forever.  This thrusts Po (Black) the dragon warrior and the furious five (Jolie, Cross, Rogan, Liu, Chan) back into action to stop Lord Shen and to find a way to save China and Kung Fu.

Po is not in the same position as he was in their first adventure.  The Dragon Warrior is no longer a surprise to his crew and the people of his town.  Po is quickly on his way to becoming a Kung Fu master and has won the respect and admiration of his fellow companions.  Po might not be the best at Kung Fu around, but his fellow warriors recognize that there is something special within that gives him an ability the rest don’t have. 

The movie easily could have tried to create more internal conflict by having him still struggle to gain his fellow warriors respect, but chose to have that respect already earned and have them working as a cohesive unit.
This second film focuses on Po’s attempt to rise to master status at the level of the master who taught him everything he has learned so far.  It also focuses on the internal struggle Po has to know exactly where he came from.  It’s no surprise when we find out that Po’s father is not the goose that raised him.  Being a panda, Po has stuck out quite a bit in his world and in order for Po to reach inner peace he is trying to learn where he came from.  This is always an important question in anyone’s life and it is no less so here.  Po’s father finds himself emotional over his son’s new yearning for his past as he feels that if Po finds out where he came from then he will be lost to him and the son he raised as his own will have a new father.

Ultimately, Po learns that you come from where you come from.  Knowing your past and your history is good so that you can appreciate where you came from, but what really matters is that whether Po is a panda or a goose, his father raised him and loves him no matter what.  As he is told in the film the story of Po’s life may have had a rocky beginning, but that does not have to effect where he is or where he ends up. 

The animation here has a very good quality to it and lends itself well to the story being told.  The voice acting is excellent and the storyline is successful at all its attempts.  This movie is definitely worth your time.

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