Sunday, June 5, 2011
Those who have seen the original are no strangers to the character of Po, an animated, martial arts fighting giant panda replica of the man who voices him, Jack Black. In the last film, Po achieved his lifelong dream of becoming the Dragon Warrior, the leader of a group of Kung-Fu fighting who call themselves the Furious Five and protect the Valley of Peace in a medieval China. This time around, the difficulty isn’t proving himself to those around them, but rather putting the skills he acquired in doing so to the test by stopping a malevolent peacock Lord Chen, voiced by Gary Oldman, who has crowned himself emperor of China, from spreading worldwide terror and destroying Kung Fu via a revolutionary and deadly weapon he has invented, gunpowder.
But that is only one part of the story; whilst completing this quest, Po must also find his inner peace, as instructed to him by his master, Shifu, a red panda voiced by Dustin Hoffman. This idea, which first perplexes Po, becomes a burden and an obstacle as finding his inner peace proves to be impossible if Po doesn’t first come to terms with his past. Where did he come from? Who are his real parents?
If the premise sounds a bit farfetched, it is, but anyone who watched the original knows that somehow the premise of the films works. There is something charming about the concept that carries on from the second film that makes this one have a familiar likability.
But there is something missing from Kung Fu Panda 2, and that is that it doesn’t seem as fresh as its precedent. The main reason for this is how dull it becomes when the plot strives to get to the climax, the big upcoming battle between Po and Lord Chen. The action scenes become awfully monotonous, repetitive, and perpetual. Not only that, but the humor that made Kung Fu Panda so enjoyable is for the most part absent in this one, and is replaced with jokes involving characters tripping, falling, getting hit… Both of these elements take away from the enjoyment of the film.
What saves the film is how deep and extremely well written the character development is. The subplot of Po’s quest to acquire closure with his past is perhaps the best part of the movie, and is told with perfection, giving the film a massive amount of emotion and depth.
Lord Chen’s character is also one that is written cleverly and thoughtfully, and isn’t just another villain placed to cause conflict. His back story is interesting and gives an explanation to the character’s actions, which is something that you don’t get from many films.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is nothing like the original, but what you can say about it is that at times it proves to be far more moving, emotional, and deep than the first film. It is tricky piece of work, for it is hard to conceive what audience it is aimed for; it is much darker, complex, and heavy than the first one, but the humor and several plot elements seem to be aimed at its younger audience. In the end, neither the children nor their parents will be able to enjoy the film to the extent of the first one, but Kung Fu Panda 2 has just enough emotion and charm to be worthwhile.