Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Posted in Reviews by - May 30, 2012
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

With this sequel, the kung fu chops of Po the Panda (intrinsically voiced by Jack Black) and his buddies, the Furious Five, take another step closer to officially replacing Shrek as DreamWorks’ default family franchise. The cuddly Po wears his heart on his sleeve, and the sequel follows suit, straining at times to be taken a little too seriously. The first film’s strengths came from its world-building and Po’s illegitimate journey from zero to hero, eventually becoming the ‘Dragon Warrior’ through some funny kung fu movie references and neat fortune cookie philosophy – all touchingly played-out for the benefit of kids and parents alike. Now that Po is already a respected kung fu master with the Furious Five by his side, the only place the sequel can go is deeper into Po’s backstory and his relationship with his goose father. A more interesting distraction is the evil peacock, Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman in one of his more lavish moods), who utilises gunpowder to construct a mighty cannon to invade China, pillaging all the metal and resources from the village and funnelling it into giant, billowing furnaces (a reference to China’s industrial revolution, perhaps?). The story of gunpowder and its impact on China’s combat systems suggests a link to the Boxer Rebellion and the notion of ‘spirit soldiers’, a theme which appears in scores of martial arts films (the most obvious being Tsui Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China). The more serious tone means it never quite delivers on any big belly laughs – which is strange, considering the film is set in an anthropomorphic vision of ancient China inhabited by talking piglets and pandas. That’s not to say the film isn’t entertaining, because the action is undeniably well-crafted, the animation is great, and the interactions between the central animal ensemble are increasingly likeable. Plus, the fact Van Damme drops in to voice a giant crocodile is just priceless. But, unlike the first one, this won’t linger as long in the memory.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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