There’s nothing quite looking at the shite weather outside and deciding that fuck it, you’ll go to the cinema, because your readers depend on you and your opinions to safely help them through the often frightening world of cinematic releases. Think of me as a tour guide, showing you the local colour, churches and the like and avoiding that alley where that family got stabbed up. Anyway- Kung Fu Panda 2.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Having unapologetically enjoyed the first one, I was ready for the sequel. Yes, I would have preferred if it was just a one-off and they focused their energy and money on something else, but in this day and age where almost everything has to be a bloody franchise, what can you do? You can either get on board, or get out of the way. I chose the former, but somewhat wish I’d chosen the latter. More after the inevitable plot summary.
“I hope this turns out better than your plan to cook rice in your stomach by eating it raw and then drinking boiling water…”
Following on from the first film, Po (Jack Black) is the Dragon Warrior, a fabled kung fu master who will bring balance to the martial art. Along with the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross and Jackie Chan) and under the supervision of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), Po must stop a new threat to kung fu, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) who intends to take over China with his mastery of fireworks and explosives. The plot is okay, although the first one was stronger. I felt that since Po is now a kung fu master, there wouldn’t be much to do apart from have him fight. The film gets around this by delving into his backstory and, amongst many other things, explaining just why his Dad is a goose. Thing is, I liked the joke that Po’s father was a goose. To me it was a throwaway gag. To explain it takes the charm away. Anyway, it all ties in to Lord Shen having played an integral part in Po’s infancy. From Po’s point of view, as the tagline for Jaws: The Revenge so aptly put it, this time, it’s personal. Jack Black is fine, as are Dustin Hoffman and Gary Oldman (although his character and voice slightly reminded me of Stewie from Family Guy). Angelina Jolie gets a slightly bigger part, but the rest of the five are largely ignored.
The problem I had with this film was the fact that there’s a lot more of Po pratfalling- precisely my gripe with the first film. Okay, so it would have been boring if he just kicked ass all the time being just another warrior, I get that. He’s always fucking falling over though. It garnered a few giggles from the children
I kidnapped and forced to watch films with me in my creepy film den in the audience at the very public cinema I saw it at, but even they stopped laughing after a while. If I had written it (and fuck knows why I wasn’t chosen) I would have made Po still amazing at kung fu, but have him be a bit of an over-confident douche about it. You could still have him learn his origins and leave the second half of the film virtually unchanged. Po wasn’t the loveable idiot from the first, he was just an idiot. This may sound like too much analysis for a computer animated, marketed up the poo-pipe sequel, but there’s a good story in here somewhere and I kept being reminded I was watching a kids’ film everytime Po acted like a tit. My point is this: if all this shite wasn’t even entertaining the kids, then what the hell was it for?
But hey, that’s only me being annoyed that not only has my major whinge about the first not been addressed, but actually made worse. The rest of the film is totally fine. The animation is truly beautiful and some of the flashback sequences amazingly stylised. The writing is sharp and the occasionally funny line or quip would have me smiling away in the dark. As I saw this in 2D, I noticed that all the action sequences were shot in a very specific way, presumably to make them more impressive to the suckers wearing the stupid specs. Everything was shot fairly close up, assumedly to make the 3D more “immersive”, but I couldn’t help but feel this was hampering the otherwise fun and imaginative chases and fights. I also liked the fact that Po and Tigress seem to be getting a bit closer and it will be interesting to find out if they go where I think they’re going to go with this in Kung Fu Panda 3, although I’m not entirely sure I want to see what happens when a panda fucks a tiger and the abomination created out of this unholy union.
The end sequence is brilliant too, fusing some impressive computer wizardry (the boats and hundreds of animals on them lit by lanterns are a sight to behold), with some laughs and big fights. The film really pulls it out of the bag for the final 20 mins and it was around this time I felt that what I was seeing on screen finally lived up to the original film. It’s worth mentioning before I get to one of my World famous concluding paragraphs that Guillermo Del Toro was a “creative consultant” on this film, which may explain some of the darker elements in this film- especially the ones concerning Po’s backstory.
“How many times do I have to kill the same stinking panda?”
Kung Fu Panda 2 is pretty good. It’s not as charming as the first and doesn’t deal with anything “deep” like body issues or anything like the first (it opts instead for a vague “inner peace” mantra) but it’s entertaining and funny at times. It’s fun, but the sequel-bait ending left me with a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth. The shine’s already starting to dull with this installment- is there going to be any left for the threequel? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.