Mystically awesome! That’s what it was. I sat at the cinema for one of the biggest movies of summer 2008, Kung Fu Panda, for the second time. Yup, I actually watched it a week ago, and just wanted to watch it again.
For quite some time, our protagonist, Po the Panda (voice by Jack Black) dreamt of being a kung fu master in his own right, instead of being stuck with his father’s noodle business (not actually a father panda, but a goose, named Mr. Ping). With the escape of Tai Lung (Ian McShane) the snow leopard, the main antagonist with a plot to exact revenge by wrecking the Valley of Peace, kung fu masters Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), a tortoise, and Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), a red panda, decide that it’s time to choose the legendary Dragon Warrior, destined to bring peace to their valley, and inner peace to master Shifu.
At the actual ceremony (where Po is hopelessly stuck outside the temple doors), master Oogway senses the Dragon Warrior’s presence. Through an unexpected turn of events, Po gets chosen as the Dragon Warrior. Though hard to be believe and saying it was all an accident, master Shifu builds distaste for Po as a student, but in time, learns to believe in and accept Po for what he is. This builds Po’s confidence, becoming a kung fu warrior with his own style. In the supposedly battle of the century, Po comes face to face with Tai Lung and defeats him, thus fulfilling his destiny.
In the words of the film’s promotional tag, pure awesomeness! I wouldn’t see it a second time if it wasn’t that great! I’m not a hard-core kung fu movie fanatic, save for Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, but this really rocks! The film opens to animated traditional Chinese fine art, then moves in to the CGI in a creative transition. I appreciated the detailing, the play on Chinese and kung fu art (shadows, close-ups, the moves, slow motion, and all those). With animals as characters (not to mention its being a CGI film), it was so much easier to enhance and exaggerate the kung fu moves that human kung fu artists couldn’t possibly do; like running through cave walls while stalactites fall, bouncing off a kung fu opponent with your huge belly, or a magnificent kung fu face-off in a hanging bridge. The comedy element was hilarious, especially when Po’s in action–something I would describe as comedic kung fu (?). Imagine the big, fat panda, in a fighting sequence that raises your adrenalin, then suddenly, you laugh at the string of wild antics done by this bulky but lovable panda. It made my day, actually. I just wished that instead of the theme song, “Kung Fu Fighting,” the producers had an uplifting ballad made since, through its martial arts action, it has become an inspirational flick. You know, songs like “Go The Distance” is to “Hercules,” “When You Believe” to “The Prince of Egypt,” or “Reflection” to “Mulan.” But anyway, “Kung Fu Fighting” lends a rather fun atmosphere.
As a non-martial arts fanatic, watching Kung Fu Panda made me see the elements of surpirse, mysticality and sacredness that usually surround these type of movies, as well as lessons like finding inner peace, being one with nature, humility, perseverance, and discipline. Another thing I noticed was the use of sayings in the dialogue, which got me listening intently. Examples are: “There are no accidents,” The mind is like water.. (I forgot how it goes, sorry!), or Po’s own saying, “There is no charge for awesomeness… or attractiveness.”
Just like in the first time I saw it, I cried in the emotional scenes like where Po gets laughed at behind his back, or when Po and Shifu have a confrontation wherein Po admits his pain and disappointment in Shifu’s way of treating him, or in the retelling of Tai Lung and Shifu’s past. In a way, I could relate to what Po was feeling: something you have always dreamed of is almost within reach then suddenly, people tell you that it wasn’t for you, that you wouldn’t be all that you have always wanted to be, and the one person whom you believed could help you, doesn’t even believe in you. Life’s a sore sometimes. But for Po, and in the words of master Oogway, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift–that is why it is called the present.”