Back in 2008, I stepped inside the cinema for a movie that I thought I wouldn’t like. Or maybe I would like it, but it will never qualify to be one of my favorites. Fast-forward to 2011, almost three years after, and I’m giddy after watching its sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2. I never expected to relate closely to a fictional Panda character. Po is just so unique, very appealing, and heart-warmingly inspirational.
Po, the Dragon Warrior, has settled as one of the kung fu masters at the Jade Palace. He has become stronger and more adept at kung fu as compared to in the first movie. With the Furious Five (Tigress, Monkey, Crane, Viper, and Mantis), they protect the Valley of Peace from occasional bandit attacks.
But alas! The day has come when Lord Shen, the son of the Peacock Emperors of Gongmen City, has come back to take what he claims to be his. He defeats the masters of the Kung Fu Council, Masters Storming Ox and Croc, and kills Master Rhino. Apparently, Shen discovered a way to use fireworks and iron together as a weapon to defeat kung fu. And with his steadily growing power, Shen now plans to destroy kung fu and take over China.
And with that, Po and the Furious Five take on a mission to stop Lord Shen and save all of China.
I loved it! Totally awesome, totally hardcore!! The animation was so amazing—the colors were at the right shades and tints for specific emotions and scenes, while the textures and movements of the 3D drawings were smooth. Chinese-style art was effectively employed to give a touch of class and grace to the film. Sequencing was reminiscent of martial arts films and series.
After the release of the first Kung Fu Panda, I heard that the sequel would be led by another director. Now, I have my misgivings on director-changes in film series because the creative flow could be disrupted—either for the deterioration or the improvement of a film. Directors John Wayne Stevenson and Mark Osborne of the first film did a really great job that I hoped they would stay on for the rest of this film series (It was reported that Kung Fu Panda is going to be a seven-part film series.).
Surprisingly, the current director, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, took the creative vision even further. I believe that her fondness for martial arts movies and illustration helped fuel and bring out the magnificence of Kung Fu Panda 2. It should be noted that Jennifer Yuh Nelson was both the director of the opening 2D animated sequence and the head storyboard writer of the first Kung Fu Panda. Her filmography (not as a director) includes: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Madagascar.
Another element that has effectively contributed to the emotional depth of this animated film is the presence of executive director, Guillermo del Toro. When you watch Kung Fu Panda 2, you can feel the darkness and sorrowful themes employed that bring out the pain hidden within Po. These feelings of anguish exacerbates the triumph when Po is able to come to terms with his past and who he chooses to be. Just to clarify, the “darkness” contained in here wouldn’t frighten kids, it’s just enough to make audiences “feel” for Po.
More Awesomeness and Hardcoreness!
What I love about Kung Fu Panda are the intricate bits of wisdom that really make you look into yourself. These “wise sayings” are the sources of the “heart” of Kung Fu Panda.
Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that does not make you who you are; it is the rest of your story, who you choose to be.
—The Soothsayer to Po
Another thing that I love are the characters. I loved Master Oogway from the first film and I thought I would miss him in here, but surprise (!) he’s in the opening credits! I also like Master Thundering Rhino who I first saw in Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special. It was disappointing that he had to die in this sequel. I guess that’s how supporting characters are. Meh!
The last scene revealed that there will definitely be a sequel to this amazing film. Hopefully, it will surpass what this current movie installment has achieved.