Packed to the brim with slapstick comedy, superb fight scenes, some cracking vocal performances (notably Ian McShane as the villainous Tai Lung – incidentally, is there anything which isn’t improved by Ian McShane?) as well as good humour and surprising emotional touches, Kung Fu Panda was an unexpected hit back in 2008.
Packed to the brim with slapstick comedy, superb fight
scenes, some cracking vocal performances (notably Ian McShane as the villainous
Tai Lung – incidentally, is there anything which isn’t improved by Ian
McShane?) as well as good humour and surprising emotional touches, Kung Fu
Panda was an unexpected hit back in 2008.
Kung Fu Panda 2
attempts to expand upon its success (nothing successful goes without a sequel
these days) and while the result is a fast paced and fun ride with some utterly
gorgeous animated sequences, it doesn’t quite pack the same, well, punch as its
Newly appointed Dragon Warrior, Panda Po (Jack Black), and
the Furious Five – Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Tigress (Angelina Jolie),
Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (David Cross) – act as stalwart defenders of
their village. But Po has yet to
master the next stage of his training, inner peace, because he’s troubled by
some disturbing images of his fuzzily remembered childhood.
There’s no time for idle contemplation though as the village
is soon under attack by psychotic peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) and his army
of wolves (led by Danny McBride) who are scouring the country for metal to be used in a super-weapon which he
plans to conquer all of China with.
Meanwhile, Shen’s soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) has prophesised that he
will be defeated by a warrior of black and white…
The animation throughout is superb, improving on the scale and complexity
of the first instalment, mixing a traditional fairy tale-style used for the
flashback scenes and some dazzlingly colourful and well-judged segments for the
present. Particular highlights
include a runaway rickshaw chase scene and a breathtakingly beautiful final
battle in which Po stands solitary on a boat at night facing the entire might
of Shen’s army.
The battles are well choreographed with a special emphasis
on the Furious Five working together as a team. It’s almost a shame that the fights often don’t last very
long and zip past at a rate which demands a second viewing. Special mention should go to Lord
Shen’s animators who have managed to give the peacock a balletic and graceful
style which is no less deadly for that.
Jack Black excels at playing over the top characters; he’s almost
a walking cartoon himself and, in many ways, is the perfect fit for Po.
Similarly Gary Oldman’s Shen is infused with exactly the right kind of
aristocratic menace, teetering on the brink of madness – proving once again why
Oldman remains the villain of choice for Hollywood.
It’s just a shame that with such great cast, the other
actors hardly get a look in.
Angelina Jolie’s Tigress gets the most screentime of the Five but that
only amounts to a few lines. Were
it not for the credits, it’d be easy to miss the other actors completely in
this ensemble. There’s also a
wasted cameo by Jean-Claude Van Damme as an ass-kicking crocodile whose
screentime flashes by in a wink.
There are also not as many laughs this time round mainly
because, as Po is now an accomplished warrior and not simply an overweight
bumbling lard ass, there’s less potential for pratfalls. It also lacks the
emotional thread which underscored the first film so brilliantly – somehow Po
defending a whole country is less satisfying than him achieving his childhood
Overall, it’s an enjoyable sequel; fun, fast-paced and full
of frenetic fight scenes. It doesn’t quite have the high-kicking hi-jinks of
the original but its fans will have a blast. Skadoosh indeed.