The original Kung Fu Panda is one of the only Dreamworks Animation films that actually holds its own in comparison to Pixar films. It managed to capture the look and feel of the classics old and new that martial arts film enthusiasts such as myself admire so much while also offering humor that was actually funny, fantastic animation, and just an incredibly entertaining film overall. It turned out to not only be one of the more enjoyable animated films of 2008, but one of the best films of that year period. So, here we are, three years later with Kung Fu Panda 2 resting on the horizon of its release that actually feels just as strong as the original without all of the endless shortcomings most would expect to plague a sequel.
When it comes to animated films, one of the most important ingredients is the cast. The voice cast can make or break an animated feature. A talented one can make it even better while a weaker one can result in it hurting the overall enjoyment of the film. Fortunately, the cast for Kung Fu Panda 2 is pretty spot on. The entire main cast (Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, James Hong) returns from the first film and while it would be nice to see some of them have meatier roles and/or more lines (Jackie Chan and David Cross for starters), just having them return is fantastic. Casting changes between sequels are never really great. They can be pleasantly surprising, but it never feels the same. So it's great to see the entire ensemble back in full form. My personal favorite from the original cast is James Hong as Mr. Ping. The Asian American actor is perhaps best known as the villain in Big Trouble in Little China and was also Hannibal Chew in Blade Runner, but hearing that actor voice a goose who runs a restaurant and is so attached to his kung fu panda/China saving son is awesome in itself. Mr. Ping is an emotional wreck with Po putting himself in danger so often and Hong just makes his heartfelt performance stand out above the rest.
Newcomers such as Dennis Haysbert (Heat, "24") and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sunshine) were fun additions. Yeoh voices The Soothsayer, who has a few humorous moments with Lord Shen, but realizing that Jean Claude Van Damme voiced Master Croc gave a little more weight to the throwbacks to well-known martial arts films. That influence is definitely there in the Kung Fu Panda films and both of them use that influence as a crutch in the best of ways, but having talent like Van Damme, Jackie Chan, and Michelle Yeoh participate make it all feel a little more genuine. It'd be like bringing in Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, or Sammo Hung. The cast in this is just as much a drawing factor in this as it is in something like The Expendables. It makes that homage mean so much more.
Gary Oldman practically steals every scene that he's in though. He brings that intensity and dark lunacy associated with his roles in Leon and The Fifth Element to the Lord Shen role; those same traits that made fans love his talent in the first place. He fits the role of an evil albino peacock rather well.
The animation is really the film's Tour de force. Every movement flows naturally and everything is so crisp and smooth. Fight scenes are so fast yet easy to digest. Animals talking, portraying human emotion, their hair folding in the wind all look natural. But the art direction of the film is something special. It was already fantastic in the first film, but they really bulked it up for the sequel. It's slightly reminiscent of "Samurai Jack" yet more awesome; more engrossing. It captures the feel of Chinese martial arts perfectly and the use of traditional animation during Po's flashbacks was an extremely welcome addition; having Guillermo Del Toro as the creative consultant on the film surely helped in their benefit.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is beautifully animated, exceptionally cast, laugh out loud funny, and nearly upstages the original at every turn. While certain things in the film like the "inner peace" bit are slightly predictable, it doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of a sequel that capitalizes and improves on its predecessor rather than feeling like a watered down version of it.
on June 16, 2011
When it comes to sequels, it's rare enough that one manages to measure up to the first film. More often than not they end up being disappointing to one degree or another. Particularly when you're talking about animated films (the Shrek and Toy Story films being more the exception than the rule). But Kung Fu Panda 2 is that rarity among sequels in that, in my opinion, it is actually an improvement on the first film in quite a number of ways, which I'll get to later.
In this film, Po (the kung-fu panda of the title) and the Furious Five (Tigress, Mantis, Monkey, Viper & Crane) are called on to face a new threat: the return of the exiled Prince Shen (a peacock), who has come back armed with a powerful new weapon and determined to take over the kingdom. Complicating matters though are the fact that Prince Shen apparently had something to do with how Po, a panda, came to be raised by a goose, Mister Ping, his loving if noodle-obsessed father. In order to find the 'inner peace' he needs to defeat Shen, Po must first find the secret of his past, a past that he only sees in flashes of haunting memory that Shen's appearance has awakened in him.
Beyond the plot though, almost everything in Kung Fu Panda 2 is better than the first film, which was already pretty respectable to begin with. One thing is that KFP2 steeps itself even deeper in Chinese culture and it shows in both the sumptuously colored and detailed art of the backgrounds, in the traditions subtly brought out in the story, and even in the musical score wrought by John Powell and Hans Zimmer. And there is more depth, both philosophically and artistically, to the kung-fu; a particular key sequence by Master Shifu early on is a slow and beautiful thing to watch.
The voice actors are all excellent, with all of the original actors reprising their roles: Po (Jack Black), Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and of course Mister Ping (the inimitable veteran James Hong). New additions include a sooth-saying ram (beautifully done by Michelle Yeoh), and kung-fu masters Croc (Jean-Claude Vam Damme) and Ox (Dennis Haysbert). And a notable cameo for film buffs is the voice of the Musician Bunny (director Paul Mazursky).
I have to give particular praise though to how well Prince Shen was done. At first thought, the idea of a villainous peacock sounds, well, ridiculous. But Prince Shen, as conceived and dazzlingly executed by the animators of KFP2, and as masterfully voiced by Gary Oldman, radiates arrogant menace and threat, in attitude and physically, in a fashion that is both artful and deadly. Director Jennifer Yuh said that "Shen proved to be a great challenge to animate, so much that the complexity of the character was like that of doing six characters all at once." IMHO, KFP2 is worth seeing just for Shen alone.
And, for what it's worth, this is one of the few 3D movies I've seen that was actually worth seeing in 3D.
My only quibble with the film is that it really didn't develop the Furious Five much as characters, which I would like to have seen. There are hints of things given about Tigress, but they're never really developed, and the rest of the Five are relegated to the same hero-support roles they had in the original.
Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good story and especially for anyone who liked the first film. This one definitely takes it up a notch.
My husband, child, and I are fans of the original Kung Fu Panda, but I was rather wary about this sequel since most sequels are never nearly as good as their predecessors. Well, I am glad to be proven wrong by Kung Fu Panda 2! All three of us thought this was not only a worthy successor to the original but actually much better. The key elements that make an animated movie a winner are all here - a stellar cast, impressive animation, well-written script, and a story that appeals to both children and adults.
The original cast returns in this sequel with Jack Black providing the voice of Po the adorable Dragon Warrior Panda; Angelina Jolie as Tigress; Jackie Chan as Monkey; Seth Rogen as Mantis; Lucy Liu as Viper; David Cross as Crane; Dustin Hoffman as Shifu the Kung Fu Master; and James Hong as Mr. Ping, Po's dad. In this sequel, viewers are introduced to a new nemesis, Shen, a magnificent peacock skilled in Kung Fu, yet possessed of the blackest of hearts. Shen is ably voiced by Gary Oldman, and every nuance and turn of phrase conveys the evil residing within this creature. One of my favorite Asian actresses, Michelle Yeoh provides the voice of the Soothsayer Ram, an important character in this movie.
The story this time centers around Po trying to find his inner peace as instructed by Shifu. Trouble is, Po is haunted by questions about his past, triggered by an encounter with a bandit wolf. Meanwhile, as Po goes through this inner conflict (something which he chooses not to share with his friends), there is serious trouble brewing over in the capital city. Shen, who was once the heir to the Peacock Throne has amassed an army of ferocious wolves, and most importantly, invented a weapon that makes Kung-Fu seem almost obsolete. Shen is enraged when the Soothsayer Ram refuses to back down from her prediction made many years ago - that Shen's fate is intertwined with that of something which is black and white. So the stage is set for a showdown between Po and Shen.
The story flows seamlessly, and the animation is of stellar quality. We watched it in 3-D, and I enjoyed the effects, especially the battle scenes (and there are tons of those in this movie). The talented cast makes this a pleasure to watch as each actor brings a unique interpretation to his/her character, and it wasn't about Jack Black voicing a panda, but Po as a real character that comes into his own in this sequel. As in the original, positive messages abound here and these are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story without seeming to come across as overly didactic. Themes such as the notion of what constitutes a family; loyalty; friendship; ambition/greed/evil; and self-identity are all portrayed in a convincing manner, and best of all, there's lots of humor in here, even when the subject matter is serious. This perfect balance of light and dark, the comical and serious, goes perfectly with the Eastern philosophy of Yin and Yang, and Po is the embodiment of these contrary forces.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is rated PG, with a running time of 90 minutes. It is a movie that will appeal to both children and adults, and is entertaining, fun, and poignant. Highly recommended!
on December 6, 2014
This review is for the quality of the physical DVD. My son loves this movie but unfortunately we were not able to watch this DVD when it came in the mail. The case and DVD itself were both warped deeming it unplayable. As the item is non-returnable, I'm very disappointed.
on February 24, 2012
My ratings are based mainly on the QUALITY OF THE 3D, not the video content.
There are about 110 out of screen effects that extend about 10% of the way, from the screen to the viewer. There are about 42 from 15% - 20%, 32 at 25%, 7 at 30%, 4 at 40% and 2 at 50%. These are some large numbers but the bulk of the OOS effects are very quick.
IN SCREEN / OBSERVATIONS:
Like most of the newer animated 3D films, the in-screen 3D looks very good but I found the background lacking at times. The shading and detail of the characters are an enhancement to the 3D experience.
I rarely comment on video content but as an adult viewer I was unimpressed by the storyline. IMO the film is geared for a young audience but conversely has a large amount of cartoon violence.
ACTIVE GLASSES USERS:
There is some crosstalk sprinkled throughout the film but most of it is barely noticeable by being hidden within objects.
(crosstalk varies from system to system)
MY 3D RATING = VERY GOOD (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent)
Note: As far as the percentages go, everyone's eyes are different. What I see at 25% you may see at 15% or 35%. To fully realize how far something is out of the screen for you, pause on an effect and direct a partner with an extended finger to the tip of what you are seeing. You may be surprised.
Click on my name for the lowdown on other 3Ds
on February 18, 2016
Watched this with the family. My daughters said it didn't have the warmth and pizzazz that the first one had, but was still fun to watch. This story ties directly into the third installment of this franchise, which is why we saw this before going to the theater to see the third one. This installment explains a lot of the missing pieces from Po's family story. But the villain in this story doesn't seem to have the "fear factor" that the first one has. Also, there is just no place for the bull or croc that appear in this movie. I don't understand their behavior at all. It added nothing to the story.
on February 2, 2016
Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme together in a film at last, even if it is just as voices (hopefully they'll do an 'EXPENDABLES' film together next)! The rest of the all-star voice cast, from the original, returns with Chan as well including Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, James Hong and Jack Black as Po (the 'Kung Fu Panda'). New voices (besides Van Damme) include Michelle Yeoh, Gary Oldman, Danny McBride and Dennis Haysbert. This time the film is directed by Jennifer Yuh, an Art and Animation Department vet but first time film director. It was written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (who also co-wrote the first film). The movie is not quite as much fun as the original (which wasn't a great film to begin with) but it does deliver the laughs and action fans expect.
The first film dealt with Po living out his dream by joining his kung fu heroes, 'The Furious Five', and becoming the chosen 'Dragon Warrior'. In this chapter he struggles with coming to terms with who he really is and where he came from (now knowing that he's adopted). While battling his inner demons he also must lead 'The Furious Five' to face a new enemy with a weapon that destroys kung fu. Of course he won't be able to conquer this new found enemy and deliver peace to his people until he finds peace within himself. To do this he must discover the secrets of his past.
The movie is just about what you'd expect from a sequel. If you're a fan of the original you'll probably enjoy this chapter as well, just not quite as much. Black and the rest of the cast are funny, a lot of the jokes are of course silly and geared at kids but the film has a decent amount of laughs to deliver a slightly older crowd as well (like the first).
The action scenes are entertaining although I heard from my two young nephews (who I saw the film with) that the movie is too scary at times and much more frightening than the original (I personally didn't notice). Guillermo del Toro was an executive producer and creative consultant on the film this time around and some say he added a darker tone to it. As I said I didn't really notice much of a difference in that way from the original but I'm sure that could be a slight possibility. The movie is fun regardless and should please most fans of the original.
on May 28, 2016
Kung Fu Panda 2 had the big challenge to continue being entertaining and surprising, even the "clumsy panda who wants to learn Kung Fu" jokes were already exhausted in the first part. Since my whole family loved Kung Fu Panda, we were hoping the second part would not disappoint us. And it certainly did not!
Kung Fu Panda 2 manages to keep a high level of humor and action throughout the whole movie. Po, now a skilled Kung Fu warrior, has to face a new enemy who wants to defeat Kung Fu by using machines (cannons). During the confrontation with the bad guys, Po will learn about his real parents and find his inner peace. I did find the villain in this movie, a peacock, to be very well made; he has a personality that is both evil and funny, and his Kung Fu is really cool.
The final fight, were Po fights against the cannons, is really epic. Is it only me, or did Po playing with the cannon balls also remind you of the final scene in Shaolin Soccer? (Shaolin Soccer (English Subtitled))
(Spoiler alert end)
Overall, an amazing movie. If you like animation, you absolutely cannot miss these movies!
on May 11, 2016
I LOVE this movie... such a great message for my grandkids about finding your giftedness and using it. I was even inspired by it. It is not just a movie for children! Enjoy! BTW... it also deals with adoption in such a beautiful way!
on April 21, 2016
I watched this withy husband and grandchildren and it was one of the best movies we have watched in years. My husband absolutely loved it! It is a great family movie, there is no cursing, lots of teamwork and strong morals. The movie plot involves a panda that was adopted and it gives a positive influence to being adopted. I especially liked this as so many kids today don't understand the concept of adoption. This movie reinforced that when you are adopted, you are chosen and are loved very deeply. The Panda's quest to his roots has an interesting plot which involves great balance between good and evil as he takes a step into a world previously unknown to him. Once again, it's a great movie and my family truly enjoyed it.