80 of 93 people found the following review helpful
Delightful yet amazingly faithful!,
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This review is from: Kung Fu Panda (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
With deep foreboding, I walked into this movie braced for second rate animation (at least compared to Pixar), endless fights between cartoons (as in the CGI "Clone Wars"), and a cultural sensitivity that was either painfully preachy (like "Mulan") or outright insulting (like "Aladdin").
At first, my dread seemed confirmed. Poor Dustin Hoffman mangles Chinese names without mercy - so much so that James Hong, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan have to deliberately mispronounce stuff just to match what he says.
But once the movie got rolling, I found myself grinning from ear to ear in sheer delight. Yes, it's true, Dreamworks can't compete with Pixar's technology, but they make up for it with beautiful graphic design, sheer wit and - of course - those hilariously quivering "Scrat Eyes". What's more, the animators somehow manage to make Kung Fu battles between cartoons both exciting and enjoyable - every bit the match of live action fights (which nowadays are nothing more than CGI with faces pasted on).
However, the most remarkable thing about this film is how faithful it is to Chinese culture - family dynamics, Buddhist philosophy, values, and even martial arts - this film simply HAS to have been written by Chinese. There is never a moment where it strains to "score points" with political correctness. Its characters are never tediously noble "anti-stereotypes", but are instead lovingly depicted with all their flaws intact while uniquely Chinese messages are delicately hidden within a plot crammed with excitement and laughter. Here you experience how parental love turns into suffocating pressure, here you see teenage rebellion as a monstrosity rather than a virtue, here you see the quirky characters of a city (complete with that wobbly "bound foot" walk), here you hear the wisdom of Zen detachment, and here you experience the sacred relationship between student and teacher.
Perhaps my opinion is biased by the surprise this movie gave to my low expectations, but I can't help but see this film as an unappreciated but precious gem. Now if only someone could do the same thing with Islamic culture...!
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 6, 2008 12:11:36 PM PST
Conner Macleod says:
Excellent review, H. Yin! However, I have a couple of points to address. I disagree with that it had to have been written by Chinese, surely it could simply be that the cast and crew took a great deal of time and effort into making this film as authentic as possible, doing their research and consulting with experts, as many films do. Dreamworks aren't known for doing things half-way, and apparently it paid off. Also, I don't think the animation is inferior to Pixar, to prove that just take a look at the Shrek trilogy, the animation in it is superb. This seems like strictly an aesthetic preference to be honest, both are great in their own way, having obviously very different styles.
Posted on Nov 26, 2008 3:38:48 PM PST
Susan L. Zurich says:
Do you know if this DVD is also available in Mandarin? Mulan is but I haven't heard that Kung Fu Panda is.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2008 1:19:45 PM PST
I don't know about the US release, but the Region 3 discs from Taiwan and Hong Kong have Mandarin tracks.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2009 7:20:15 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2009 7:35:09 PM PST
Howdy Mr Macleod! I didn't even notice I had replies to my review!
> I disagree with that it had to have been written by Chinese
Well, I was sorta using a euphemism - you know, it "had" to be written by Chinese, not it HAD to be written by Chinese. Anyway, what I was trying to say is that a lot of the relationships and psychology represented are the sorts of things that become apparent when actually LIVING as a Chinese as opposed to simply researching Chinese culture. Of course, there are a very large number of Americans who have done just that (and you don't even have to leave the US to get such an experience).
> I don't think the animation is inferior to Pixar
Of course, what I was referring to here was sheer technology, not "animation" per se (especially character animation and graphic design, which are subjective things). This is a quickly evolving field, so anything Pixar puts out can be obsolete in as little as a year. There are portions of Wall-E that venture into new lighting effects that have not yet been explored (most especially the extremely complex lighting interactions in the atmosphere of the devastated Earth). Obviously, Panda uses GRAPHIC DESIGN that is both bold and daring, but there really aren't any scenes where the actual RENDERING technology breaks the envelope. This being said, even Pixar can't afford to spend an infinite amount of effort and money on their movies, so the vast majority of Wall-E (including every moment of the spaceship episode) falls back on less intensive graphics that are much more comparable to that used by Dreamworks.
I think anyone would agree that of the three factors discussed here - character animation (how characters move and "express" themselves"), graphic design (artwork and layout) and rendering technology (the software package you do it all with) - rendering technology is the LEAST important to our enjoyment of the film.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2009 7:24:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2009 7:25:21 PM PST
> Do you know if this DVD is also available in Mandarin?
I looked and looked, but couldn't find one. I think they're missing a major opportunity by not releasing it in the US.
Posted on Jan 19, 2009 5:43:42 PM PST
"Poor Dustin Hoffman mangles Chinese names without mercy"
Curious, when is this?
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2009 10:24:23 PM PST
>"Poor Dustin Hoffman mangles Chinese names without mercy"
>Curious, when is this?
I'd have to go back over the film to give you the exact words, but I don't want to spoil it by over-watching the movie. Basically, it's the usual problem of trying to pronounce those ferociously difficult Chinese consonants - x's, zh's, and so forth. Of course, it's not nearly as bad as the phrases Joss Whedon drags his dismayed American cast through for "Firefly" and "Serenity", but it's still pretty brutal.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2010 8:25:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2010 8:28:10 AM PDT
Guo Nian says:
"Poor Dustin Hoffman mangles Chinese names without mercy"
"Curious, when is this?"
Actually in chinese, "shifu" means master, it's the chinese pronunciation of master.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2010 10:02:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2010 10:04:12 AM PDT
Dustin Hoffman PLAYS shifu, so he has little need to pronounce it unless he was referring to the turtle (besides, there's nothing particularly daunting about "shifu"). No, it was a name of one of the other characters that had either an "x" or "zh" name... what was the name of the bad guy? Maybe it wasn't the bad buy... I can't remember: it's been too long since I've seen the movie.
Posted on May 30, 2011 8:58:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 30, 2011 8:59:08 AM PDT
J. Warren says:
There's absolutely nothing about islamic culture worthy of praise... Nothing at all. That was a great review right up until you became politically correct, but maybe you were being sarcastic.