Sequels have never been my thing. I mean there have been pretty good ones in animation – such as the Toy Story series – but there have also been bad ones (I recall the Shrek series). Therefore when I heard that they were making a sequel to Kung Fu Panda, I couldn’t help feel just a little disheartened. The first movie was definitely one of Dreamworks’ best (along with ‘How to Train your Dragon’) but it seemed conclusive enough – and for me there was nothing to justify the production of a sequel.
So no, I did not care much about the movie. I watched the trailers and there were some funny lines there, but that was not enough to capture my interest completely. But then again, it is Kung Fu Panda, and I love all the characters in it (especially Oogway from the first one, and Po and Shifu). Therefore, watching the second part was ultimately, inevitable.
Part 2 – now where to start exactly (and I mean this literally as I walked in to the theatre 10 minutes late after a very hectic day). I missed the beginning – unfortunately. However, when I walked in, it was nice to see the familiar faces of the lovable Po and his relentless master Shifu.
I won’t go into many details for those who have not watched this yet – but this is how the story goes (without spoiling anything). Po, who has been made the Dragon Warrior is handed a new task of stopping a skilled yet troubled peacock called Lord Shen. Now Shen is no ordinary peacock. He is the banished son of the previous rulers of Gongmen City. By creating weapons, he intends to take over China and completely destroy Kung Fu. It is up to Po and his friends the Furious Five to stop the menace that is threatening to take over China.
There are various questions that are answered in this film (like if you were wondering how Po ended up with a goose for a father – the answer is here). Also, you see how Po fights demons of his past in the quest to attain ‘inner peace’.
Usually the introduction of new characters can ruin a perfectly good film. However in the case of Kung Fu Panda 2, two new main characters, Lord Shen and the Soothsayer are interesting and do not take away anything from the story.
Gary Oldman provides his voice for Shen, the proud, arrogant and slightly cowardly albino peacock. The way Shen fights is beautiful. I don’t know how Dreamworks does it but they really are artists when it comes to devising different Kung Fu moves for different animals. The Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) is another lovable character that predicts many years before the film is set that an enemy ‘in black and white’ will defeat Shen, which is what makes Shen go on a killing spree to eliminate all pandas in the region.
Of course the original cast of Kung Fu Panda is here too – this time with even more screen time. We get to see the softer side of Master Tigress (Angelina Jolie) in this one. Though Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Mantis (Seth Rogen) do not really have much more to do or say in this movie, their presence would have been missed completely had they not been in the film.
Po (Jack Black) is obviously the namesake and this time he has even funnier jokes to crack – and most scenes will leave you in splits.
Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is back again – funnier, wiser, definitely a treat to watch once more.
It was good to see Po’s dad Mr Ping (James Hong) too and there’s a completely emotional angle to their relationship this time.
The music by Hans Zimmer and John Powell had always been one of the strong points of the previous film – and it continues to add depth and enhance the mood in this film too.
It is difficult to write this without revealing major plot details, but before I decide to do that, I would really suggest this movie. For one, it does not feel like a sequel. It feels like a part of a whole movie (just like the Lord of the Rings movies did or Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources did).
So now when I think about whether there was a need for a sequel – I have to say ‘yes’. You cannot get enough of these amazing animal Kung Fu masters. I was slightly disappointed (I guess disappointed would be a strong word) – but I think they could have done without the very very very last scene which is what the film ends with. That means there will be yet another film – and I hope that the third time will turn out to be a charm and not a big mistake.
Jennifer Yuh (the director of this film) really continued the great work that Mark Osborne and John Stevenson had done in the original film. The story flowed flawlessly – which I think tends to be difficult when directors change.
Without saying anything more – please go out and watch this movie! You really must if you are a Kung Fu Panda fan or even a fan of animation. And if you haven’t watched the original movie – what have you been doing? You should get your hands on it immediately.
This film is not only visually spectacular, but you will also be pulled in emotionally. I cried watching this movie (and if you watch it you’ll understand during which scene(s) that might’ve happened).
Only one last thing to say:
This film definitely lives up to the ‘awesomeness’ of the last one and after watching this with practically no expectations, I’ll steal Shifu’s words and say – “I am simply at peace”.