I have been waiting for Kung Fu Panda 2 since 2008, almost from the moment that I was done watching the original. So after two years of waiting, I was excited but also ready for a massive let down, ready for a poorly thought out sequel to ruin the original movie for me. But fans of Kung Fu Panda, rest assured Kung Fu Panda 2 is a winner!
The brilliant cinematography and storytelling make this a worthy sequel to the original.
Animated movies, by merging classic narration with modern cinematic techniques, create an impression of timelessness. Kung Fu Panda 2 successfully channels the power of animation to make an emotionally immersive experience for the audience. It builds upon the ecstatic exploration of the protagonist’s past through his hazy memories and many dream sequences. The poignant narration coupled with excellent graphics deliver a fascinating cinematic experience.
Gary Oldman as Lord Shen, the feisty peacock who wants to rule the world, proves yet again to be an unforgettable villain, regardless of the genre. Shen embodies the human thirst for absolute power by fascist means, making use of fire and metal to overpower the world. It falls on Po and the Furious Five to save the ancient world of Kung Fu. Other interesting additions to the cast include Master Ox (Dennis Haysbert) and Master Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme) as well as the character of Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) whose prophetic talent guides Po (Jack Black) in his quest down memory lane. Jack Black is back with a solid performance after a dismal turn in Gulliver’s Travels. Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) with his sublime thoughts is sadly missing from this installment, but Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) comes very close to replacing him with his prescriptions of inner-peace to complement the art of Kung Fu. Unfortunately, his character was not given as much attention and time as it deserved.
From Gilgamesh’s many adventures to contemporary cinema, storytelling is not just a means of entertainment but also a way to preserve the past in narrative form. This nostalgia for the past is more evident in animated movies. If we look at a few recent examples we find Toy Story 3 celebrates childhood bonds, Rango is trying to save the old Western world, Rio is literally about an almost extinct species of bird, and now Kung Fu Panda 2 captures the inevitable historical clash between the art of Kung Fu and modern weaponry.
Ironically, animated movies are often accused of succumbing to the demands of pop culture and many serious cinema lovers consider them below their supposedly higher standards. However, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a movie which not only entertains but also raises the right questions about ancient values and brings to focus the flip side of modernity. The sequel has a wider action canvas and greater thematic range which sadly leaves little space for deeper character development. But of course there’s a limit to what you can do in one and a half hour of running time. Overall, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a complete cinematic package, with ancient wisdom, riveting action, and great laughs.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 12th, 2011.
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