Kung Fu Panda 2 might be just another instalment in another big dumb multiplex franchise, but it's a beautifully designed and crafted one.
The noodle-chomping, high-kicking big bear returns in this superbly made 3D animation sequel, reunited with his gang The Furious Five to meet the challenge of an explosive new foe and discover the truth about his origins. And why his dad is a goose (the best running joke from the original Kung Fu Panda).
Continuing DreamWorks' policy of using big-name voice stars, here (among countless others) it's Jack Black and Gary Oldman's turn to jump on the gravy train; Black reprising his role as the affable overgrown teen panda, Po, who just wants to be awesome, while Oldman gives evil aristo peacock Lord Shen sinister gravitas.
Stewing in their sweet and sour archetypes like fatted pork in an all action chop suey, this overcooked pair continue Hollywood’s supercasual superhero mission of kicking over-educated-old-world ass and making everything cool again for the overconsumption of carbohydrates. Who needs all that tedious training, talking and tradition when you can blow 'em away with a belly slam.
Taking a lead from Genndy Tartakovsky’s seminal TV series Samurai Jack (see also the prologue for upcoming Priest), the stylish 2D Chinese shadow puppet style backstory sequences give a visual richness and texture. An interesting idea here about the destructiveness of guns coming from the joyfulness of fireworks could have been further explored.
Genuine moments of tension, humour and pathos come from the well realised characters (especially Po's dad Ping, the Yoda-like wise Master Shifu and the protective Tigress), while as brilliantly staged and exciting as the fights are, there's perhaps a few levels too many in this video game-like structure.
Kung Fu Panda 2 might be just another instalment in another big dumb multiplex franchise, but it's a beautifully designed and crafted one with much to admire, drawn from the joyful karma of animation ninjas rather than sucked from soulless executive spreadsheets. In the words of Po,"Im not just a big fat panda – I'm the big fat panda."
The original kicked ass but will sequelitis kick in?
Brilliantly made, but maybe too many battles.
Great at the time but little long-lasting substance.