With the defeat of Tai Lung in the last movie, it seems The Valley is at peace thanks to the Dragon Warrior, Po (Jack Black). Po is enjoying his fulfilled dreams and fulfilled prophecy kicking asses that need to be kicked with help from The Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu) with the wisdom and training from their tutor, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). Not long into the second movie, Po and company catch wind of a new player in China. Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) of Gongman City is threatening the safety of all China with a lethal and new weapon that could end all Kung Fu as we know it. It is up to our heroes to stop Shen from ending Kung Fu with Kung Fu. Po has the weight of his past on his shoulders with crippling flashbacks linked to this villain, Lord Shen the peacock. Now with the fate of China and Kung Fu in the balance, Po must educate himself about his past find true inner peace to save Kung Fu and protect China’s future.
Kung Fu Panda II is a fun flick and it still resonates with the right emotional heart-strings. Kung Fu Panda is better in terms of story but the sequel wins with its villain and action sequences. That being said, Kung Fu Panda 2 is still in an excellent movie. Po has fulfilled his destiny of being the hero China deserves. He is firmly positioned in his badass status as The Dragon Warrior and he’s loving it. Much of the movie is flashbacks of Po trying to remember days past with his parents as a child. He’s subject to brute and harsh psychological trauma thanks to the villainous and evil Lord Shen (Oldman) whose objective is strip Po of everything he olds most dear, physically and mentally. He attempts to do this by killing all the pandas, including Po’s father because of a prophecy he was told by a Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh). If he destroys Po from an early age, he would be too broken to stop him when’s grown up, or so he thought.
The movie is emotional yet amusing because of the dramatic irony between Mr Ping (James Hong) and Po. It’s a touching scene between the two characters when Ping tells Po that he’s adopted and where he found him. As viewers it’s comical because you can tell he’s adopted almost immediately. One is a big, fat, round, black and white panda but the other is a small goose. It doesn’t take two brain cells to rub together to work out that Po is adopted and that his parents would have been pandas. Hong gets some of the best lines and lends some great voice work. He’s greatly underrated and overshadowed by the bigger names of the cast including Jackie Chan (Monkey) and Angelina Jolie (Tigress) as well as the born-to-be evil Gary Oldman (Harry Potter) as Lord Shen.
Po’s first encounter with Shen doesn’t end well. He has a flashback in the middle of a fight. Po & company were lucky to leave with their lives. He freezes up as he starts to remember what happened. It’s an immediate remembrance with no time to digest this newfound knowledge. He has no idea what to do or how to interpret these revelations. He’s compromised the team and he’s not the warrior he once was when they left The Valley. Tigress sees this and stops him from participating in helping to stop Shen. She’s the hard, cold pragmatist of the group and she does what’s necessary. Po is on a quest for answers about his parents. His heart isn’t completely in it to stop Shen and save Kung Fu. He’s not focused and his head is not in the game.
Shen has an obsession with ancient technology and wants to use his new weapon to have China on its knees with him as its supreme ruler. It’s a deadly weapon that the Kung Fu masters of China have no defence against. He’s literally taking a gun to a fist fight, except this gun fires canons. I have to admit Shen is uncanny to Saruman The White in Lord Of The Rings with his underground munitions factory with wolves (Orcs) as his slaves. Furthermore, there’s the wolves (Orcs) defiling the surrounding villages and land’s resources to further their means to take over China (Middle Earth).
We’re given the general premise and soul of the movie early on when Po is witnessing Shifu’s attempts to master the art of inner peace. Knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t stop our enjoyment of the movie among the badass fight sequences which is one hundred times better than a lot of action movies. The action scenes flow effortlessly and they’re easy on the eyes. My personal favorite is the final scene on the water with Po mastering inner peace and Shen losing his patience because Po won’t die.
We also see some character development with the stone hard Tigress who trained herself not to feel pain. She’s more of a friend to Po rather than adversary like in Kung Fu Panda (2008). She helps him a lot more in mind, body and spirit as a counsellor. She is my favorite character in the series as she’s the ice-cold yet pragmatic embodiment of Kung Fu awesomeness yet she’s also a good friend to Po and the Furious Five with a good heart. The other members are there to flesh out the team but she is the only member I think that the writers truly developed properly. Every line is solidly delivered by Jolie and executed to perfection. Tigeress doesn’t hesitate when it comes to helping out her friends or defeating her enemies. She’s ruthless, relentless and wants to get to the bottom of every problem rather than walking around the problem before solving it.
Black was born to play Po and it’s only one of three roles that I think he does well. The other two are R.L Stine in the most recent rendition of Goosebumps, and Dewey Finn in School Of Rock. A voice role like this suits him really well and he doesn’t shove his Blackness down your gullet like he does in School Of Rock. It was needed in School Of Rock but in a kid’s movie like Kung Fu Panda, it would have been futile and annoying.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is darker than its predecessor and it may have some scenes that are too dark for young children. This film series is in my list of top five trilogies of all time. That’s because with each film, the quality is either static or increases. You find with a lot sequels that the quality has depleted in relation to the one before it. Yes,the first movie had things that were better than the second movie but the feeling is mutual with the sequel in relation to the first.
In conclusion, this is an excellent movie. It excels with the obvious quality of animation as well as the emotional story that touches us as an audience. Direction and the writing were all on point too. The action scenes are created with some on pure talent but the main antagonist is a winner. The British do make marvellous villains regardless if they are live-action or animated. Oldman as Lord Shen is pitch perfect and his voice as the power-hungry peacock sends chills down my spine. He gave me the heebie-jeebies on more than one occasion.
It meets the awesomeness of the first movie in many departments and still lives up to the skadoosh levels of its predecessor.