Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

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Leaving his weapons at home was proving to be a very bad idea.
Leaving his weapons at home was proving to be a very bad idea.

Twitter Plot Summary: Po and the Furious Five are back, this time facing off against an evil peacock intent on destroying Kung Fu.

Five Point Summary:

1. More backstory!
2. Gary Oldman is a very evil peacock.
3. Van Damme as a crocodile.
4. Tiny cannon. BIG cannon.
5. Inner peace.

The first Kung Fu Panda did rather well back in 2008, so it was almost inevitable that a sequel would follow. That and the first movie barely scratched the surface of a China populated by anthropomorphic animals, so with all of the origin story out of the way KFP2 is able to dive right in and deliver a kick to the solar plexus.

This time round the theme is that of finding inner piece, with added depth provided by Po trying to figure out where he comes from and uncover his past. It was obvious that it would be raised at some point after meeting his father Mr Ping, a goose, in the first film. It makes a nice point about not having to be bonded by blood in order to be family to one another. At the same time both Po and the Furious Five have to contend with a villainous albino peacock, again played by a Brit – this time Gary Oldman – who has a dastardly plan to destroy kung fu using his new weapon: a gunpowder cannon.

The sequel follows the first film’s brand of humour, offering silly little visual gags (who would have thought a goat chewing on a robe could be so amusing?) as well as some top notch dialogue. This is again mixed expertly with some impressive martial arts action sequences and the obligatory time set aside to develop the characters a little more. In fairness the rest of the Furious Five besides Tigress have little to do, but they at least have a bit more to say this time round, and whilst there are numerous opportunities for them to work as a group, a sequence involving a Chinese dragon costume and infiltrating a city under enemy control is a particular highlight. Obligatory martial arts/action cameos are provided by Jean Claude Van Damme as a crocodile who can do the splits, and Dennis Haysbert as an Ox. As for Gary Oldman, he is well versed in playing a villain, and his character Shen takes the villainy levels up to eleven when compared against Ian McShane’s big bad from the first movie. Here Shen is a real threat to the ways of kung fu, and his methods tie in directly to Po’s own history.

"I am delightfully evil."
“I am delightfully evil.”

Po of course remains as delightful as ever, still every bit as enamoured with the ways of kung fu, but enjoying every second as the Dragon Warrior. The voice cast return from the original, which means there’s more of Jack Black’s childlike enthusiasm and naivety to see the audience through.

It’s frequently the case that a sequel dilutes what made the original so good, or retreads the same territory and has nothing new to say. It’a also common for kids animated films to have a bare bones plot outline and then spread the formula too thinly as each progressive sequel gets released. In the case of the Kung Fu Panda franchise, this is not true and Kung Fu Panda 2 does what any good sequel should – take the best elements of the original, then expand and improve on them.

Score: 4/5

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