Anthony's Film Review
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Kung Fu Panda 2 delivers more fun action and a better story than the first movie...
When it comes to sequels, I tend to see one of two trends. The most common scenario I notice is when the first movie is great but the second one isn't. Once in a while, I observe the other trend: an original movie that is great and the sequel being even better. For Kung Fu Panda 2, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. The first Kung Fu Panda is one I consider to be just an OK movie, so naturally, I had expected that Kung Fu Panda 2 would either be lucky enough to be another average movie or be worse than the first.
To my surprise, neither of those outcomes occurred. Kung Fu Panda 2 turned out to be a better movie than the first. While watching this movie, I couldn't help but feel that the sequel actually addressed the biggest shortcomings of the original. Basically, Kung Fu Panda 2 excels in three areas. One, the action is more exciting to watch. Two, the humor is not overdone. And three, the title character of Po the Panda (voiced by Jack Black) is explored more in depth, which is the most important thing here.
Before I go into each of those three things in detail, allow me to summarize the plot for context purposes. Po and his allies - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) - must stop an evil peacock named Shen (Gary Oldman) from unleashing a weapon that would force all of China to bow to him. It's a pretty straightforward story. It's also predictable because it additionally includes an important training lesson for Po and a glimpse into Po's past, both of which are obvious in how they are connected to the plot.
So let's talk about the action. Although the first movie certainly has action, there is more of it here. Part of it is because there is a greater number of adversaries involved such that the protagonists are up against crowds of villains, not just a scattered few. And one thing I noticed here in Kung Fu Panda 2 that hadn't occurred to me with the first Kung Fu Panda was that the action seemed realistic. Even in an animated film where artists risk making the action look over the top and unrealistic, the fight scenes in this movie felt no different from those in a live-action martial arts film.
I also owe the greater amount of action to the fact that Po, though still in training, is no longer just a complete beginner with kung fu. This allows the other main characters to be more involved in the action and not just waiting for Po to shape up before getting into any fights. This has the additional effect of dampening down the humor so that it isn't so repetitive and overdone like in the original Kung Fu Panda. As a result, I did laugh at some of the jokes. One of my favorite moments is when Po and the gang are hiding in a Chinese dragon costume. As enemies come their way, the fights take place inside the dragon costume so that it looks as if there actually is a dragon running around and gobbling up the bad guys.
And with fewer jokes about Po being an incompetent, fat animal, the movie provides more info about the character. Early in the movie, Po questions where he really came from. It's a rather funny situation because Po's father all this time is a goose, and yet Po never figured out he was adopted until now. But aside from this moment, Po's backstory as it is revealed is both cute and heartbreaking. It's cute because Po as a baby is so adorable on screen, and it's heartbreaking because of what happened early in his life. All of this connects with the plot in a neat, though predictable, way.
Kung Fu Panda 2 isn't spectacularly better so that my rating for this movie is two or more stars higher than my 6/10 rating for the original Kung Fu Panda. Rather, it's better enough to warrant one additional star. Therefore, I'm giving this movie 7 stars out of 10, which is still good. And I will add that the final scene in this movie paves the way for Kung Fu Panda 3. If the filmmakers continue their upward trend with the quality of the series, then I expect the next one to be even better. Maybe it'll reach, or at least come close to, the level of awesomeness that Po loves to talk about.
For more information about Kung Fu Panda 2, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 3.