‘Kung Fu Panda 2′ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 27th, 2011 at 7:51 am,

Kung Fu Panda 2 Reviews Kung Fu Panda 2 Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw reviews Kung Fu Panda 2

When Kung Fu Panda was released in 2008, I was not prepared. Like Po, the titular Kung Fu fighting panda bear, the film was a diamond in the rough – a wise Buddhist parable about destiny, identity, mentality and harmony, which also happened to be a cute and funny cartoon that tripled as an epic kung fu movie. Needless to say, these were not achievements readily discernible from a title like Kung Fu Panda and the tagline “featuring the voice of Jack Black!”

However, like another big sequel being released this summer (The Hangover II) Kung Fu Panda 2 is facing a challenge in the raised expectations of its audience, and the potential staleness of its subject matter.

So, does the sequel build upon the strong foundation of the original?

Short answer: Sort of.

In this second chapter, Po the Panda (Jack Black)  is now The Dragon Master, living alongside his idols The Furious FIve – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross). Po finally has the life he dreamed of (battling bad guys as a Kung Fu legend), but that happiness is soon shattered. One day, while in the midst of battle, Po is confronted by the Wolf Boss (Danny McBride), a villain whose armor bears a strange insignia – one that sends all kinds of repressed memories flooding back into Po’s mind, depicting his days as a child and hinting at his true origins.

These unlocked memories knock Po off his kung fu center, and he is instructed by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to learn new techniques of inner peace and harmony if he wants to both settle his soul and take his kung fu to the next level. Of course there is little time to meditate: The Furious Five (and Po) soon learn of the evil Lord Shen’s (Gary Oldman) return –  a nefarious kung fu master who is connected to the wolf bandits, and has developed a new weapon that could conquer both kung fu and China itself. The Furious Six set off for the city to stop Shen and save the day.

And so, it is on the road to avoid all the hard questions facing him that Po inevitably meets his destiny – one which goes far beyond his initial quest to become The Dragon Warrior.

Kung Fu Panda 2 Po Furious Five Shifu Kung Fu Panda 2 Review

Po and the Furious Five learn of Lord Shen's return.

As stated, the great strength of Kung Fu Panda was in its balance (insert Buddhist pun). The comedy was fun, Jack Black was well-suited to the role of Po; the martial arts action was epic and exciting to behold (even with cartoon animals); most of all, the script was so good, on so many levels, that there were multiple times when the film gave me goosebumps, or even had me choking up (R.I.P. Master Oogway). Kung Fu Panda 2 is a much more slick and polished product than the original – and the keyword here is “product.”

Like this summer’s other big animated feature (Pixar’s Cars 2), Po and Kung Fu Panda are a recognized brand now, and inevitably that change in awareness was going to affect the film. Where the first installment had breathing room to build a tight and cohesive multi-layered narrative, this sequel just dives right into a formulaic summer blockbuster plot. After ten minutes we have the conflict, villain, and the lesson Po needs to learn all set in place at rushed speed. Where the first film implemented action sequences at logical and organic points in the story, this sequel functions more like a three-act superhero movie: fight sequence in the beginning, pivotal action sequences in the middle, big set piece climax at the end. While some of the action is definitely slicker (now that Po and the Furious Five have more cohesive group techniques), a lot of it inevitably falls into that category of jumbled, no-stakes, hard-to-follow sequences you see in so many modern action flicks. A slightly disappointing downturn.

Thankfully, most of these issues begin to clear up some time past the halfway mark of the film. What we get towards the end is the smarter, more meaningful and resonant Kung Fu Panda that many critics fell in love with. The filmmakers indulge less in arbitrary action and Jack Black schtick, and spend more time developing Po and expanding those of themes of identity, mentality, harmony and destiny that made the first film so great.

I will say that the writers – Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, with help from others – do a wonderful job of tying off some of the lingering plot threads from the first film (for example, the gag about Po, a panda, thinking he’s the son of Ping, a goose). The script weaves those dangling threads into a new story that ties together both the narrative and thematic arcs of Po’s story, while simultaneously expanding the scope and size of the Kung Fu Panda world. They even manage to leave the door open for a third film ;-). This is all to say: the problem for me was not in the story, just how the story was executed.

Kung Fu Panda 2 Po chase sequence Kung Fu Panda 2 Review

One of the fun 3D sequences in 'Kung Fu Panda 2'.

If there is one pleasant surprise in the movie, it’s Lord Shen. Like the villain in the first film, Shen is more complicated than your standard cartoon antagonist, and the film wisely touches on some of the deeper issues that have twisted an otherwise skilled and wise kung fu master into a would-be tyrant. With Gary Oldman handling the voice, Shen truly becomes a full-fledged character/foil for Po, and not just the new face our heroic panda has to pound on.

With the exception of the final set piece (a battle on the sea), I can’t say the new locales of the sequel were all that exciting – especially in 3D. Most of the movie takes place in cities and/or buildings which (impressive though they are) is a stark contrast to the open terrains and plush Chinese countryside featured in the first film. More interiors also mean darker tones, and darker tones and 3D glasses mean murkier picture quality, which ultimately detracts from the viewing experience. The film was conceived for 3D, so there are some great ideas put into play that totally utilize the medium – but other times (mostly during the second act fight sequences), the murkier tones, tighter shots, and convoluted kung fu group mechanics made it hard to tell what was going on. The good news is that the film ends on a strong note, with an epic and (literally) explosive battle that should leave you Street Fighter fans especially satisfied ;-).

The first Kung Fu Panda was a great movie that arrived on the expectation of a bad one; Kung Fu Panda 2 is a good movie that arrives on the expectation of a great one. Despite its drawbacks the kids will still love it, it’s still epic and entertaining for adults, and the movie still manages to say something inspired and meaningful – even if it takes a little longer to do so.

See what the movie is all about in the Kung Fu Panda 2 trailer below:

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Only read the stars rating and the last paragraph, still excited to see this. Thor and fast also got 3.5 stars right?

  2. Great review! I am sitting in English class right now learning about how to write “academically”, and you have nailed just about every point made by the instructor.

  3. Great Review! Im sure I will love this one…. seeing it soon :)

    • Remember what u said what if Panda 2 gets 2 stars well it did`nt and it got 4 stars!

      • Haha yeah :)

  4. Really going to see This one :)

  5. This is interesting; wonder WHERE-oh-WHERE did they get such an original idea, hmmmm?


    Chop Kick Panda-”Lu is a large (okay, fat) lovable panda who is the 6th generation owner of the Tae Kwon Do dojo. What Lu doesn’t know is that buried beneath the dojo is the ancient Amulet of Fury. The mythical amulet gives its owner ultimate power and protection. When the villainous tiger warrior, Kudo, terrorizes the small village in pursuit of the amulet, it’s up to Lu and his rag-tag team of martial artists to stop him!

    A panda that practices martial arts makes an incredible discovery about the dojo that’s been in his family for six generation. Lou may be large, but he’s a true Tae Kwon Do master. Upon discovering that the legendary Amulet of Fury has been right beneath his paws since the day he was born, the wily panda embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.”

  6. going to see this this Saturday with my oldest son, Link (his four). I’m really excited to see his little face light up at his first “big people” movie.

    • Link like zelda?? Awesome!

    • Link? Hehe, like Zelda. And like the visual Internet browser for Unix-like systems.

  7. Kung Fu Panda, rocks!
    Big Fan of the Jack Black!

  8. Saw it at midnight, really was an amazing movie. I felt they used the action to set the base and then build into the story from there. I’m not a film student or expert or anything like that so I miss the finer flaws in a movie that this review points out. Still a fantastic movie and worth seeing.

  9. I really enjoyed this movie, and the art direction was beautiful (I saw it in 2D so I didn’t have the same problems you did I’m assuming). Although I do have to say that the story is a bit uneven but at least it wrapped up nicely (a bit too nicely I thought) and I was a bit shocked at how dark this film went (little kids might be a bit troubled, there were a few crying in attendance in those scenes), but its still a fine movie.

  10. I saw this film last night. Save your money. Over hyped. Dreamworks should’ve stuck with the original team for the sequel.

  11. Totally agree. Good movie, but a bit disappointing. Some sequels can equal or even surpass the original (i.e., Shreck 2), and I had high hopes for this. But as you said, it was a bit too packaged- Jack Black felt more forced, and there were actually 2 huge ending fight scenes that had me thinking, geez, just end already! I took a big group of students to this as a field trip. Overall they loved it, but their attention wandered a bit during a lot of the conversation/ explanation pieces (and there are a lot of them- see it with a big group of kids and it will be apparent). Overall, a good film, though! We left with smiles on our faces and several of the boys reenacting the kung fu moves! A sure sign of a successful action movie!

  12. I loved this movie so much a worthy sequel indeed! :)

  13. I thought this one was excellent. Definitely on par if not better than the first, and if anything, it was the perfect sequel because we got to pick up with the characters where the first film left off and watch them develop even more so. The first movie feels like a struggle for all the characters: Po is hated by the five, the five are frustrated that they are stuck with a fat panda for a dragon warrior, Sifu is in bewilderment that Po actually IS the dragon warrior and struggles to think of how to turn him into just that, etc. But in this movie we finally see the dragon warrior and the furious five working together to fight a common enemy and it gives this movie more of a sense of unity and family, which is s nice change from the first where everyone pretty much hates one another. I feel like Po’s discovery of himself seems more profound in this movie as well. In the first film we are told that you don’t have to be special to be something incredible, but that never quite made sense to me because why wouldn’t Oogway (spelling?) pick just any citizen of the valley to be the dragon warrior? But in this film we see that Po actually IS special and WAS meant to be the dragon warrior for a reason. The movie does a great job of backtracking through Po’s life, both before the first Kung Fu Panda and during it to create what I feel a more profound sense of self. And not only does just Po become more developed but all the characters do. We become more aquainted with Po’s father as well as seeing some tender moments from Tigress that were never present in the first film. Also, this may just be my love of Gary Oldman but I particularly enjoyed the villian of this movie, in fact he was my favorite character in it. The way he looked, moved, spoke, his background story, everything about this character was just so enjoyable to watch, I liked him much better than the villian in the first film. And on a side note, I liked how they used the transitions between 2D and 3D animation (not 3D like 3D glasses). I thought it was a great way to kind of stylize the movie and didn’t feel out of place at all. The only minor complaints I have about this movie were that one: the fight sequences were a bit excessive and there wasn’t as much one on one fighting as in the first one, it was more five on fifty all the time, and the final ‘duel’ between the two main characters was a little short for my liking. (Probably because they split the fight into two parts which I hate because it doesnt make up for one epic one on one battle.) And two: It was missing just a little charm that the first one had established, probably because the story made for a bit more drama instead of humor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, to finally wrap this up, I thought this movie was a great continuation of the series and I’m glad they are treating it with such care like Pixar did with Toy Story because it truly deserves it. I am excited to see where they take it next.

  14. I really enjoyed this movie, and I do wonder if Po and Tigress have feelings for each other.

  15. I never watched this movie yet. I am really looking forward of seeing this soon even if only in our home. My friends are telling me its great and watching the trailer entices me to watch. :)

  16. I was expecting a sucky movie and was pleasantly surprised to find a good one. Once again, Screenrant review person, we both went in with different expectations (Hangover 2, Kung Fu Panda 2) and came out with semi different experiences. We are 2 for 2 with sequels, and I have not read your reviews of Thor or First Class – nor do I want to, I think we’re good as is.

  17. I like kung fu panda 2 because it is so cool its cooler than kung fu panda1 I hope that the others watch it too!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. I like po he’smy favorite character because of his funny kung fu moves thats why i like po

    • How old are you? Because my 5 year old cousin sounds exactly the same as you :D. In-fact I think you used her exact words…

  19. I thought it was great!! Can’t wait for Kung Fu Pnada 3!!!!

  20. The film has great character development for Po and Tigress, however, imo the other characters weren’t give that much exposure. I liked how the origins of Po were explained, something that wasn’t discussed in the first movie. It’s great movie that both kids and adults can enjoy.My full review is here: http://bit.ly/iFT9wY