Computer-animated sequels Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2 will both hit theaters this summer, and it's one of the rare occasions where the DreamWorks' title is arguably more highly-anticipated than Pixar's flick. That's not to say the automobiles won't have the last laugh at the box office, but Po the Panda at least looks to give them a run for their money with his new adventure.
The Kung Fu Panda followup also features a colorful collection of new characters - and, according to producer Melissa Cobb, will be more serious and dramatic than some might expect.
Kung Fu Panda 2 seemingly abandoned its overbearing subtitle, The Kaboom of Doom, a while ago, but that cartoonish-sounding device still plays an important role in the film's plot. While the mechanics of how this tool works is anyone's guess at the moment, it's known that the villainous Lord Shen (voice of Gary Oldman) plans to use it to take over China and destroy the art of Kung Fu.
In order to stop this terrible turn of events, Po (Jack Black) must "look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins." As Cobb told THR, that will apparently be no small feat for the lovable martial arts master:
“['Kung Fu Panda 2'] deals with pretty tough, emotional issues that [Po] goes through, as well as a huge adventure. This movie is on a much bigger scale then the first movie. It’s been much more ambitious and hard to make from a filmmaking standpoint… It really builds on what was set up in the first movie, and has Po struggling with bigger issues than he did the first time.”
Oscar-winner Charlie Kaufman worked on the Kung Fu Panda 2 script last year and it's possible he was in part recruited to help up the stakes and emotional depth of the sequel. That's not to say that parents have to worry about taking their kids to this one - it's still Kung Fu Panda, so there will plenty of cartoon humor to keep things light. Besides, it's good to hear that the film will have a bit more substance and (hopefully) not just be a rehash of its entertaining predecessor.
Cobb also briefly touched on the topic of 3D in Kung Fu Panda 2, mentioning that "We looked for places where the 3D could really enhance the storytelling. Some are emotional places where we used it to connect more to the character." That idea harkens to James Cameron's previous comments about the intimacy of 3D cinema (back when he was promoting Sanctum), and it's an interesting point which is not often brought up in discussions about the pros and cons of the technology.
Kung Fu Panda 2 will definitely use 3D to accentuate its martial arts and action sequences as well, and those promise to be pretty exciting. If the sequel has anything like the "Tai Lung prison escape" scene from the first film (which Cobb says was actually created in 3D), then it could be worth paying the extra ticket price to see it in the third dimension.
You can re-watch that prison escape scene from Kung Fu Panda below:
Kung Fu Panda will hit theaters later this year on May 26th.