Kung Fu Panda was a film that caught me somewhat by surprise. I can remember glimpsing the trailers and nothing really attracting me to the film. I only really gave it the time of day when a good friend at work raved about how great it was, a person whose film opinion I trust so much I ended up buying the film on DVD later that day for a fiver. I sat down, watched the film, and found that it contained a martial arts epic hidden with the adventures of a cartoon panda and his friends; it was utterly fantastic! About a month later I found out that a sequel was due.
Fast forward a year or so, and the sequel is hitting the cinema screens and I was lucky enough to get along to one of the preview screenings showing this week (not that this was hard to do…). The good news is that the film is just like the first – combining beautifully choreographed martial arts sequences within a story that combines laughs, thrills, and the quest for self-knowledge. As the film unfolded I found myself gasping, laughing, on the edge of my seat and just generally really enjoying myself. One of the opening fight sequences set in a musician’s village is a wonderful piece with the soundtrack for the scene involving combatants encountering the instruments of the village residents leading to a very percussion based soundtrack.
The animation of the film is even more gorgeous than the first. In the first we had the training montage and in this we get the travel montage showing the journey across China with a range of different locations all beautifully rendered. On arrival at Gongmen City (where the majority of the film takes place) it’s a gorgeous city with a mass of winding streets and alleys heaving with background detail and characters racing around.
I would be wary about recommending this film if you haven’t seen the first one – there’s not really much of an explanation as to who the existing characters are, and how they have got to where they have got – then again the friend I went to see the film with hadn’t seen the first one and they found it very enjoyable so it may not be an issue. I also found it was quite easy to guess where the film was going to go from the opening scenes, it doesn’t require a huge imagination to plot out the downfall of the bad guy, but in this case I think the film is more about the journey – giving you a couple of expected twists along the way but leading to the point where you expect it to reach. I think it’s also worth nothing that (for me at least) the most important lasting question for the first film is dealt with in this one, and it’s dealt with well in a very funny way – I don’t want to say too much on this for fear of spoilers but you don’t be disappointed.
So yeah, the film was fun, it had the big scale and the feeling of a classic kung fu film. It’s great to see something keeping the genre alive and hopefully this will open the doors for more skilling martial arts films to return to the cinema (or at least a Kung Fu Panda 3 where the real world physics aren’t such an issue…). It you’ve seen the first and enjoyed it, you’ll enjoy this one; if you’ve not seen the first, what are you waiting for? Go watch it now!