Action Movie Friday: Kung Fu Panda 2

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Kung Fu Panda 2
MPAA Rating: PG
Release: 2011
Genre: action, martial arts, adventure
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Dennis Haybert, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writer: Jonathon Aibel, Glenn Berger
Distributor: Paramount
Budget: $150 Million
Box Office: $665 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four and a Half cookies!

Now the Dragon Warrior, the panda Po has joined the Furious Five. In the far off Gongmen City, the peacock Shen has returned to claim his father’s throne backed by a weapon of formidable power. A weapon that could mean the end of Kung Fu. Po and the Furious Five must go to Gongmen City and save Kung Fu before Shen uses his weapon to conquer all of China. Po must confront his past, the time before he was taken in by Mr. Ping and what happened to his parents at the hands of Shen.

Kung Fu Panda 2 was very obviously a set up for Kung Fu Panda 3. It opened a box of radishes and then didn’t actually finish eating them all. And that last scene made it abundantly obvious no matter how much Kung Fu Panda 2 brought in, there was going to be a 3. The movie had a 150 million dollar budget and made 665 million worldwide. Domestic sales along covered the production budget, but let’s add the fact that somewhere in this time there have been short films and a television series and blah blah blah. They turned this into a franchise with plenty of licensing opportunities.

I had a lot of problems with the Kung Fu Panda plot. I felt that there was a good story trying to get out from under the muck of too many plot lines, too many characters and not enough development of the villain. And if those were the notes I was to give Dreamworks and Paramount on what to fix for this movie, well, they did. Plot wise, this movie was a breath of fresh air. They focused on two plots, Shen and Po. The Furious Five were there. They were nice background characters. But the story remained tightly focused on Shen and Po. Shen wants to conquer China. Po has to stop him. Simple.

Honestly, I’m not even sure the Furious Five are necessary. They don’t talk much. And they seem to be mostly there for sight gags and the arbitrary “we leaving you at a crucial point in the plot” scene that stories aimed at children with friendship themes seem to have. That and they haven’t really changed much from the first movie. They’re the type of friends Po may eat bean buns with, but not really the type of friends who he is going to confess his soul to.

Were some of the ways the story went rather cliché and tropey? Yes. Of course. Did it make it any less entertaining of a story? No. Sure, the whole “one image makes Po remember his past” makes me roll my eyes. But I’m an adult. I’m not really the target of this movie. (And wouldn’t it be more like a scent rather than an image. I know that’s hard to convey though.) As an extra bonus, I didn’t find myself cringing at the screen this movie. So, this time, the story cookie remains whole.

Yes, there are plenty of explosions to satisfy my need for pyrotechnics and a few of them made me gape. So, one cookie.

The fights of this movie were entertaining. This time we really get to see them all working together. I actually enjoyed the ‘pac-man’ homage. So, one cookie.

Once again, Viper and Tigress are just sort of there in the film. Tigress at least opens up a little to Po about her past and her training. But then, Tigress is the first to suggest leaving Po behind when she thinks he’s a danger to them. The real entertaining female of this movie is the goat prophetess, or the Soothsayer. Names seem to be optional in this universe. Even though she’s a prisoner, the Soothsayer still manages to retain some sort of agency and fighting spirit versus Shen. She’s also funny. But, but, there’s not much more to her than that. While a step in the right direction, I’m still waiting for a fully realized female character. Half a cookie.

In Kung Fu Panda I criticized that there was two sets of physics going on. One for Po and one for everyone else. Well, now that Po is a Kung Fu Master, the physics of this universe now work for him as well. So, you aren’t necessarily thrown out of the movie when Po can’t do something the others can. Though he still has a problem with stairs for some reason. Anyways, a much, much better universe all around. One cookie.

Kung Fu Panda 2 put actual life into this franchise with a solid story and entertaining fights and visuals. I will gladly sit down to watch 3, if only to learn what happened to all the pandas! Four and a half gingersnaps.

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