Recently I reviewed Kung Fu Panda 3 but the problem with that was that I hadn’t seen Kung Fu Panda 1 or 2. Ever since then, I’ve always intended on rectifying that. Now that both films are in my possession, this is my chance. I might be a little biased since I saw the third film before seeing the first two.
Kung Fu Panda
Po (Jack Black), a lazy, slacker panda, is the biggest fan of Kung Fu around doesn’t exactly come in handy while working every day in his family’s noodle shop. Unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Po’s dreams become reality when he joins the world of Kung Fu and studies alongside his idols under the leadership of their guru, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). But before they know it, the vengeful and treacherous snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is headed their way, and it’s up to Po to defend everyone from the oncoming threat. Can he turn his dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master into reality? Po puts his heart and his girth into the task, and the unlikely hero ultimately finds that his greatest weaknesses turn out to be his greatest strengths.
So this is the first one and you can tell that rather easily watching. The animation here is a little dated but was still very good. Being the first film in the series, it sets up the world in which the series takes place and the characters. The story here involves a Panda named Po (Black) who is a Kung Fu-loving lazy slacker who works in his family’s noodle shop. Po eventually falls inadvertently into the middle of the world of Kung Fu, training alongside his idols under the training of Master Shifu (Hoffman). When the evil Tai Lung (McShane) is headed their way, it is up to Po to stop him. I though that Po as a character is just an extension of Jack Black, sharing the same mannerisms and the style of comedy this character brings is very similar. He definitely has his moments which found me laughing several times, listening to Po’s many quips, watching him fail miserably, and just general slapstick. Unlike future films (I kind of already know), Po is learning everything for the first time and these moments were definitely fun to watch in scenes featuring Po and Master Shifu. These scenes are the best part of the film as I found both characters were voiced perfectly and the progression of both of their characters was fun to see. All of the voice acting was excellent here from Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Seth Rogen (Mantis) to McShane (Tai Lung) just to name a few. The action scenes here were well animated and exciting. This is a children’s movie but the story was pretty predictable with your traditional end result and character progression but the film is so entertaining that you don’t mind. This was a good start to the franchise, featuring interesting characters and a funny, original story.
Kung Fu Panda 2
In the Valley of Peace, Po (Jack Black) is revelling in his fulfilled dreams as he serves as the fabled Dragon Warrior protecting his home with his heroes now his closest friends. However, Po and company learn that the murderous Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) of Gongman City is threatening the land with a fearsome new weapon that could mean the end of kung fu. They attempt to stop him, but the panda is burdened with crippling memory flashbacks linked to this villain. Now with China in the balance, Po must learn about his past and find true inner peace against all opposition.
So this is the second one. Where the first film was about Po (Black) learning Kung Fu and then later becoming the Dragon Warrior, this one is mostly about him using his newly-acquired skills along with his friends, the furious five, facing a new foe, the evil Lord Shen (Oldman). Shen threatens the land with a fearsome weapon which could force the end of Kung Fu. Po is also crippled by visions of his past which mysteriously feature Shen. With this, Po must learn his past in order to find inner peace. While the first film served to introduce the characters and the world, this film did not have to do that and went straight into it. I liked that. The first film was more about the relationship between Po and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) which was good and this film is more about the relationship between Po and the furious five, Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Monkey (Jackie Chan). This was a welcome change as we never really got a sense of who they were in the first film so this one gave them more to do. Their scenes together were definitely fun to watch and it felt like they had great chemistry. One thing I liked about the first film was how funny it was and this is still the case here, maybe more so here. One main difference between this film and the first one was that it felt like Po’s role was reduced here. In the first film, it felt like he had the majority of the lines so only he had the chance to be funny. It felt like the first film depended a lot on Black as Po was just an extension of himself but this one gave the other characters a chance and I thought this film was better for it. The story here was again predictable and a little repetitive but most kids films are. I’m a big Gary Oldman fan but I was not a big fan of Shen as I found him boring. The addition of Michelle Yeoh as a soothsaying goat was fun as well. The animation was also nice to see and a slight improvement from the previous film with better fight scenes. This served as more of a continuation of what the first film started, not necessarily better but just as good.