I love Kung Fu Panda. The original movie was a very pleasant surprise and really, just a very good movie. It avoided the usual Dreamworks trap of pop culture references and “edgy” humor and instead went with a simple but effective story about believing in yourself. It also featured some great martial arts action, despite the stars all being animated animals.
I suppose there is a precedent
Kung Fu Panda 2 is just as good, if not better. Following the “Empire Strikes Back” methodology, this is a sequel that actually features character growth. Most sequels seem to think they can get away with just doing things bigger and louder than the previous movie (see Transformers 2. Actually, don’t see Transformers 2. You’re better off just pouring salt in your own eyes.)
Similar to Empire, this movie is darker in tone than the prior film. Not that the original Kung Fu Panda was all bubblegum and unicorns, but the sequel just seems more mature. One scene in particular is a definite tear-jerker, but it’s so beautifully done that I can’t fault it.
The best part of this sequel is that it actually feels like a natural continuation of the first story. Po (the panda) is treated like the hero from the first movie should be treated. Everyone knows he’s a hero and he gets both recognition and respect because of it. The shit-fest known as Transformers 2 doesn’t do this. In that train-wreck of a film, the entire world magically forgot what happened at the end of the first movie (due to some kind of government cover-up). Ghostbusters 2 does the same thing: Everyone saw them save NYC from a giant marshmallow man, but by the time the sequel starts, no one believes they really did it.
Do you really expect New Yorkers to remember every little thing that happens in the city?
Final verdict: Of the two sequels that came out last week, Kung Fu Panda 2 is by far the better movie. It’s a great sequel to a great film. Also, Jean Claude Van Damme voices a crocodile.