Summer sequel overload is just beginning folks. Step right up and have a go at which sequel you think would suck less this weekend. Hangover 2 look too contrived? You saw Pirates 4 already? Well, if you’re among the many Americans that found it in their hearts to forgive Jack Black for Gulliver’s Travels, you maybe able to stomach this little dumpling. Kung Fu Panda 2 reared its cutesy animal face today, and it might just be better than I was willing to give it credit for.
Almost. I still found a few faults in an otherwise interesting mash up of cultural appropriation and appreciation. Although the scenes are much more varied and textured, much is lost in the 3D haze including the sharpness of battle sequences and sadly, the colorful explosion that was the last Kung Fu Panda. Dammit 3D. If you have the chance to see it in 2D, hunt it down as I promise things will look much better. Another thing I found to weigh the movie down was all the talk about inner-peace. Seriously, is it an attempt to get kids to stop squirming in the theaters? “Channel your inner-peace, Billy!” As for the whole search for Po’s identity and the “visions” reminiscent of TV’s Chuck? Check, please!
But if you can stand the whole serious panda business, you might be able to walk away with a decent experience. The cast has held on to all of the favorites like Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman with a few new voices for the villainous peacock by Gary Oldman and an old soothesayer by Michelle Yeoh of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame. The movie was directed by first-timer Jennifer Yuh, and a more caring touch can be felt in the sequel than in the original. That said, I wish she didn’t have to beat the message of inner-peace into the ground. Seriously, it was throwing off my own inner-peace.
But for ancient Chinese mythology fans (okay, me), the evil peacock plays a larger role in the myth of the ancient empire. The phoenix and the dragon are the pinnacles of power in ancient Chinese lore. Their images represent the empress and emperor of China, respectively. It is this power dynamic, the yin and yang, that also comes to symbolize the fight between Po, the dragon warrior, and the peacock that looks suspiciously like a phoenix in multiple scenes. The good versus evil imagery and the counter-balance of the two are what can either destroy or unite China. The movie just got twice as interesting, I know. You’re welcome.
Oh, and mini-spoiler alert: If I see one more summer blockbuster forcibly insert a cliffhanger for the next sequel, I will lose all inner-peace.
Funny for the kids, mildly interesting for adults, Kung Fu Panda 2 could have done better. It’s still watchable, but be careful if you go after you’ve graduated with no serious plans for your future. Apparently identity crises are contagious. C-