Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011, Jennifer Yuh)

Credit must be given to DreamWorks animation studio for their decision to utilise a renegade peacock as the antagonist within their second martial art homage. For this decision pays off with one of the most ingenious villains to grace animation screens. Gary Oldman as the jealous and evil Lord Shen works, for unlike the more typical brawler Villains – like the first films Tail Lung – Shen utilises his mind to outsmart his opponents. This creates a different dynamic for which the protagonist group must overcome, and one that allows Kung Fu Panda 2 to feel fresh and exciting. Following the first films cues for action set pieces and comedy blends – Kung Fu Panda 2 manages to outshine its predecessor in its visual quality and animation standard.

Now a fully-fledged addition to the ‘Furious 5’ – Snake, Tigress, Crane, Mantis and Monkey – Po has fully accepted his destiny as the dragon warrior. Fighting bandits and protecting his valley, the young panda is seen as a hero and idolized by the village in which he lives.
Alongside this, Lord Shen returns to his home wielding a weapon of immense power, after being banished for 20 years due to his lust for death and fear of his own demise. Utilising this weapon as a means to control his civilians through the fear that it brings, Shen sends his bandit hoard to gather more metal so as to continue his dark plan. Repelling this theft, the furious five engage in the pack of wolves and during the conflict Po reawakens a dormant memory of his past. Realising Shen is key to understanding his existence, Po uses his responsibility of saving China as means to hear of his past and the ties the peacock has to his panda brethren.

Aside the inclusion of Shen, the one aspect of Kung Fu Panda 2 that works to lift this animation above its predecessor is that of the script. For where the first film outlined the development of Po, secondary characters were left to be quite hollow within the proceedings of the narrative. The sequel rectifies this with each character given further development within the cinematic universe in which they inhabit. This development in turn leads to the narrative arc of the sequel to become more entertaining and worthwhile.
Place this character work alongside the already brilliant voice acting and beautiful animation and Kung Fu Panda 2 is a statement of the level in which DreamWorks have ascended. With the flashback sequences utilising a different style of animation, the film manages to play around with what’s expected of a 3D animated productions. These flashbacks sequences showcases the brilliant art style of the film – while also giving an aspect of Asian cinema within the narrative arc.

With advancement in character development, more brilliantly animated sequences and a unique but amazing choice of villain, Kung Fu Panda 2 steps up on its already great predecessor. This update in quality makes the studio reach the heights usually reserved for the Pixar productions, with true justification to its purpose as the sequel. Jack Black again voices Po with comedy flair, but the true voice acting talent that stand’s out within this picture is that of Gary Oldman. Brilliantly vindictive as Lord Shen, his vocal tones and attitude establish the malevolent violence and crazy attitude concealed within the white plumes of the peacock villain – so at home within this martial arts world that the choice to have him included seems obvious upon reflection.

Plot – 4
Voice Acting – 4
Direction – 4
Special Effects – 4
Retrospect – 4
Overall – 4 out of 5