These are the times of sequels. The Pirates are poised to set sail into a fifth film while animations like Cars have followed suit with a second addition. However it is rare for a sequel to outshine its predecessor.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is one such exception. While retaining the fun and heart warming atmosphere of the original, it had added depth to the tale, revealing more facts about its characters and their personalities. The second chapter takes off to a flying start with an enchanting myth.
It predicts that peacock Lord Shen would one day be defeated by 'a warrior of black and white.' No doubt this brings a panda to mind so he sends warriors to eliminate the species. Displeased with their son's actions, Lord Shen's parents send him into exile but he swears to return and conquer China one day.
The scenes shift to the present. An adult Po is enjoying his life as the Dragon Warrior. He is least concerned about his birth origins until a town raid unearths fragments of memories. Disturbed, he begins wondering how he became the son of a goose restaurant owner.
Adding to his troubles Po's kung fu guru, Shifu learns that Lord Shen had returned armed with a weapon so powerful that it could wipe out martial art from the region. Po and his friends are rendered with the mission of visiting Gongmen City to overpower the evil Lord Shen and rid the earth of his weapon.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is not merely a 'good overcoming evil' type of movie but it also focuses on letting past incidents rest to go on with life. As Shifu tells Po at the opening scenes, it is a quest to locate one's 'inner peace'. Po manages to do this in the end and thus put an end to the chaos running through his mind due to flashbacks of his childhood memories.
The burly panda later advices the psychotic Lord Shen to let the past rest, that wounds will heal and scars will fade. You need to bury the skeletons in you closet to build a better future. Director Jennifer Yuh deserves applause for striking the right balance between light humour and darker drama. It deals with mature themes such as adaptation, letting go of past trauma and the evolution of a hero in a mature manner while retaining its lovable children's movie atmosphere. Therefore it caters equally well to both the young and elderly audience.
Another noteworthy aspect is the employment of diverse animation styles: the Chinese lantern cut-out animation in the opening scenes, the traditional cartoon visuals in Po's dreams and the popular 3D effects throughout the story. Plenty of laughs and scenes triggering your emotions are also in store.
The voice talents of the entire cast from Jack Black to Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Gary Oldman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Victor Garber and Michelle Yeoh is excellent. The well structured plot, luscious shades and detailed backgrounds such as sparkling waterfalls, sunsets, snow and night time rooftop episodes suggest that this sequel is a worthy offspring to 2008's Kung Fu Panda.