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Monday, February 13, 2012 11:04 AM
(Last updated on Monday, February 13, 2012 12:19 PM)
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Books (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Craft (Not), Harry Potter (Not), History (Not), Holiday (Not), Indiana Jones (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Mario (Not), Monty Python (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), Transformers (Not), Vampires (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:03 AM
On the Viewer - Kung Fu Panda 2
 by Fëanor

I reviewed the first Kung Fu Panda film here. One thing I failed to mention in my write-up is that it's a surprisingly moving and emotionally effective film. That's doubly true of Kung Fu Panda 2, which made me weep more and longer than any other recent film I can think of.

Of course, part of the reason for all the crying could be the fact that I'm a new father, the kind of person whose buttons this movie seems specifically designed to push. You see, as in the first film, one of the major themes of Kung Fu Panda 2 is parents and children. It opens (after showing off a clever, redesigned version of the Dreamworks logo featuring the late kung fu master Oogway) with a prologue which tells the story of a peacock named Shen (Gary Oldman). The prologue is animated in a stylized, flattened, puppet-show style and narrated by Michelle Yeoh, who also voices a new character - a (rather hungry) goat known only as "The Soothsayer." In the prologue, Shen's parents found a grand city and invent fireworks, but Shen spends his time developing a deadly new use for the fireworks' black powder. The parents, worried for their son, ask the Soothsayer what will become of him. She tells them their son will be defeated by a black and white hero. Shen overhears, gathers an army of wolves, and raids a nearby panda village, thinking to eliminate any potential black and white heroes before they can move against him. (Yep, that's a genocide before the main story has even begun!) When he returns in triumph, his parents, horrified by his terrible acts, are forced to banish him.

Meanwhile, in the present, our titular hero (Jack Black as Po) has settled comfortably into his role as Dragon Warrior and protector of the Valley. But a meeting with Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and a confrontation with some metal-scavenging wolves leave him with a difficult new task to complete, and a disturbing mystery to solve. Shifu wants Po to achieve the next level of kung fu enlightenment: inner peace. But a symbol on the wolves' armor leaves Po anything but peaceful. Was the vision it invoked - of fire and a female panda pushing away from him - just a nightmare, or a memory of his earliest, forgotten childhood? Soon Po has even more to worry about, as it becomes clear that the wolves are working for the evil Shen of the prologue, who has now returned to take over all of China, wielding a mysterious new weapon that could destroy kung fu itself. How can Po achieve inner peace and defeat Shen's terrible weapon when he's no longer sure who he is or where he came from?

I was quite taken aback by Shen as a villain. He's not at all like Tai Lung, the villain of the first film. Tai Lung was the ultimate kung fu master - tall, muscled, physically imposing; the embodiment of power and strength. But Shen is thin and small and delicate. Although he holds his own in the film's numerous, exciting, visually stunning action sequences, by his own admission he is not a master of kung fu. This is at least partly why he's developed a weapon that can defeat kung fu - a weapon which he is almost constantly hiding behind. Because, also unlike the proud and confident Tai Lung, Shen is fearful and cringing, still haunted by the Soothsayer's prophecy of the hero who will defeat him. The constant is that Po is once again that prophesied hero. And once again the real conflict happens, not between Po and the villain, but between Po and his own doubts and fears.

Po's partners in kung fu, the Furious Five, are all back, voiced as before by Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Lucy Liu, and Angelina Jolie, but they are now joined by a handful of new kung fu masters: Master Croc (actual martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme), Master Oxen (Dennis Haysbert, the guy from 24 and those insurance commercials), and Master Thundering Rhino (Victor Garber, TV guest star extraordinaire, whom I still remember best as the Dad on Alias). These new characters are barely characters, really, and are just here to fill functional roles in the plot, but that's okay, as the movie is not about them. It's mostly about Po, who is just as fun and lovable a character as he's always been. It's wonderful to see his joy as he leaps into battle beside his friends, new and old, and to see him grow and change - and succeed.

Yes, as in the first film, and most films of this type, you already know how everything's going to turn out. Of course Po is going to find inner peace, defeat Shen, and discover the truth about his parents. But you might not be ready for quite how dark that truth is. The flashbacks to Po's childhood are surprisingly traumatic, and although the death and horror suggested by them is ultimately at least partially negated by a surprise final scene, there's still some serious "Bambi's mom"-type stuff going on here, and there's a lot more death and doom in this movie than there was in the first. When I saw the film, the theater was packed with kids, and none of them seemed particularly horrified, but I still can't recommend taking any really young children to see this.

It's not just the trauma and violence that seems calculated to push parents' (and likely sensitive children's) buttons. There's also scenes of a very cute, rampaging baby Po, eating anything he can get his hands on, and scenes between Po and his (now it can be confirmed!) adopted father Ping (James Hong) that are so cute and touching that they will grab your heart and wrench it out of your chest, if you have even the gristliest ends of a heart to be grabbed and wrenched. (Indeed, if you yourself are the father of an adopted child, I have to imagine this film will simply melt you into a puddle.) Messing around with a cute baby panda might seem like a cheat - essentially taking a manipulative shortcut to the softer bits of your audience - but I think the movie earns it by building that panda into a fully-developed character, and by being so well written and so beautifully drawn and acted. And anyway, like its predecessor, every time Kung Fu Panda 2 threatens to veer too far into mushiness, it takes a sidestep into (very funny) comedy and sarcasm, and thus saves itself.

The theme of parents and children extends much further than Po himself. Tigress' rather complex relationship with Shifu, which was so wonderfully (and mostly wordlessly) evoked in the first film, is not explicitly discussed in this film, but is clearly on Tigress' mind and informs her sympathetic reactions to Po's troubles. And Shen's poisoned relationship with his parents - he considers their banishment of him to be a personal betrayal and a sign that they never truly loved him - is the motivation for nearly all his actions in the film. He even tries to convince Po that his true parents also betrayed and didn't love him, in order to similarly poison his mind, and is utterly flabbergasted when he discovers that Po is able to rise above his difficult past and find inner peace in spite of it - a truly great and triumphant moment in the film.

I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D, kind of against my will. If you're the kind of person who likes 3D, I recommend it; it's pretty well done here, and there were a number of oohs and aahs from the audience, especially the younger members, and especially early on. But if you're anti-3D or on the fence, I'd say skip it and see the plain old 2D version. You won't be missing much, and some of the action scenes will likely be easier to follow. Then again, those big, dark 3D glasses are the perfect thing for hiding your tear-stained eyes. It's a pity they make you give them up when you leave the theater.
Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Cartoons (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not)
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Friday, April 22, 2011 12:08 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Advertising (Not), Art (Not), Business (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Commercials (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Mashups (Not), Movies (Not), Photography (Not), Pixar (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Shirts (Not), Star Wars (Not), Superman (Not), Thor (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 03:36 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Aliens (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Batman (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Links (Not), Monsters (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Star Wars (Not), Toys (Not), Tron (Not), Tron Legacy (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not)
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Friday, June 4, 2010 09:53 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Art (Not), Avatar (Not), Avengers (Not), Books (Not), Captain America (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Iron Man (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), Monsters (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Simpsons (Not), Star Wars (Not), Thor (Not), Transformers (Not), Video (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Friday, April 23, 2010 12:57 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Aliens (Not), Art (Not), Avatar (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Gaming (Not), Iron Man (Not), James Bond (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Monsters (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Pixar (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Star Wars (Not), Toys (Not), Video (Not)
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Thursday, April 22, 2010 01:18 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Art (Not), Books (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Craft (Not), Links (Not), Mario (Not), Mashups (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Shirts (Not), Terminator (Not), Tron (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010 07:23 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Art (Not), Bacon (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Cosplay (Not), Costumes (Not), Food (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Iron Man (Not), James Bond (Not), King Arthur (Not), Links (Not), Monsters (Not), Movies (Not), MST3K (Not), News (Not), Nintendo (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Shakespeare (Not), Shirts (Not), Star Wars (Not), Tattoos (Not), Technology (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010 12:26 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.



Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Cats (Not), Celebrities (Not), Iron Man (Not), James Bond (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Simpsons (Not), Space (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Tolkien (Not), Tron (Not), Video (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:12 AM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Art (Not), Business (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Curling (Not), Facebook (Not), Food (Not), Gadgets (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hacking (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), History (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Philadelphia Film Festival (Not), Photography (Not), Pirates (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Science (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Sports (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video games (Not), Wii (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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