Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend.
The second animated film of the A-Z (it won’t be the last). Kung Fu Panda came out in 2008, scores a respectable 7.6 stars on IMDb and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, though that went to the wonderful Wall-E.
DreamWorks Animation had always been in second place to Pixar when it came to making great movies. They’d produced some great films – Shrek, Madagascar are the standouts – and some good films, but the majority of their output was firmly in the ‘fine’ category.
Kung Fu Panda belongs firmly in the ‘great’ category. When I first heard about it, the idea of animals doing kung fu didn’t really inspire me, but I found myself in the cinema one rainy saturday afternoon with the kids and walked out at the end with a huge grin on my face.
What they’d done was not make a film about CG animals that did kung fu, but make a kung fu movie which happened to feature CG animals. There’s a crucial difference between the two, something which co-director John Stephenson understood:
“Let’s really make sure that our kung fu is as cool as any kung fu ever done, so that we can take our place in that canon and make sure it’s a beautiful movie, because great martial arts movies are really beautiful-looking movies and then let’s seen if we can imbue it with real heart and emotion. We kind of hoped that maybe when people see the movie, they’ll be surprised that they get a bit more movie than they may be expecting from the title.”
And the kung fu is really really good.
The story itself is a classic hero’s journey – bumbling noodle chef and kung fu fanatic Po (voiced by Jack Black on fine form) finds himself fulfilling an ancient prophecy when he’s chosen as the Dragon Warrior by Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), much to the consternation of the legendary Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) and especially Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), who is given the job of training the lazy panda…
Chaos ensues. Evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escapes from prison and comes to seek the Dragon Warrior. Can Po, Master Shifu and the Furious Five save the day?
The look of the film is simply gorgeous. It’s easily one of the most beautiful films which DreamWorks Animation have ever produced, and is on par with Pixar’s output. It’s a great story, with some wonderful set pieces – Tai Lung’s escape from the seemingly escape-proof prison is gorgeously done, as are all the fight scenes and the interactions between all the main characters.
It’s just a lovely little kung fu film. Highly recommended.
previously, on The A-Z Challenge
A is for Alien
B is for The Breakfast Club
C is for Catching Fire
D is for Die Hard
E is for The Empire Strikes Bank
F is for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
G is for Goldfinger (and GoldenEye)
H is for Howl’s Moving Castle
I is for Inception
J is for Jurassic Park