In preparation for watching Kung Fu Panda 3 sometime this weekend (hopefully), I’ve decided to watch/re-watch the previous two films in the franchise, so today’s post will be about Kung Fu Panda (1).
Kung Fu Panda follows the story of Po (Jack Black), a clumsy panda who sells noodles by day and dreams of becoming a kung fu warrior at night. One day, he rushes to the Jade Palace where the Furious Five, a group of five animals skilled in the martial arts, are battling to become the Dragon Warrior, who is to fight an evil kung fu warrior, Tai Lung. Arriving too late, Po fails to get into the palace before the gates close, so he uses fireworks to launch himself into the palace and accidentally lands right in the center of the competition. He catches the attention of Grand Master Oogway, a turtle who rules the Jade Palace, and Oogway names Po as the Dragon Warrior. Everyone is shocked, especially the Furious Five and their master, Shifu, who all think that Po is unfit for being a Dragon Warrior. However, with Tai Lung on the loose and Oogway unwilling to change his decision, Shifu and the Furious Five have to whip Po into shape for an epic kung fu showdown against Tai Lung.
Kung Fu Panda is filled with plot cliches, such as the rise of the underdog and believing in yourself, but the reason why this film can stand out from other similar movies is because of kung fu. Even though the film tells a story we may have watched many times elsewhere, it tells it with an original twist we haven’t seen before: anthropomorphic creatures who are skilled in kung fu.
The film’s focus on kung fu is also fun to watch, especially if you’ve watched a lot of wuxia like me. Kung Fu Panda almost seems like a parody of the wuxia films or television series I’ve seen, especially the characters, who all resemble key figures in wuxia, but with certain traits magnified and exaggerated for entertainment pleasure. The fight sequences within Kung Fu Panda are also fun to watch and contain the same cleverness and thrill as some sequences in wuxia films.
The animation style of Kung Fu Panda is quite different from the styles of other family animated films. It is definitely not as elegant and dreamy as Pixar films, and it is also not as bright or “cute” as the minions from Despicable Me. It has a rougher and at times darker quality to it, which is fitting, considering the topic of the film is kung fu, which isn’t a dreamy or cute matter. This style of animation may jive well with certain groups, such as young boys, but it may not necessarily appeal to other groups who prefer more refined or exquisite animation.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Title: Kung Fu Panda
Directors: John Stevenson, Mark Osbourne
Writer: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Ian McShane, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Randall Duk Kim, James Hong
Run time: 1 hr 32 min