What Makes Us Love Kung Fu Panda?

Tonight, I took my two daughters to see Kung Fu Panda 2.  It got a collective Three Thumbs Up from us.  While I was watching the movie, and realizing how much we were all enjoying it, I started thinking about why it was so good.  It turns out it has many qualities make a great martial arts movie — cartoon or not.

First off, it’s worth noting that the movie is visually stunning. There’s no other way to put it.  Now, add to that the fact that this movie has the best use of 3D I’ve seen to date. The 3D effects are powerful, without being overbearing. Things fit right it.

However, any movie can look great, that doesn’t mean it’s a great martial arts movie. Here are some things I think make Kung Fu Panda 2 fit that bill. First off, it does execute faithfully on a story arc that delivers a Hero’s Journey.  While the first movie delivered on the classic tail of the farm-boy transforming to the powerful warrior (yeah, just like Luke Skywalker!) this one is more of an inner journey where Po needs to find himself and learn where he comes from.

Next, the movie is really about family. All too often, the hero in a cheap martial arts movie comes from nowhere.  In the first movie, we loved Po’s “father” the goose and that helped to ground Po for us. In this movie we learn much more about Po’s family and history. Putting it all in context makes the movie more grand. Great martial arts movies deliver this link for the hero into his larger family. Sometimes its only in the form of a vendetta to avenge a quickly dispatched fallen family member — which this plot line could easily have fallen into.  However, we got a lot more here and it felt satisfying.

Lastly, the fight scenes are awesome. They’re well choreographed, exciting and credible. I don’t say they are realistic, but they feel credible in their context.  They suck you right in and make you want to get into the action. And isn’t that what we go to a martial arts movie for?

What did you think?  Did you like Kung Fu Panda 2?  Will you go see Kung Fu Panda 3?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jenn
    May 30, 2011 @ 21:07:50

    Heck yeah! Po is my hero!

    I should have known that you’d make a connection to Star Wars! 😛


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