Kung Fu Panda 2

After the Samsung reviewers' workshop at DreamWorks Animation last week (see my report here), we were treated to a preview screening of Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D. However, we were instructed not to publish anything about the movie until it opened on May 26—that is, today.

The screening took place in DreamWorks Animation's 150-seat Campanile Theater. The Stewart UltraMatte 150 cinema-perfed screen measures 29x13 feet with a gain of 1.5, and because it's a white screen, the Dolby 3D system was used with a Barco DP-3000 2K digital-cinema projector. The soundtrack was Dolby 7.1, and I'm happy to report it wasn't too loud.

The movie continues the saga of Po the ever-hungry panda (voiced by Jack Black), now a kung fu master known as the Dragon Warrior, and his cohorts, Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen), and Crane (David Cross), all students of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). I have a beef with the name of Hoffman's character—"Shifu" is not a name, but a title that translates to "master." So he's actually Master Master! It's like "the La Brea tar pits" in Los Angeles, which translates from Spanish to "the the tar tar pits."

In this adventure, Po and the Furious Five defend the realm against the evil Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), outcast heir to the Peacock Throne who has developed a terrible technology capable of defeating kung fu itself. Along the way, Po learns the heart-wrenching secret of his heritage, which had been kept from him by his adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong). You'd think Po might have guessed that a crane couldn't be his real father, but he was too busy eating Mr. Ping's noodles to notice.

The main story is a straightforward and predictable battle of good versus evil with too much non-stop fighting for my taste, though the subplot about Po's early childhood is touching. In any event, it doesn't measure up to the original Kung Fu Panda, a classic tale of overcoming insurmountable obstacles to realize one's true potential along with a heartfelt look at father/son relationships—and a foreshadowing of the sequel's revelation about Po's parentage. There's even a little existentialism and something like a Zen koan—"The secret ingredient is no secret ingredient at all!" How cool is that?

Still, Kung Fu Panda 2 offers lots of laughs and superb voice acting, and the animation is second to none, with gorgeous colors and exquisite detail. Also, I've never seen better 3D—very well-integrated with virtually no discontinuities in moving objects and few gratuitous, gimmicky shots. And while there's lots of fast action, almost none of it happens in the far foreground. This is going to be a 3D Blu-ray full of awesomeness!

As a side note, the original Kung Fu Panda was released in 2D, both theatrically and on Blu-ray, but it includes many shots that would rock in 3D. Since it's relatively easy to convert 2D animation, I hope DreamWorks re-releases KFP with a "z" axis.

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javanp's picture

Haha--glad I'm not the only one that has been bothered by that. The first one is hard to live up to. As long as this one is entertaining, I'll be happy. I too am wishing for a 3d release of KFP1. Incidentally that's the first movie that I've tried watching using my 2d-3d conversion on my Samsung plasma. Results were decent, but I think I'll be sticking with 2d until a conversion comes out.

movie lover's picture

i own the first kung fu panda on blu ray and i love it.everything about the first 1 is so wonderful of movie,and i hope 2nd movie of kung fu panda is just as good as first 1.the pic n sound is wonderful.me n wife our 2 kids love it.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Yes, KFP2 is entertaining, no doubt about it. I don't think it's as good a story as the first one, but it's not bad, either. I definitely recommend seeing it if only for the wonderful animation and 3D.
David Vaughn's picture

Sadly, when this and maybe the first movie are released on 3D, they'll be exclusive to Samsung or other manufacturer and the general public won't have access to them unless they are willing to pay exorbitant prices on eBay. My daughter simply loves How to Train Your Dragon, but we are unwilling to pay $60 for it...no movie is that good!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Since DreamWorks has a close relationship with Samsung, these movies will undoubtedly be bundled exclusively with products from that company. As you might have read in my report from the Samsung workshop at DreamWorks, I asked Jeffrey Katzenberg about these exclusive deals, and he as much as said his studio did it because Samsung gave them a boatload of money, enough not to care what consumers think. (He didn't say that last part, but it's a clear inference.) The good news is that these deals are time limited, and the titles will eventually be available to everyone. But the whole exclusive-bundle concept is wrongheaded in my view.
javanp's picture

The worst part about these exclusive deals is that, in Samsung's case, new customers can't always get certain, older movies, like How to Train Your Dragon. It was only packaged with a starter kit that contained the older glasses which are incompatible with the new sets. If Samsung is going to have an iron death-grip on these titles, they should at least make them available somehow to all their customers.

Incidentally, I did just receive the HTTYD 3d blu-ray in the mail yesterday... after paying $60 for it on eBay. I finally gave in after learning that KFP2 IS going to be another Samsung exclusive so I figured I'd be waiting until next year before I could get my hands on HTTYD. And I'd probably be paying $35 for it anyways. An extra $25 was worth it to me to have it now. Can't wait to watch it!

Jarod's picture

Seen KFP2 3D today in RealD 3D and loved it! Incredible 3D and I enjoyed It as much as the first! Good job Dreamworks with this franchise.

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