‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ leaves room for more movies

By Larissa Gula

“Kung Fu Panda 2”

Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina… “Kung Fu Panda 2”

Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Grade: A

A villainous peacock is out to take over China and must be stopped by a band of epic kung fu warriors — one of whom has a personal connection with the terrifying enemy.

It sounds laughable, but DreamWorks managed to convert this incredible concept into a legitimately dramatic and tearfully emotional plot in the making of “Kung Fu Panda 2.” The animated action comedy might now become a six-part series as its success continues.

Fans of the first “Kung Fu Panda” should remember how the adventure began: A panda named Po (Jack Black) worked with his father in a noodle shop while dreaming of being a kung fu warrior fighting alongside the Furious Five, a group of famous martial artists, each of whom practiced a different style of fighting. Po turned out destined to be the sixth fighter — the Dragon Warrior. The first film left off with Po having earned the respect of his peers.

“Kung Fu Panda 2” picks up from there, and viewers follow the story of the previously dysfunctional band of warriors who have forgotten their differences and begin to work together as an intimidating team.

The group’s next task is to defeat Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a white peacock who commands an army of wolves, uses machinery and cannons to defeat his enemies and plans to take down all kung fu warriors. The Furious Five and Dragon Warrior must defeat Lord Shen to save China as well as the art of kung fu.

Along the way, though, Po finds himself struggling with his past. He ultimately must find inner peace to master the next step in his training and defeat Lord Shen.

This film is surprisingly epic. Whereas the first film focused on a small group of characters facing a single enemy, its sequel pits the team of warriors against entire armies.

The voice cast strengthens the film throughout. Oldman makes for an impressive villain. Jack Black and the other cast members certainly portray their characters well and achieve an emotional energy that draws in the viewer.

The lifelike animation makes the kung fu scenes in the film phenomenal; — animators obviously paid attention to detail. The direction increased the scale of the project for film two and created larger scenes with more fighters, moves and effects.

Between the images, character development and acting, “Kung Fu Panda 2” is not only dramatic and action-packed but also intense and emotional. It runs the risk of bringing tears to viewers’ eyes as they learn about what happened to Po and why he ended up being raised by a goose rather than by his biological parents.

The only real downfall of the film is that occasionally the humor doesn’t work. Some jokes act as throwbacks to the first film and don’t quite function in the dramatic mood being set by such a large adventure. Still, this only serves as a minor and forgivable pitfall.

Don’t be surprised when a third “Panda” comes out — the ending of this movie was as clear a sign for a pending sequel as we’ll ever get.