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Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda (2008)

June. 06,2008
| Adventure Animation Action Comedy

When the Valley of Peace is threatened, lazy Po the panda discovers his destiny as the "chosen one" and trains to become a kung fu hero, but transforming the unsleek slacker into a brave warrior won't be easy. It's up to Master Shifu and the Furious Five -- Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey -- to give it a try.


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Preface: This 10/10 rating has not come lightly, primarily as I have had wildly differing views of this film over the years. The first watch had me thoroughly charmed and entertained, but some aspects of its humour concerned me enough to think this film warranted a generous 8/10. With repeated viewings, I now quote the film when watching it, so the script has certainly won me over, but with every viewing I have enjoyed the film more because my first viewing missed what made this film brilliant - depth. On this note, I would like to preface this review, saying simply that this is not a film you will immediately think is fantastic. However, repeated viewings will show you that this is a deeply underrated and underappreciated film.Review Proper: Superficially Kung Fu Panda is a simple but pretty film. It is about a Panda, Po, who is unwittingly chosen to become the Dragon Warrior, a legendary Kung Fu master granted with limitless power. He is granted this to defeat Tai Lung, an evil snow leopard with a penchant for revenge against his former master Shi-fu. The plot is not difficult to follow and is moderately predictable, providing a typical underdog story. Jack Black amuses with frequent quips throughout the film, and a surrounding cast of impressive names (Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan and James Hong among many others) gives the plot weight. The script is also genially witty, and is full of wonderfully written lines (there's the odd stumble, but Oogway is a character you have to listen carefully to because his every line is beautifully poetic). This is also a film of technical beauty; the visuals are undeniably stunning, and the music is exceptional. Hans Zimmer and John Powell worked together to write a fantastic score that immersed me fully within the Chinese setting. Oogway ascending is a famous piece for good reason, so basically go listen to it right now because it is amazing. All this makes Kung Fu Panda a good film, a solid 8/10 that packs in charm, laughter and entertainment to make its 1hr30 runtime fly past. However, this film moves from a good one to a great one because of its depth in thematic storytelling.So thematically, this story is about three ideas. I will have to discuss them vaguely, because I'm trying to keep spoilers to a minimum, but watch out for how these are developed in the film because it will heighten your experience. First is a question of identity. Po is the only Panda in the story - he stands out, so immediately the story broaches the issue of what he wants to do with his unique life; follow his foster father or forge his own path. This juxtaposition sets up the issue of time, and how we ourselves set our lives to fulfil the past for a future we can't foresee. The theme of Ambition plays into this, as the main antagonist has the same ultimate ambition as Po of becoming a master of Kung Fu, but how they both seek to obtain it sets them apart. Tai Lung is exceptional, but his arrogance and inherent evil makes him too corrupt to be the dragon warrior. Po is simple and kind hearted, but he lacks any natural skill at Kung Fu to be the dragon warrior either. The story explores this effectively, juxtaposing Tai Lung and Po enough to establish that the answer is not what you want (the future) or who you were born as (the past) but who you are (the present). The past, present and future are frequently juggled and juxtaposed as their value for identity effectively sets up the main idea of the story; being content.At its heart Kung Fu Panda really is about being content and says that we need to appreciate who we are now, what we currently have, to be happy. The burden of the past and the mystery of the future only holds us back. This is central to Shi-fu's story arc just as it is for Po; apprentice and master alike are both held back by their ambitions and the burden of the past, and both appreciate by the films close that the present is most important of all. They can't change their past, and cannot foresee the future, so they understand that all they can do is live with the lives they have. That the story of the film juggles Identity and Ambition into this idea seamlessly is testament to the brilliant writing of this film, and showcases how effectively complex thematic writing heightens a film. This is all epitomised in a surprising post-credits scene. This scene is wordless, simple and yet reinforces a metaphor, used early in the film as foreshadowing, that shows the writers really knew what they were doing and heightens the depth of the film from a great film to a thematic masterpiece.Conclusion: It is quite easy to be caught by the superficial goodness of Kung Fu Panda. Its recognisable plot, its simple protagonist and equally simplistic antagonist, all coincide with visuals and music to provide an enjoyable family film. However, this almost sets this film on the wrong footing by diverting attention away from the intelligence of its thematic writing. The story interweaves complex ideas of identity and ambition, all within the exploration of what we makes us content, which adds true depth to the experience. This is a film that not only holds up but improves with every viewing. You won't find any more to see in the picture, but you will find infinitely more to think about in the story it tells. This is an exceptionally intelligent film, a masterpiece that hides behind its charm. Kung Fu Panda is, in the most literal sense possible, a hidden gem.


This movie follows an eastern theme and visually, it's pretty neat. The cinematography was very nice, especially during the fight scenes. However this movie isn't without its flaws; the humor is hit or miss and the moral is a bit generic. I enjoyed this movie overall so I give it a fat 7/10.


My friend was born where po from the movie was born


Where does the fascination for Kung-Fu movies come from? My guess is that it relies on three simple levels: first, it's aesthetically appealing and visually gracious for what is still a fighting sport, unlike boxing or say, other martial arts, like Judo, any duel feels like choreography. Secondly, it is over the top in a very spectacular way, and thus explain its exploitation for video games, when the human body became as dangerous and efficient as some robotic armor. Besides, there's something fun in watching Kung-Fu movies, it is comical precisely because of the exaggerated moves and an actor like Jackie Chan based a successful career on turning it into comedy, without mocking the essence of Kung-Fu of course, but rather its applications.Last but not least, there's an inner element of underdog stories in all martial arts, but especially Kung-Fu because it's one of these disciplines where you have the feeling that you can defeat the odds more than in any sports, as most of the learning is in the brains before the brawn, and the cliché of the pint-sized Master, being the sum of all his wisdom and capable to triumph over an army of towering thugs, is inspirational to all the little guys who wished they could master Kung-Fu when it could help them. So, for all its underdog, comedy and spectacular premises, Kung-Fu was a darling for Japanese anime, and I, myself, grew up with a great cartoon called "School of Kung- Fu", but these were hand-drawn classic animation that didn't explore the true potentiality of CGI animation, like for video-games. Finally "Kung Fu Panda", DreamWorks' animated movie, released in 2008, knew how to handle the sports sub-genre with the perfect mix of special effects and comedy, telling the story of Po, a panda who's designated by an old master (or fool, or both) as the new Dragon Warrior, much to everyone's surprise, including Po. Po is a panda, so obviously, he's a fat, a bit lazy, a bit easygoing, so inevitably hilarious character, and he's voiced by Jack Black, who strikes again after his Lenny in "A Shark Tale". But "Kung Fu Panda" is much more fun and engaging, there's no pop-culture reference, only Kung-Fu archetypes. We're all used to: initiations, wise masters delivering wise lines with such a quick wit we all feel dumb in comparison, long stairs to mount, super-choreographed fights, but these elements never feel recycled because the story finds a way to be original within the predictability of its plot.Calling it predictable is a bit unfair actually, because there are many original things that strike: Po is a Panda living in a restaurant, his father for some reason, is a duck (James Hong) and there's absolutely no explanation, but his restaurant waiter Job, would serve the story (so to speak) in the most interesting way. Secondly, the panda has no personal pretension to seek any title, he's a fan of martial arts, but would rather watch the show (after triumphing over the stairs) than play the game. But the old turtle Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), tells Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) that he had a vision of the Dragon Warrior, Shifu displays the talents of his Furious Five, a tigress, a mantis, a crane, a monkey and a snake, but despite their talent, Oogway picks Po who accidentally disrupted the show. As he says, there are no accidents.There are no accidents indeed as another vision of the turtle is proved true as he foresaw: the redoubtable Tai Lung escaped from prison to seek a revenge. I wouldn't dare to spoil the backstory of Tai Lung, but along with Shifu, Po and Oogway, he creates a quarter of great characters. Tigress, played by Angelina Jolie, is a close runner-up but I don't know what the fuss is about with the all-star cast of the Furious Five, they always operate as a whole and are not given much dimensionality or depth as the others. If only for the interaction between Shi-fu and Po, the film was worth to watch, despite Seth Rogen or Lucy Liu's efforts. Tigress isn't really exploited to her fullest, and the training part is rather brief, so I think there was a wasted potential, although the final result is still entertaining.So we get a story where the hero doesn't consider himself a hero, nor does his master, but somewhat they're forced to believe in it, until the prophecy fulfills, it's one of these tales that encourage you to believe in your potential and the result would have been dull if it didn't use a clever use of Po's gluttony, and the wisdom of his father. The fight scenes are entertaining and spectacular, as the film had brilliantly explored the potentialities of CGI to make entertaining and spectacular stuff. In fact, it is a little overplayed as it gets closer to the appeal of video games, to the point you never get the feeling the characters can ever die, they defy gravity, they survive explosions or high falls so we're closer to Street Fighter than the real Kung Fu. But let's not make it a reason to dismiss the spectacle the film has to offer.