These won’t be real reviews, per se – just quick recollections and thoughts of the original Kung Fu Panda movies before reviewing the third movie.
I remember watching Kung Fu Panda when it originally came out – I think I was 11 or 12 at the time. To me, it had everything going for it – a panda, kung fu fighting, and Jack Black – who to this day is still one of my most favorite actors of all time. He’s just a funny guy who can tone it up and down whenever he wants, or needs to. He’s awesome. I loved him in Nacho Libre and I only grew to love him after a couple more movies like School of Rock and even Year One (which wasn’t that good, honestly, but he was still pretty great).
The original movie had everything that excited the kid-version of me – also action, comedy, emotional moments before an exciting payoff. It was incredibly fun (and funny) to watch and moved at a fast pace – perfect for a kid like me. The final fight was great, though personally, I never fully felt that the last battle in the film was a true culmination of all of the things Po had learned throughout the movie, mostly due to the final move that Po had used which was referenced in the very beginning of the movie, and the fact that Po’s immunity to a certain thing Tai Long could do was mostly because he was a panda, not that he had to have trained for it. Still, despite these flaws, it was an awesome movie.
Kung Fu Panda 2 was to Kung Fu Panda like what Shrek 2 was to Shrek – a movie that largely matches or exceeds the quality of its predecessor. There was, in my opinion, a lot more depth in the sequel than in the original movie, and it took much darker turns as well – something I attribute to Guilliermo Del Toro, who was a producer on the sequel (a great movie, in my opinion). Despite these more mature additions to its narrative, it remained a mostly lighthearted affair, which kept it great for kids. As the movie came out about 3 years later, I was also in my teenage years at the time it came out. Even though I was older and didn’t feel much like a kid anymore (haha, younger me), something about Kung Fu Panda 2 still made me want to watch it. And, as I was older than I was before, I could appreciate the darker twists in the narrative. It really felt like the movie had grown up with me, to a degree. It’s why I still really like Kung Fu Panda 2, moreso than the original film.
Honestly, I would recommend both of the Kung Fu Panda movies to anybody – at least, the first two. I still need to watch the third movie, which I will be reviewing next week! See you then!