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To get ready for Kung Fu Panda 3, I rewatched Kung Fu Panda 1, and as of writing this article, will be rewatching Kung Fu Panda 2. Talk about a franchise that took everyone by surprise. I think everyone, including myself, thought this would have flopped. And yeah, I can understand people not liking this film because of the villain or the modern lingo in the kung-fu setting, but I disagree. After seeing the first film, it turned out to be one of my personal favorite Dreamworks films and one of the more consistent Dreamworks franchises in term of quality. It’s right up there with How to Train your Dragon in terms of my favorite Dreamworks franchise. So, I decided to do a list tackling the best parts of the two films. This list specifically will be about the first movie! Oh, and this list will be in no particular order. Let’s get started!
1. The celebrities used are actually good!
I think one major problem Dreamworks has, and it is still a problem with them, is the fact that they will use celebrities as their choices for characters, not because they are the best choice, but because the actors chosen have name and brand value. You then end up with a lot of celebrity voice-mugging, and characters you can’t really commit or invest into because you don’t see them as characters, but as celebrities attempting to do characters. Sometimes you can blame the director of the voice work, but still. It’s a trope that is slowly dying out for Dreamworks, since it doesn’t pan out in long-term acclaim, but it’s still there and unfortunately is a thing that third-party studios are learning the hard way as well. Luckily, when they do choose celebrities for their films, and they fit the characters, then it’s quite a breath of fresh air! I actually think Jack Black has one of his best performances with the film’s main character. I know Black’s more recent films haven’t panned out, but you have to give him credit when he hits it with a good performance, or tries to make the best out of a bad situation. I also like the other actors, even though they are underutilized, like how can they have Jackie Chan, but not give him a lot of lines? Anyway, all the actors fit their roles, and I didn’t find one that stood out or didn’t fit/was distracting. This is when you should be praising actors and the people behind the direction of the voice acting. It’s when they are actual characters that you are invested with, and not just a celebrity phoning in their performance.
2. The animation and fighting is top-notch!
When you have something that is an animated comedy and kung fu flick, you should take as much advantage of it as possible. It’s always so aggravating when you see a show or movie not take advantage of its situation, like Cowboys vs Aliens, Jonah Hex, or Cybernetics Guardian. These three films are good examples, because you would think these individual experiences would be fun or at the very least entertaining, but end up being underwhelming messes. Kung Fu Panda, on the other hand, takes full advantage of its scenario, and ends up with a movie that has some of the best action of any action flick. Its kung fu! How can you mess that up?! The animation also leads to some good expressive characters. It’s a film that knows what to do with itself.
3. The film is beautiful!
My goodness is Kung Fu Panda a beautiful looking film. It has super lush colors and gorgeous scenery. It really helps bring you into this Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-like world. Foggy mountainsides, lush grassy fields, bustling towns, and atmospheric temples are all well done. It’s even better in the sequel, but that is for a future list.
4. The philosophy and morals
I like the ideals and the morals of this film. Don’t judge an individual by face value, don’t worry about what has happened or what has yet to come, not letting stress get the best of you, be yourself, and so on. Sure, we have seen some of these ideals and morals before, but they were executed so well, and fit into the overall film.
5. The modern day lingo works!
A lot of problems with Dreamworks films can pretty much be linked to the way their characters talk. It’s very modern, and it’s cynically done to try and be “hip” and “with it” with the kids and casual movie-goers. Again, with Kung Fu Panda, the modern day talk is very limited and not super catchphrase-ish. It’s like with How to Train Your Dragon, when it’s done well to tell a story and to flesh out characters, then its fine!
Yes, you could argue the film can be predictable, The Furious Five don’t get a lot of development, and the villain is weak, but in the end, Kung Fu Panda shows what happens when Dreamworks actually gives a hoot about making good movies. It’s a shame they don’t try to be like Pixar/Disney in terms of taking their time. Yes, I am aware that Pixar recently had their first bomb with The Good Dinosaur, but Pixar has still has the better track record than Dreamworks. Well, I better get to watching Kung Fu Panda 2 so I can get myself ready for the third movie!