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Kung-Fu Panda

Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:17 pm
by dark77778
Well, since none of my friends want to go and see Speed Racer [and the one that I sorta almost coaxed into going gets dizzy in IMAX], we decided to go see Kung-Fu Panda tonight instead. I'm actually rather surprised with how amused I was during the film. Jack Black clearly makes the character "Po" his own [but kid friendly], which is fantastic, and I literally gawked at the opening narrative images while simultaneously laughing out of my seat at the Strong Bad-like narrative. The whole movie continues more or less with this sort of humor and it works for what it's worth.

I thought that I'd have more negative things to say about this film, but turns out I have only about three that I'll list below here. Note that these are the only things that I felt were lacking, and the rest of the film is great. I even thought that the film was longer than it really was. It's runtime's about 1h30mins and it feels like it's 45 minutes longer. Unfortunatly, they could've probably used to make it 45 minutes longer because of

1)Lack of character depth.

So, we have Po, the main character. The story is focused on him so he's fleshed out.
Tai Long, the villain.
Shifu the Kung Fu Master
All of these characters lives are more or less fleshed out, in really nice ways.
However, there's the other main team of fighters who are the Fabulous Five. Unfortunately, only one and a half of these characters is actually fleshed out beyond being like Gilligan's Island titles "The loving one", "The comedic one" ["The professor" and "Marry Anne", if you catch my drift].
All the characters are really fascinating and I wanted to know more about the characters, but then again I've found that Dreamworks is rarely one to add depth to films past necessity.

2) WAY too many famous voices. I mean, Dustin Hoffman does not pull off a good Kung-Fu master voice and ends up sounding like a Rabbi instead, and because of this it clearly breaks the illusion of a unique kung-fu master. This isn't to say that the character of Shifu is a bad one, he's probably my favorite, it's just that sometimes you get this obvious "Recording Studio" image from the voice and it's a little distracting at times. This happens with the Rhino guard Michael Clarke Duncan makes an appearance, you can't help but think of all his other roles. Dreamworks did the same mistake with Shark Tale too, but at least the script this time around is great.

3)Tai-Long had the potential to be a great villain. He's so flipping cool and you know it from the beginning. They make him out to be some really evil dude, in a giant prison which you know he's gonna break out of, which he does with expert skill and style, growling like the evil snow leopard that he is, and once his escape is secured, he opens his mouth...and Ian McShane speaks with a voice as non Kung-Fu as an Ausi British accent can be.

So, then I simply ignore his voice and think of something really cool to be in its place. That doesn't work so I just block out the voice and watch the awesome motion visuals and make up my own lines for him to say instead. However, once the time comes where things start getting really cool again, there's the ending with him that is just altogether disappointing to me and is also quickly dismissed by the cast of characters. It's awkward as hell and should've been caught during pre-production and makes me quite sad.

Other than that though, the animation is very suitable and stable, the jokes are great, and the animated shot structure is deliberate and gorgeous. It feels like a lot of effort went into the storyboarding and the artistic direction. Oh, the movie will also make you love ducks, and the gloss on their bills.

Also, if you decide to see the film, stay until the end for two reasons.
1) The credits have a whole line of still 2D artwork of the aftermath which looks fantastic and doesn't cut to black background, white credits like most films. It just keeps going.

2) There is a nice bonus that made me say "Aww" and then my friends gave me a look and called me on being a sap.[/code]

Posted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:34 pm
by jcaffoe
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and went in with a lot of uncertainty just due to Dreamworks' track record.

The action sequences were pretty incredible (hats off to Rodolphe for his fight choreography), and I felt the only voice that didn't really fit the character was David Cross as Crane.

Here's the thing about this film and why everyone should go see it. Dreamworks has a knack for ruining a good story by adding silly gags, a dated/cliche soundtrack, and pop-culture references. Thankfully this film was free of all of those, and hopefully marks a turning point for the studio which I feel everyone should support.

Also, as an aside to Phil, I was happy to see that Oogway's introduction made it into the film as boarded, but disappointed that they cut most of the scenes you showed us in half. It felt like there was a lot that hit the cutting room floor that would have enhanced the pacing of the story.

Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 9:58 am
by dark77778
Ah, Oogway! That's the other master's name. I must've missed this discussion but I'm guessing that you're talking about the sequence where Oogway made kung-fu.

Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 1:10 pm
by Kazu
Oogway was my favorite character. :D I really enjoyed the film, and it's definitely refreshing to see something new coming out Dreamworks that feels comfortable in its own shoes. I hope this leads to more films like Kung Fu Panda.

My biggest worry going into the film was whether or not I could buy Po's hero journey, so I was really happy to see that he begins and ends as essentially the same character at heart (unlike Lightning McQueen in Cars), and because of this it's very easy to go with the flow of a very rapid character development sequence. I think they could have used some more time to allow the slower scenes to breathe, but I know this is something Phil often talked about as being a problem. Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. It's also the first Dreamworks Animation film where they created a space that I wanted to return to. Being in this world is a pleasant experience, and this alone would make it worth the price of admission. All in all, I loved it, and I am giddy thinking about the possibilities if they return for a sequel...

Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 6:05 pm
by Ganter
I really liked it and I'm buying the soundtrack. It really sets the stage for more adventures, and I hope there'll be a Kung Fu Panda 2! Beautiful scenery and great character design, great little moments scattered throughout.

Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 8:50 pm
by MG
I came in with low expectations, but I thouroughly enjoyed it. Great animation (that opening scene was great, I wouldn't have minded if the whole movie was in that style), Jack Black was hilarious, the whole movie was really great fun, on-par with Pixar stuff. I too was pleased at the lack of pop culture references/innuendo that's prevalent in most Dreamworks stuff. The soundtrack was cool, though I agree some of the voicing didn't quite fit.

I was afraid the story would be too cliche, but they pulled it off nicely, despite the obligatory "rocky" sequence and simple plot structure. I loved the chopsticks battle, and all the fight scenes were very engaging.


Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 10:01 pm
by squirpy
I loved it so much. Finally a DW movie without all the pop culture references and with some real heart!

And that opening sequence couldn't have been more gorgeous. Wow. I want to go back just to see that and the end credits again.

Posted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 11:21 pm
by dark77778
squirpy wrote: I want to go back just to see that and the end credits again.
Panda action figure! [I have something more intelligible to say, but it's late at night so I'll say it tomorrow.]

Posted: Sun Jun 08, 2008 9:15 am
by campy22
I don't usually post here, but after seeing Kung Fu Panda yesterday, I figured I'd take a look here to see if there was a post..and sure enough , there is one.
I know this movie is not "perfect", not by any stretch of the imagination, and I agree with all the comments about character development and others that have been made here.

coming out of the movie, I just wanted to go back and see it all over again.
To me, that's a good movie!
Today, I think I might just try to sneak away from work and go catch another run of it!

Posted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 8:49 am
by flatrabbit
I took my wife and kids to see this on the IMAX here in Seattle last Sunday and it was an amazing time. I'd see every movie on an IMAX screen if I could.

Here are my thoughts...

While I do agree that most of the Five were kind of flat character-wise, really the movie was about the transformation of Po and Shifu. So it's not surprising that they didn't focus too much on the rest of the crew. I'm sure we will see a sequel of some sort that will flesh them out, hopefully it wont be some direct to DVD quality films.

Oogway was also my favorite character, his attitude about Po and the slow leisurely pace of his movement and speech really created the image of the Ancient Kung-Fu master perfectly. Can I get a prequel about Oogway's storyline?

All in all it was an extremely enjoyable movie, and I was actually impressed with Jack Black's ability to draw me into the Po character. I was also really thrilled to see the action sequences, it was similar to watching an actual Hong Kong Wushu film.

Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:10 pm
by Dan Santat
Great movie! I've seen it three times already. I guess this is MY Speed Racer of the year.

I personally think it will have a good run against Wall-E (presumably) for the best animated film Oscar this year. I don't think this is a spoiler by any means but I thought one of the greatest lines in the film was from Oogway when he said, "The past is history, the future is unknown, and each day is a gift, which is why it is called 'the present'"

You don't often hear that kind of poetry in a kid film.

Kudos to Dreamworks.

Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:27 pm
by dark77778
I think that quote is an actual proverb Dan, 'cause I'm sure I heard it somewhere before. I'll look into it.

Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:29 pm
by jcaffoe
Dan Santat wrote:"The past is history, the future is unknown, and each day is a gift, which is why it is called 'the present'"

You don't often hear that kind of poetry in a kid film.
But you see it on high schooler's facebook profiles ;)

I thought it was kind of cheesy, personally

Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:39 pm
by gau dog
Great animation, visuals. Story serviceable. The comedy did well for it's audience. Action was exciting. Jack Black did a pretty good voice work for this. I'd agree that Shifu could've used a different voice. Jackie would've been good for that instead of the usual monkey role he always takes for American movies. Kung fu wise, was decent what was there, but personally, I want more elaborate and longer fights. Minutes longer. And I hate Carl Douglas. So in the end, I think I'd rather watch Mulan, even though that ends with a crappy pop song too.

Posted: Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:05 am
by mr cow
i was really looking forward to panda and really loved it. po is what did it for me. oogway was great (that animated shaking- wow), but po was awesome. every time he came on screen and did anything i was cracking up. probably the best cgi animated facial expressions i've seen yet. and his story form zero to hero was equally entertaining- if not a bit sudden.

i was okay with the underdevelopment of the furious five. with the exception of tigress they were all kind of written as one character anyhow- and they served their purpose. i just wanted to see just a little more backstory on tai lung. he seemed evil simply for the sake of being evil. okay, he couldn't get the scroll. but why attack the village? just that. i just want to know his motivation behind that. here's hoping for a sequel!

otherwise, one of the most gorgeous, well designed animated films in recent years. right up there with surfs up as one of my favorite non-pixar cgi animated movies. :D

oh- and the opening sequence? i could have watched a whole movie like that.