When it comes to sequels, I think it’s usually fair to assume that while live-action films tend to suffer, it’s the world of computer-animation where they thrive. Hand drawn animation sequels on the other hand generally get thrown to the shelves of direct-to-video-land where they rightfully belong. Just thinking about how many adventures they’ve squeezed out of Little Foot & Co. is beyond comprehension. However, there’s also now four Shrek flicks and a fourth Ice Age headed our way in 2012. Now with Kung Fu Panda 2, it looks like DreamWorks has realized (as they did in Shrek 2) that Pixar isn’t the only one who can make a successful sequel.
The first rule to making a great sequel is about carrying on the story while also bringing forth deeper characterization. It also doesn’t hurt to aim to outdo the original but sometimes that results more in cinematic travesty than anything. Thankfully, director Jennifer Yuh takes over the reigns and shows that she’s more than up to the task of following up the fantastic original. Surprisingly, returning screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, also have brought themselves up to the sequel challenge. I’m sure it also didn’t hurt when DreamWorks decided to bring in Charlie Kaufman and Guillermo del Toro to do some script polishing (with del Toro added as an executive producer). While the film stays true to its roots through Aibel and Berger, Kaufman and del Toro’s fingerprints are all over this as well.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, we catch up with Po (voiced by Jack Black), Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) and the Furious Five: Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), and Crane (voiced by David Cross), in the Valley of Peace. But before the new plot is set into motion we get a gorgeously shadow play-animated prologue involving the creation of fireworks amongst Lord Shen’s (voiced by Gary Oldman) peacocks. Shen goes on a rampage wiping out the panda civilization and thus the Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) determines a prophecy that Shen will be brought down by a black and white warrior and then Shen is banished from his parents’ kingdom.