I have always loved animation movies. I’ve always loved cartoons and animation movies are simply the richer cousins who visit not as often, but never fail to entertain. From Tom and Jerry to Swat Kats, my life has always been made better by toons and I have to say, 3D animation and its various forms do, and probably will, hold a special place in my heart forever. If someone is talking about animation, they are most likely taking about a piece of video by Pixar. They have proven time and again that when it comes to 3D animation, they are the leaders in innovation and entertainment. From Toy Story series to the latest Ratatouille, Pixar has clearly set the standard and often exceeded it. But the movie I am going to discuss in this blog is not from Pixar, but a studio that does not have such a great history when it comes to CGI Animation, but has a spectacular history in movie making. With one of the best film directors of the era, Steven Spielberg, at the helm, DreamWorks Studio has definitely produced more than few crowd pleasing movies and it hasn’t failed to deliver in its latest CGI treat “The Kung-Fu Panda”.
Story: Most animation movies have a simple story line (who cares, if your characters can pull of matrix like moves at standard cost) and Kung-Fu Panda, is not so different. Po (Voiced by Jack Black) is a clumsy, fat Panda with a big fetish for and absolutely no skills in martial arts who is nominated as the Chosen Warrior to defeat Tai Long (Ian McShane), a evil snow leopard who wants to destroy the valley of peace. For that he must become the pupil of Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), a red panda,along with the furious five (a monkey, tigress, viper,mantis and crane- voiced by Jackie chan, Angelina Jolie, and so on), one of whom was supposed to be the chosen warrior, and learn to become a martial arts master and destroy Tai Long.
I started to watch this movie like the way I watch all the movies, ‘expecting it to be decent’. But ‘decent’ became ‘wow’ the moment the movie began and before I knew it, it crossed ‘awesome’ and there was no turning back. The animation was crystal clear, at times making me wonder if it was real. One good example of the amount of perfection that has been achieved with the movie was the scene in which Po is given some wisdom by his master up in the cliff edge at sunset. The fur in the panda’s body gracefully move with the light wind that blows across the screen, while the red sun’s dying rays, smoothly change the silhouette of the animal with shades of gold. The darker sections of the movie, like the Chorh-Gom Prison, where the snow leopard is held, were also brilliantly sculpted to bring out the mood of the location at the same time not distracting the viewer. And the action sequences are an instant knockout especially the final fight between Po and Long.
One best criteria of a good animation movie, or any movie for that matter, is that the audience must not get detached from the screenplay for the full length of the movie due unwanted ambiance and the fat panda and his friends certainly make sure that we didn’t. Everything has been put in the right mix and served with warmth and chopsticks.
The comedy in the movie is also a big plus. The panda’s clumsiness border hilarity especially at the beginning of shifu’s training. Jack Black gives the panda model pure life, making it funny and adorable at the same time. I remember the never ending laughs in the theater every time the panda starts climbing the winding stairs to the high temple. All the characters share the comic relief in the movie, even the grand master tortoise.
The only thing I felt disappointing about the movie was that Jackie chan had only a few lines throughout but given the amount of stardom in the movie, it’s understandable.
Overall, Hollywood has once again shown its sophistication in CGI animation with yet another blockbuster in the much less crowded genre and this movie, if anything, has only piped my love for pandas, animated or real.