You’ve heard of the animal styles – Tiger style, Crane, Praying Mantis etc etc. But has anyone heard of a Panda Kung Fu style? Probably not before 2008!
Kung Fu Panda is a 3D / CG animated Dreamworks film made for family friendly audiences which touches on the Kung Fu of Po, a Panda who wants to be a Kung Fu Master – played by funny man, Jack Black.
We’re introduced to Po, a Kung Fu master who blinds his enemies with overexposure to ‘pure awesome!’. He crushes his foes and has earned the respect of the Furious Five, a team of 5 Kung Fu fighters famous for their revered Kung Fu skill.
But we come crashing into reality as Po wakes up from this dream and steps into his life as a young Panda working at a Noodle Bar with his father.
Po has no Kung Fu training whatsoever, and is instead a clumsy and overweight Panda who has some issues with over-eating.
It is announced that ‘they’ will be choosing the Dragon Warrior very soon, to receive the Dragon scroll and defeat Tai Lung – a fearsome fighter who is currently imprisoned. However, the prophecy proclaims that he will escape and be defeated only by the Dragon Warrior.
Desperate to see the presentation, Po tries his best but arrives late, trying to do right by his father by taking Noodles up to sell to the other audience members. He misses most of the entertainment but accidentally (after setting off fireworks attached to a chair) lands in the middle of the arena, where the Kung Fu master Oogway declares that he is destined to become the Dragon Warrior.
His student and master of the Furious Five, Shifu (a play on the pronunciation of the word Sifu in Chinese movies – which means master or teacher), thinks Oogway is wrong and does his best to train Po so hard that he will want to quit.
Meanwhile Tai Lung escapes and Po is expected to defeat him, despite his lack of Kung Fu training and lack of acceptance from the Furious Five.
A Tough Time for Po.
Po has to opportunity to work with his heroes, the Furious Five. He has all of the action figures and is quite possibly their biggest fan – yet he is met with resistance and ridicule. This is a tough situation for Po as he simply cannot measure up the high level of martial arts training the Five have, but still goes on with a smile on his face, never giving up.
What is done really cleverly in this film, although many may disagree, is the way Po’s Kung Fu strength is found – through eating. By using a treat as motivation for a particular movement, Shifu is able to train Po to perform the Kung Fu movements he wants him too.
This also transfers into his fights with Tai Lung, as he begins to find his own strengths to fight well, however humorously, to win. Although it seems like more of a formula for comedy, it actually expresses some real themes of martial arts training – finding out what works for you and developing your own approach to fighting and martial arts. This is very similar to Bruce Lee’s philosophy of the style being less important than the man, the growing an evolving creature.
Po develops his own approach, and trains to his strengths overcoming his weaknesses.
Event the Dragon Scroll itself is much like the movie Circle of Iron (originally titled the Silent Flute), written by Bruce Lee – in which the ultimate truth is uncovered in a relic – and turns out to be simply a mirror reflecting the person viewing it. The message being that there is no secret ingredient, technique or system but instead it’s about the person and their personal adaption & dedication to the martial arts that will lead to terrific results.
The Kung Fu?
There’s no point critiquing fights here, it’s just not that kind of movie.
This movie celebrates Kung Fu movies by using aspects of Chinese Kung Fu movies in the story telling. The animal styles are symbolised through the animals of the Furious Five – Mantis knows Praying mantis style, Tigress knows Tiger style, etc. Even Po uses the Bear style of Kung Fu in his showdown with Tai Lung!
For Chinese movie fans you may notice Jackie Chan has a credit has voicing Monkey in this film. He also did voice recordings for the Cantonese and Mandarin language versions of the film. Even the premise of a student facing his master’s more experienced student, turned evil, is a pretty common and straight forward approach for a Kung Fu movie.
This movie does a good job of presenting Kung Fu themes in celebration and keeping a very basic, straight forward story line. It’s very well done and is an awesome film to watch with the kids.
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Kung Fu Panda [Blu-ray]
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe etc)
Kung Fu Panda [Blu-ray]
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Kung Fu Panda (Widescreen Edition)
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Kung Fu Panda [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Kung Fu Panda
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