First Reaction to DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda
by Alex Billington
March 12, 2008
Yesterday at ShoWest in Las Vegas, we were shown an early cut of the upcoming DreamWorks Animation comedy Kung Fu Panda. Ever since the first trailer debuted, I've actually been looking forward to seeing it. While this isn't a review, these are my thoughts on it, because I actually enjoyed it way more than I was expecting and couldn't miss the opportunity to talk about it. While it is no Monsters Inc, it is very good movie that features some incredible visuals and a hilarious lead character perfectly embodied by Jack Black. You may only ever hear this one, but this is the first and only non-Pixar summer movie that you can't miss.
The cut we saw wasn't even close to being done. There were a lot of scenes that were only storyboards as well as a few half-finished CGI scenes. Looking beyond those and the need for some more final editing and polishing, the film is a very fun, very entertaining animated kung fu movie. To be completely honest, I liked this even way more than TMNT. First things first, you've got to realize this is just a big popcorn flick. The story isn't going to be 100% solid, but you'll be able to kick back and enjoy it, and that's what I did.
The best part of this cut was that there was no finished score (Hans Zimmer's score will be on the actual film), so they used temp tracks and other scores to make the movie look and feel complete. There were two very big scenes that had Hans Zimmer's Batman Begins score playing over them, and that alone completely changed my reaction. The scene, which was incidentally an awesome fight sequence, turned from interesting to absolutely mind-blowing awesome in seconds. So while my opinion on those fight scenes may be jaded because my blood was bumping with Batman infused energy, I still loved the hell out of them and enjoy the movie.
The strong point of Kung Fu Panda is its amazing fight sequences and panda-fu action. It takes a little while to get to them, but there is a solid set of around three or four incredible action scenes. The film is very visually stimulating, including great fight scenes (Tai Lung's escape and the bridge fight), anything with fireworks, and all of the locations. We all know that each and every new year the technology improves and animated movies look better, but this time they've reached a new high with both the fights and the animation that I don't know when it will be topped again. They're the kind of scenes that get your blood pumping and once they finish, you're already excited for more and anxiously awaiting the next.
I tried really hard to nit pick and find issues with Kung Fu Panda, but I walked out of the theater so happy that I just couldn't come up with anything. This really is one of the most solid and entertaining summer films you'll find this year. I was very worried that we'd have another Surf's Up, a movie that I was incredibly excited for but was a big pile of crap. Kung Fu Panda is the opposite, and I may even be hard pressed to say that it surpassed my expectations, but I've still got to mull that one over.
Although it may be tough to initially swallow, Kung Fu Panda really is a great summer movie. Make sure to schedule some extra time to see this when hits theaters on June 6th. My official review will be coming in June, so look for that as well. Good job DreamWorks, you've really impressed me with this one!