Kung Fu Panda 2: Movie Review
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Kung Fu Panda 2 is hilarious, action-packed and heartwarming. There are some thematic issues, however, that deserve caution.
The movie opens with a tale about a peacock family ruling a city in China. The family invented fireworks, but the son of the two ruling peacocks, Lord Shen, wants to use the gunpowder for evil means, so they banish him.
Meanwhile, Po the chubby panda is now living his dream as the Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five – Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper, and Monkey. Po's awesome new life is threatened, however, by the emergence of Shen, who’s been gathering metal in all the villages to make a bunch of cannons and take over China. It’s up to Po and the Furious Five to journey across China to face Lord Shen and vanquish him.
How can Po and his friends stop a weapon that can stop kung fu? Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins. Only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to defeat Lord Shen and his evil plans.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is just as entertaining, and even more heartwarming, than the first movie. This time, the hero’s journey is more personal, as Po must search his memories for what happened to his biological parents. The scenes between Po and his adoptive father, Mr. Ping, are very emotional, some of the movie’s best scenes.
That said, there are many references to Chinese Taoism and the Taoist Yin Yang symbol in Kung Fu Panda 2. The fact that pandas are black and white, as is the movie’s hero, plays into the Taoist symbol of Yin Yang, which is black and white. These images are set against the backdrop of discussion about the importance of Po finding “inner peace”. Also, early in the movie, Po’s master, Shifu, tells Po that finding “inner peace” is about finding harmony or becoming one with “the flow of the universe.” Thus, only when Po finds inner peace is he able to defeat Lord Shen’s mighty cannon weapons.
It has been said that simple or “early” Chinese Taoism is closer to monotheism than Buddhism. In fact, Taoism talks about following the Way and even talks about the “Three Pure Ones” who created the universe, showing that it can even be related in some ways to the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Following the Way of Taoism also has an ethical side that venerates compassion, humility, and moderation.
Thus, there are aspects to Taoism that Christians can use to evangelize Chinese people who accept Taoism or are familiar with it. Of course, many Chinese people also combine aspects of Taoism with Buddhism, and both philosophical/religious traditions have influenced one another. The Yin Yang symbol, however, can lead to a kind of dualism that distorts the differences between good and evil and other opposing ideas, although it also adopts the biblical doctrine that male and female are opposites that complement one another.
During the climax of Kung Fu Panda 2, Po talks about the importance of letting go of the past, forgiving those who have wronged you and choosing what you want to be and do. Thus, despite the Taoist references in the movie, it has morally uplifting, redemptive qualities where forgiveness, courage, and letting go of the sins and hurts of the past are venerated.
All in all, therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older pre-teenagers for Kung Fu Panda 2. Parents should discuss the movie’s themes with their children of any age. In doing so, they should point out that only in Jesus Christ and His Good News Gospel will anyone find true inner peace.
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