Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Anyone who has ever seen a Sammo Hung martial arts film will slide right into "Panda" without a murmur. The story of a chubby slacker who dreams of kung fu glory, who discovers unsuspected grace within his ungainly form, is pretty much laid out by the time the opening credits roll. The only question is: what is the journey? And in DreamWorks' production, voiced by Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman as "Shifu", the wise martial rodent, the answer is: pretty good. Not bad. Amusing. I watched Jason's face, and he was energized and riveted. On the other hand: not completely rivet. He DID remember to ask to go Potty in the middle of the film. That might mean something, but I'm not sure how to quantify it. The potty meter: to what degree does a film change the average statistical probability of a child going to the bathroom within any given 90-minute stretch of time..?
Oh, well. Dustin Hoffman turns in a TERRIFIC performance. The 3-D animation is good. Jack Black is Jack Black, and the fight scenes, especially one on a bridge, are actually exciting. I'll give it a "B".
I'm a big fan of the Japanese Manga killing machine "Golgo 13", a strip that has been running for forty years. There were two Golgo movies: "The Professional" and "Queen Bee." "Professional" is great, brutal, sexy, and ahead of it's time with computer animation that looks pretty bad these days. Oh well. It has a great fight scene in an elevator, though, an environment that hasn't been overused. "Diamonds Are Forever" (where Sean Connery tusseled with his judo instructor. Nice.), "Trouble Man" (a little-known blaxploitation film with Robert Hooks as a pool-hustling, wealthy conflict resolution specialist who is also a karate expert. If Jim Kelly could act, he would have done a movie more like this.), and "Golgo" all take advantage of the confined space, implied time pressure (elevator moving between floors) and inherent drama of a passenger conveyance bottling-up life and death gymnastics. Great stuff. I've always thought that, all things considered, "From Russia With Love" is the best fight scene EVER. It was well choreographed, acted, there was plenty at stake, both actors had real charisma, the filmmakers had built it up since the opening scenes of the movie, takes place in a confined space, there was a beautiful unconscious woman at risk, both actors were athletes willing to get bruised up, the sound and appearance of motion intensifies the subjective violence a la "Eisenstenian Montage" where images coming from the right are met by a swinging camera coming from the left. Wow. THAT was a great scene.
I've seen bunches of superbly choreographed action scenes (the bridge sequence in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" redeemed an otherwise disappointing film. It ROCKS.) but that one works best for me.
Question of the day: what is your all time favorite movie fight or action sequence, and why?
Monday, June 09, 2008
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:43 AM