19 October 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Spencer finally climbed out of his World of Warcrack haze (no, that's not a typo), so I got to see him and Kim and the kids for the first time in roughly a year. Okay, there were also mega-family things going on, but the primary culprit was World of Warcrack. So we caught up yesterday, and went to see Kung Fu Panda at the $2 theater. It would have been worth a full price ticket, honestly.

The story will be instantly familiar. Clumsy nobody gets chosen to be the prophesied hero who must save the day. However, this version is unusually well done. The animation is superb, and the characters are a lot of fun. Also, the writers did at least some research, as all of the Fabulous Five represent actual styles of Kung Fu. You can see them in the picture above: Tiger, Crane, Mantis, Snake, and Monkey.

Some of these even show up in taiji. Legendarily, the founder of the original taiji was impressed by the fluidity of a snake who was fighting with a crane. In the Cheng Man-ch'ing form, we have poses called "snake strike", "embrace tiger; return to mountain", "white crane spreads wings", "step back to repel monkey". I can't think of any mantis examples in our form, but that is certainly a classic Kung Fu style.

It was also enjoyable to see the usual martial arts training sequences turned on their head and pelted with dumplings. Use what works, not what you think ought to work! That's a particularly zen/taoist attitude, and there are plenty of other examples throughout the movie. It's rare to see zen or taoism represented so well in a mainstream work. I suspect they got it right primarily because it was intended as a kid's movie, so they weren't trying to get it right. Then there's the secret ingredient, which I can't tell you; you'll just have to go see the movie. (Or you could read to the spoiler section at Useless Tree's review; he also comments on Chinese political reactions)

All pictures from here.


John said...

I enjoyed it, too. James Hong was hilarious.

Qalmlea said...

Better than hilarious. "You have had the noodle dream!?!"