It's a bit late, but Kung Fu Panda 2 was worth the wait.
Like it or not, Sky Movies Premiere offers a brilliant service by reviving year-old movies every Friday for those who missed them first time around. Although the strategy has sometimes proved rather hit-and-miss, I'm happy to say that Kung Fu Panda 2 is easily one of the best films to hit the channel in a fair while. What came as the biggest surprise to me early on is that with the confidence and energy clearly gained by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and the rest of the gang in the original animated flick (3.5/5), the team have actually produced a sequel which manages to surpass and best its predecessor. The narrative seems quite simple at first- Po and the Furious Five must stop the evil peacock Shen (voiced brilliantly by Gary Oldman) from bringing an end to Kung Fu with his all powerful fireball cannons- yet somehow, the writers easily throw in character arcs of family, betrayal, extinction and so much more throughout the brief running time of the adventure in a way that never feels overwhelming nor convoluted. Black in particular is on fine form as Po, no longer a cocky rising hero but instead a 'man' trying to find his way in the world and to discover how his past made him who he is today, a role which the actor seems to truly relish in and that feels refreshingly contrasting to his identikit portrayals in recent efforts Nacho Libre and Gulliver's Travels. Could it be that from now on, we'll see Jack focusing more on progressive sequels than dull rise-to-fame debuts? It certainly wouldn't be a bad omen for his career if so. Either way, it is impossible to move on with the praise without crediting the sublime animation- I don't think a film set in this supposedly childish genre has ever had its visuals, locales and artwork looking so damn good. Seriously, one of the main selling-points of the entire experience has to be the prospect of watching this on Blu-Ray in full high-definition, simply because the craftmanship that has clearly gone into drawing the various narrative elements is astounding. The soundtrack isn't half bad either, focusing less on the copy-cat strategy the original took with mimicking Carl Douglas and other famous Martial Arts tracks and more on fulfilling the deep emotive core that lies at the heart of the film. It seems totally bizarre for you to read and indeed for me to write that an animated film can accomplish so much in so brief a period of time despite its PG roots holding the plot back from darker, even more impactful realms, and yet a strong part of what makes this flick such an unprecedented success lies in its younger target audience. By appealing to the kids with a fast-paced, unbelievably engaging narrative that refuses to let even the most mature viewers slip away, Kung Fu Panda 2 pulls out a shocker in becoming one of the best animated films of recent times. Be warned- if no entry in the genre turns up to better it this year, then this will without a doubt be heading into the 2012 Film Awards in some form!