Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) – Hans Zimmer & John Powell

Continuing with Zimmer Week, I’m following up yesterday’s review of the Hans Zimmer/John Powell collaboration Kung Fu Panda with the sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2. As you’ll probably recall, I wasn’t too fond of how often material was repeated throughout the entire score; the main theme was hugely overused. However, that problem is (mostly) gone with the score to Kung Fu Panda 2.

The highly entertaining ( albeit obnoxiously exhausted) main theme from the first film, “Hero”, makes a return in the sequel, though it’s not nearly as…er…present as it was in the original. Thank goodness for that! When it does appear, it’s different every time – something that the first film’s score can’t boast.

Lots of different styles make appearances on this album. You have the obvious Chinese influence from the setting of the film, but there’s also a style that I’d like to refer to as “70s cop show retro-funk”…and that’s the technical term. Listen to this section of the track “Gongmen Jail” and then come back. I’ll wait…you back? Is “70s cop show retro-funk” not the perfect description for that bit of music?! Yeah, I thought so too. By the way, if you see that term elsewhere, you can tell people that you saw where it first originated!

There are occasional moments when Zimmer and Powell take us back to the stereotypical music heard in classic old kung fu films. One such moment is found in the opening seconds of “Po and Shen / Face to Face”; that opening solo just seems to ooze kung fu nostalgia, at least in my opinion.

Lots of this score is simply lots of fun, and it’s always different…again, a very good thing. These fun tracks include (but are not limited to) “Stealth Mode”, “Rickshaw Chase”, and “Zen Ball Master”. There’s even an incredibly well-done remix titled “Dumpling Warrior Remix” that’s worth having a listen.

Unlike its predecessor, this film, and, likewise, its soundtrack, is full of serious moments that are reflected powerfully in the music. The opening track, “Ancient China / Story of Shen”, alternates between tension/aggression and bits of tragedy, while the later track “Po Finds the Truth” could just about break your heart before transitioning into a hugely orchestrated version of the beautiful theme from the first film (not the fun one; listen to “Oogway Ascends”).

Overall, Hans Zimmer & John Powell’s score to Kung Fu Panda 2 is an improvement in every imaginable way over the score to the previous film. There’s more variation throughout, which is like a bit of cool mint after the stale taste of the overused theme in Kung Fu Panda. Thank you, Mr. Zimmer and Mr. Powell, for stepping up your games and providing us with something that not only works well with the film but is also capable of being its own entity.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Ancient China / Story of Shen” 2:43
2. “Dumpling Warrior” 1:19
3. “Inner Peace” 2:25
4. “Musicians Village” 1:19
5. “Save Kung Fu” 3:41
6. “Daddy Issues” 4:22
7. “Stealth Mode” 4:04
8. “Gongmen Jail” 2:40
9. “Rickshaw Chase” 2:36
10. “Po and Shen / Face to Face” 5:58
11. “More Cannons!” 2:59
12. “Fireworks Factory” 6:48
13. “Po Finds the Truth” 5:03
14. “Invasion Begins” 2:37
15. “Zen Ball Master” 7:21
16. “My Fist Hungers for Justice” 4:54
17. “Dumpling Warrior Remix” 3:30

Total Length: app. 65 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Remember: “70s cop show retro-funk”. It’s a thing. And it started here!

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