Kung Fu Panda 2: Please, More of That!

I’ll admit, picking up technique wasn’t particularly on my mind when I went to see Kung Fu Panda 2, aside from testing the premise that the best way to see a kids’ movie on opening day is the middle of the afternoon during the school year (today’s experiment: successful). But to say I got blogfodder out of it was a bit of an understatement, and almost all of it in the “Look, this is how you do it” sort of way. It didn’t disappoint—while I mistrust sequels, this one stood up just fine compared to the original, and I love the soothsayer and the way it switches styles for flashbacks—and in the end, I found myself with one comment as we left the theater with my two friends: “My game needs more of that.”

What’s that? It’s complicated; we spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out what exactly that was, knowing mainly that it was in the fight scenes. There are a lot of them, apparently all done under one choreographer (I wonder if he’s looking for an apprentice?), and they’re spectacular enough even in the flat version that I forgot until the credits that it had also released in 3D. That is the quality that made them awesome, one which I still need to come up with a proper name for.

That shows in the teamwork, one of the points in which the sequel’s fights outstrip the original. It shows up a couple times in the first movie, but in the second it’s rarer that the main characters aren’t tag-teaming, covering for each other, using each other as weapons, helping each other get to places they couldn’t reach alone, or otherwise working together.

There’s a lot of that in how the characters interact with their scenery, partly because there’s also a lot of scenery to interact with. But it’s used—the random items, the herbivore extras, the impressive buildings, if you see it somebody probably does something with it.

There’s plenty of that in the fighting styles, as well. This isn’t one of those cases of “assume everyone’s got the same structure and go from there”—form and personality shape the fighting style such that I probably could figure out who was fighting from a paragraph or two of description of what exactly they were doing most of the time, and some even get away with things that they wouldn’t be able to if their unique structure wasn’t taken into account. (I think this was one of the major elements that accounted for the greatest surprise we’d run into. If you think that there’s no way anyone can make a peacock intimidating, you’ve just been proven wrong, and this is one of the major factors in why. More on this later.)

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to make more sense of that: to analyze the elements that it’s comprised of, to determine how player and GM alike can make sure to use it, maybe to understand why it has such an impact—and, of course, to come up with a proper name for it. Until then, though, all I can say is, I know it when I see it, and this movie has it in spades.


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