- Composed by Hans Zimmer and John Powell
- Varèse Sarabande / 2011 / 64:20
A reasonably entertaining film at the higher end of the Dreamworks Animation range, Kung Fu Panda grossed an absolute fortune at the box office in 2008 so sequels were inevitable. The first of them has now arrived. Once again, John Powell teams up with his former master, Hans Zimmer. Of course, that pairing used to be quite common (though they didn’t receive equal billing back then, regardless of the split of work) but since leaving Zimmer’s team, Powell has gone on to establish himself as a top film composer in his own right. Both of these composers have scored countless animations over the years and both have fairly distinctive ways of scoring them – it’s interesting that the dominant sound in this score, in contrast to its predecessor, is Powell’s. The frenetic action music – hugely enjoyable – is the highlight here and it sounds like pure Powell to me.
The themes of the first score all make a welcome return and there are times, in fact, that it can be hard to remember that you’re not actually listening to that first score, so similar they are. Where they differ is that this one has more in the way of action music – a plus, since it’s done so well – but slightly less in the way of the kind of heavenly music which was the highlight of the earlier score. I guess what I’m saying is – there’s no “Oogway Ascends” here, nor anything quite so good. Arguably, this album as a whole is – despite lacking those one-off highlights – more consistently entertaining, easily maintaining interest despite its generous running time. “Undemanding and enjoyable” is what I wrote three years ago about Kung Fu Panda; the same is very much true here, but if you only go for one of the albums, I’d make it this one. *** 1/2