Latest reviews of new albums:
Kung Fu Panda 2
  • 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

Buy Kung Fu Panda 2 from and help support Movie Wave by following this link.

Tags: , , ,

  1. Mastadge (Reply) on Monday 6 June, 2011 at 19:55

    I enjoy this score far more than the original, which I didn’t dislike but also never quite warmed up to.

    This one, as you rightly point out, has some great action cues . . . my biggest problem with it, and it may be because I haven’t seen the film, is that I don’t detect much narrative structure. It goes from fun to fun, but it feels like it goes on and then stops at the end and I remember nothing about the whole, or about the relationships between cues — only the standout moments.

  2. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 6 June, 2011 at 20:50

    Ehm, I’d argue that the quiet portion in the middle of “Zen Ball Master” (between the two action segments), as well as the last minute of “My Fist Hungers for Justice”, both qualify as pretty heavenly.

    Good call on earmarking this as Powell’s, his voice saturates this score, especially the orchestration. But I’d say the first one is also weighted towards Powell’s mannerisms – you wouldn’t hear rapid brass like in, say, “The Battle”, in any Zimmer score, ever. “Oogway Ascends” is really the only pure Zimmer cue in the entire franchise.

    As usual, my inflated opinion of Powell means I’d rate this a whole star higher than you (**** 1/2), but that’s just because of how incredibly fun and tuneful and energetic his action cues are. “Rickshaw Chase”…just incredible. And “Zen Ball Master” is yet more proof that Powell would make an excellent Bond composer (something he’s shown very often over the years, ever since things like “Agent Cody Banks”).

  3. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 6 June, 2011 at 20:51

    (I meant “The Bridge”, not “The Battle”. Oops :p )