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Kung Fu Panda 2 by Hans Zimmer and John Powell

Kung Fu Panda 2

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Kung Fu Panda 2 (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer and John Powell
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer and John Powell
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Kung Fu Panda 2 (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer and John Powell

Kung Fu Panda 2
Composed by Hans Zimmer and John Powell
Varese Sarabande (2011)

Rating: 9/10

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KUNG FU PANDA 2 is absolutely thrilling and offers listeners a chance to bask in the combined skills of two of the industry's finest craftsmen. What's not to love?"

Zimjitsu and Powellsanity!
Review by the Tracksounds Gang

It could be said that the film that elevated Dreamworks Animation from playing second-erhu to Pixar was 2008’s KUNG FU PANDA. Leaving behind the shallow humor of efforts like Out of Season and Madagascar, KUNG FU PANDA delivered a solid story, with compelling characters, top rate voice actors, and stunning visuals. And then there was HANS ZIMMER and JOHN POWELL’s epic score, which was ripe with both top-drawer action cues and emotionally memorable themes.

With the success of the first film, there was immediate talk of a sequel and three years later KUNG FU PANDA 2 made its debut. Now that Panda Po has reached new status among his peers, The Furious Five, and under his master, Shifu, it’s, not only time to up the ante, with a host of new kung-fu-fightin-characters, but to delve into Po’s mysterious past. The original voice cast is back, but this time under the direction of Jennifer Yuh (who was a story-artist on the original). Best of all, at least from the film music perspective, both HANS ZIMMER and JOHN POWELL return to deliver more musique de pandemonium.

Does the duo return to the heights set by the first? The Tracksounds review team gang-tackles that question...

 

Helen says...

With HANS ZIMMER'S synthesizer rhythms AND JOHN POWELL'S orchestral energy, KUNG FU PANDA 2 combined the best of what I love about each of them. Media Ventures/Remote Control has always produced some of the best collaborations in the (usually solitary) composing business; it is always a pleasure to see the jaw-dropping level of social creativity that comes out of this studio.

The first Kung Fu Panda was a fantastic, fun-filled delight, both in and out of the film (but especially in). The second is exactly what I expected and hoped for: a rich, Chinese-embroidered, heart-pumping, and heartstring-pulling extravaganza. The early tracks contained some of the themes in the first movie and was especially lavish with the Chinese flavors. (My kids were yelling, "That sounds like Kung Fu Panda!" Yes, my kids often yell out score titles when I'm listening to music.) "Musicians' Village" (4) presented a particularly passionate rendition of the main KUNG FU PANDA 2 theme. But the score, while solidly serviceable, doesn't really stand out until the later tracks (10-17).

As the story climaxed, the score climbed and reached some pretty impressive heights. The music simply rocked. Hard. Beginning with "Po and Shen / Face to Face" and ending with "My Fist Hungers for Justice" (how cool of a track title is that?!), heaven and earth moved. The fighting, the heartache, the giggles—everything inspired me. Even the final track, "Dumpling Warrior Remix," an instrumental cue reprising the excellent main theme in the 70's style of "Kung Fu Fighting," was immensely enjoyable. If the entire album had the emotional force of the latter half, I would easily place KFP2 amongst my favorites of all time. As it is, it is amongst my favorites of this year.
 

Helen's Rating: 9/10

 

Marius says...

It's a match made in film scoring heaven: Hans Zimmer and John Powell. There's something appropriate about the master/apprentice relationship here and the ways in which sometimes the apprentice outshines the master. A lot has happened, career-wise, for both these giants since the first KUNG FU PANDA brought them together, and there is a slight but perceptible maturation in the sound of the sequel's score.

For one thing, it's all far more cohesive. Much harder to tell, in this one, who's done what. From the outset, "Ancient China / Story of Shen" brings back some familiar thematic material. A welcome set of developments are explored throughout the score, ensuring that it doesn't just feel like more of the same. Moments of patience, "Inner Peace" and "Save Kung Fu" being two examples, are excellent and give the album a sense of contrast, especially considering the frenetic energy of tracks like "Musician's Village", "Rickshaw Chase", and the hilarious "More Cannons!". The combination of Eastern traditional instruments with a Western orchestra (and some frequently big-band style brass figures) is impeccably executed and immensely entertaining.

The true value of this album lies in its ability to provide a dynamic listening experience outside the film. There are no stale moments, and everything builds intelligently to a spectacular fireworks display of concluding tracks: "Zen Ball Master" and "My Fist Hungers For Justice" being more than amazing enough to forgive the requisite inclusion of the parting remix. KUNG FU PANDA 2 is absolutely thrilling and offers listeners a chance to bask in the combined skills of two of the industry's finest craftsmen. What's not to love?

Marius' Rating: 10/10

 

 

Richard says...

A consistent criticism of HANS ZIMMER and his approach to scoring has been his employment of several composers in the position of “additional music” providers. In the past, the results have wavered significantly, but when combining with the film scoring powerhouse that is JOHN POWELL, having previously worked together on the first in the franchise, the results are nothing but spectacular.

Across the 1-hour plus running time of KUNG FU PANDA 2, ZIMMER and POWELL have crafted a score of boundless energy that reaches some of the highest peaks heard in animated film music. Beginning with the richly beautiful Erhu in “Ancient History/Story of Shen” (1), the score gets off to a delicate start before quickly erupting into uninhibited liveliness and glorious fanfare. The likes of “Dumpling Warrior” (2) and “Stealth Mode” (7) provide the expected playful side to the score that does an efficient job in balancing the score in preparation for the showstoppers to come.

KUNG FU PANDA 2, whilst providing memorable thrills in the opening tracks such as “Musicians Village” (4) and “Save Kung Fu” (5), truly unleashes its true identity in the final two original tracks. “Zen Ball Master” (15) opens with a frenetic DAVID ARNOLD-esque lead up to a marvelous rendition of the main theme, before taking a diversion into the achingly beautiful as the piece is seduced by wondrous string harmonies. “My Fist Hungers for Justice” (16) takes a similarly structured approach, opting for an action-laden opening before subduing itself in preparation for the ultimate climax. The wonderful light-heartedness that takes over is eventually consumed by a gloriously rousing finale that is criminally fleeting in its beauty. The soundtrack rounds out with a largely forgettable and irrelevant remix that does nothing to enhance a fantastic score.

KUNG FU PANDA 2 is another hallmark in animation scoring, largely due to ZIMMER and POWELL’S breathtaking adoption and integration of a distinctly Chinese sound, into a distinctly Hollywood package.

Richard's Rating: 9/10

 

 

Christopher says...

To say that HANS ZIMMER and JOHN POWELL laid a nice musical foundation in KUNG FU PANDA would be somewhat of an understatement. In truth, their score was much more than that and was such a personal delight that a single question kept coming to mind, “Where can they possibly take the music in the sequel?” As it turns out, both composers were clearly up to the task as KUNG FU PANDA 2 liberally employs the thematic material we know so well, but infuses its action cues with an even higher level of "Zimjitsu" and "Powellsanity" than its predecessor.

Unsurprisingly, we get heavy doses of the main/heroic theme, Po’s comedic motif, and the Kung-Fu Master theme (Oogway/Shifu) in both easily recognized varieties but also in new arrangements and variations.  Early on we hear these motifs familiarly presented, but later, cleverly woven into the pulse-pounding action cues such as “Rickshaw Chase” (9), “More Cannons” (11) and the climactic “Zen Ball Master” (15). More recognizable material established in the first film also finds its way into this sequel: the training montage music is utilized and extended in “Rickshaw Chase” (9) and the Valley of Peace celebratory anthem is briefly heard in “Dumpling Warrior” (2).

The most significant musical introduction is that of the story’s villain, Shen. The dark and menacing tone plays more often and even stronger against the comedic and heroic elements than Tai Lung’s 6-note phrase did in KUNG FU PANDA. After a brief introduction in track 1, we hear in the latter half of the score, Shen’s theme reassert itself and find its most poignant performances in tracks like: “Po and Shen Face to Face” (10), and “Invasion Begins” (14). Aside from the well-amped action cues, Shen’s theme helps to give KUNG FU PANDA 2 its distinct personality from the first.

Overall, KUNG FU PANDA 2, the movie, doesn’t reach the heights of writing and comedic timing as the first, but the act 3 of the film certainly lives up to that high standard. While there were odd moments of music implementation among the shortcomings of the first two acts, it is in the third that the characters, narrative, and music find harmony and deliver an experience that is sequel-worthy. Somewhat surprisingly, the score is a more fluid and entertaining listen on the official soundtrack than in the movie itself. That said, It turns out that just as our hero, Po, had much left to do and discover, so did Zimmer and Powell.
 

Christopher's Rating: 9/10
 


Clearly, the Tracksounds Review Gang finds HANS ZIMMER and JOHN POWELL's collaboration a stellar sequel effort and one of the best original scores in the first half of 2011.  Below you can see a track-by-track rating from all our reviewers and don't forget to post your own comments or reviews as well below.

 

Rating: 9/10

 


Track

Track Title Track Time Helen Marius Richard Chris  Ave Rating
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 Running Time (approx) 71 minutes          

 

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