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Kung Fu Panda 2 by Hans Zimmer & John Powell (Review)

posted May 26, 2011, 7:06 PM by Kaya Savas   [ updated May 26, 2011, 7:55 PM ]

In 2008 something great happened. Hans Zimmer teamed up with John Powell for the first time in 8 years and gave us an amazing score filled with amazing themes, full of colorful instrumentation and most of all it packed an incredible emotional punch. The first Kung Fu Panda was a huge hit and I'm sure this one was greenlit the day after opening weekend results came in. When I heard of this one being in the works of course I was excited for one major reason, and that was that it would allow for Hans and John to team up again. Powell definitely had the greater influence on the thematic material while Hans fleshed out some deeper emotional points and overall flow. What I loved about the first score was how "un-childish" it was. The score was intense, heartwarming and in the end commanded such great emotional depth. Sequel scores are always interesting because I like to see how composers try to use established themes over again in new ways.

This time around the first half of the score is where you will find the lighter stuff. Our characters are back and of course they are fun characters. So the music for the first half is fun and light. We get some comical homages to 70's Lalo Schifrin scores and our themes are all reintroduced. The score really gets going with the track "Po And Shen/Face To Face". From this point onward we are treated to some amazing arrangements that use our favorite themes. Things get a bit more serious too as the score shifts tone from the light family comedy to the action filled kung fu epic. The music becomes a grand sweeping roller coaster that only Hans Zimmer and John Powell could bring. Their styles blend so well that the score gains a life of its own. I never once felt like I was hearing a rehash of the first score either. This journey is a continuation of the first one and a great continuation at that. Po's character is felt throughout the entire score as well. Po's theme echoes the strength and confidence that he as a character now has versus back in the first movie where he was unsure of who he was and what his purpose was. The track "Zen Ball Master" is pure gold as the score dives head first into the climax and resolution. The score is then beautifully wrapped up.

The score is simply stunning to say the least. Musically it's much more developed than the first one and there are so many more textures this time around. The final act is hair raising greatness and is an example of how a score should function as a storyteller and emotional backbone. Hans Zimmer and John Powell are two of the best working today. Hans helped usher John Powell into his own career and now that they can collaborate and make stuff like this is pure living poetry. This is definitely not a rushed attempt at a sequel score and will go down as one of the best of the year. With a CD running time of around 64 minutes and with lengthy tracks this is how a score should be presented as well. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a beautiful lush experience that incorporates the setting and characters flawlessly into the motions of the story it's telling, and that makes it an exceptional score.