Home > Reviews > KUNG FU PANDA – Hans Zimmer and John Powell

KUNG FU PANDA – Hans Zimmer and John Powell

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

An animated action comedy from DreamWorks that features an astonishing voice cast – Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu – Kung Fu Panda follows the fortunes of Po, a clumsy but well-meaning panda who, despite his enthusiasm, is the worst student at the kung fu academy run by the noble, severe Master Shifu. However, when Tai Lung, an evil snow leopard, escapes from prison and vows revenge on Shifu and his students, Po is unexpectedly revealed to be the one prophesized to stop Tai Lung’s plan and save the academy.

The film, which was enormously popular and successful at the box office, has an original score by Hans Zimmer and John Powell, collaborating on an animated film for the second time, after The Road to El Dorado in 2000. Their score is of the faux-Oriental variety, and makes use of a number of traditional (and increasingly) familiar local instruments, notably the erhu and the pipa, alongside a large-scale western symphony orchestra. There’s a lot of energy and verve to their music, as heard in the barreling opening cue “Hero”, which even introduces some rock elements into the score.

Playful pizzicato sequences and moments of light whimsy play alongside some unexpectedly large-scale action material, notably in cues like “Let the Tournament Begin” and “Dragon Warrior is Among Us” “Shifu Faces Tai Long” and “The Dragon Scroll”, which are impressive in their scope, but retain a sense of light-hearted liveliness and a great deal of humor. There are a few sequences of electronically-enhanced darker material, notably in “Tai Lung Escapes”, and a couple of moments of stereotypical Chinesey music, as in “Impersonating Shifu” and “Training Po”, but these are few and far between.

However, somewhat unusually, there is also a great deal of delicate beauty and lyricism, often through the use of erhu solos augmented by strings and choir; parts of “Peach Tree of Wisdom”, the soaring “Sacred Pool of Tears” and especially the conclusive “Oogway Ascends” are surprisingly beautiful and touching. The album ends with a fun – if a little predictable – new version of Carl Douglas’s disco classic “Kung Fu Fighting” by Jack Black and R&B singer Cee-Lo Green, which is actually very good indeed, and caps off an hour’s worth of music which is much better than one might have imagined.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Hero (4:42)
  • Let the Tournament Begin (1:59)
  • Dragon Warrior is Among Us (2:57)
  • Tai Lung Escapes (7:06)
  • Peach Tree of Wisdom (1:53)
  • Accu-Flashback (4:05)
  • Impersonating Shifu (2:18)
  • Sacred Pool of Tears (9:51)
  • Training Po (1:28)
  • The Bridge (3:23)
  • Shifu Faces Tai Lung (4:47)
  • The Dragon Scroll (2:31)
  • Po vs. Tai Lung (2:41)
  • Dragon Warrior Rises (3:22)
  • Panda Po (2:39)
  • Oogway Ascends (2:04)
  • Kung Fu Fighting (performed by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black) (2:30)

Running Time: 60 minutes 14 seconds

Interscope/Universal B0011344-02 (2008)

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