Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review of the Movie Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Review of the Movie Kung Fu Panda

Though one should conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers his own self, is the greatest of all conquerers.Self-conquest is, indeed, far greater than the conquest of all other folks. Dhammapada v. 103, 104

Although there are many moments in this movie where meaningful dialogue occurs, any wisdom gained by these is overshadowed by the continual fight scenes. Although the location is “The Valley of Peace” most time and energy is spent perfecting warrior skills and incarcerating (horribly) the potential threat to this “peace.”

When Po, the overweight bungling Panda, eventually proves himself and is given the scroll of power to read, he discovers that it is blank. More to the point, it reflects the person who looks into it. Just as the noodle broth has no secret ingredient, so too the scroll has no secret power. The message is that we carry our own power within and need to fulfill our own potential without looking for some magical outside answer. However, this worthy message is overshadowed by other negative messages.

Tai Lung frees himself from an inhumane prison to confront his former teacher and surrogate father, Shifu. He says, “All I ever did, I did to make you proud! Tell me how proud you are Shifu! Tell me. Tell me!” Is this not a cry of suffering? Tai Lung was abandoned by his birth father as an infant, then again as an adult/student by his adoptive father/master.

Shifu replies, “I have always been proud of you. From the first moment I've been proud of you. And it was my pride that blinded me. I loved you too much to see what you were becoming, what I turned you into. I'm... I'm sorry.” If he was sorry, why did he abandon Tai Lung in prison? Why did he not visit and concentrate on undoing the damage? He cast him aside like a failed project.

Tai Lung pauses, shocked, but the inevitable battle of student against master ensues. When Tai Lung eventually obtains the scroll and learns it is blank, he is furious to discover he spend twenty years in prison for nothing.

Po, the Panda, defeats him and peace is restored to the valley. However, the cruelty done to Tai Lund is never addressed. Although the movie is peppered with Buddhist sayings such as “There is a saying, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.”it is deeply lacking in either wisdom or compassion.

There are many funny parts, some clever witticisms, and numerous dramatic fight scenes, but underneath the movie sends a message of insensitivity and disconnectedness and that violence, masquerading as Kung Fu, can solve the problems of pride, loneliness, and hatred.

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