Kung Fu Panda

Hans Zimmer and John Powell

 
" it is obvious that the Powell energy and the eastern Zimmer are all it takes to win your heart over. If not, some dazzling tracks will do it in the end. "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

Hans Zimmer and John Powell haven't teamed up since 2000's The Road to El Dorado, Dreamworks' adventure to find the lost city of gold. That collaboration resulted in an amusing little score, even if the promo needed to spell it out more than the regular release. Now comes Kung Fu Panda, or the computer animated tale of Po the panda, who becomes the chosen one and who must save his dojo and their way of life. In a nutshell, this demands a fun score and nothing more. While not exactly superb, it is nonetheless the fun that keeps the album going.

The generous release of Dreamworks Records proves that Zimmer and Powell are now best selling soundtrack composers. If not they wouldn't have released an hour of the movie's music. It may even be that the album is a little too generous in time. During the listen it is obvious that the Powell energy and the eastern Zimmer are all it takes to win your heart over. If not, some dazzling tracks will do it at the end.

Kung Fu Panda may remind many of Zimmer's The Last Samurai and yet that is not what I hear. It's more loose and more fun, and in fact it reminds me of the dozen Asian Kung Fu movies and their witty scores. Scores like The Drunken Master II or Kung Fu Hustle and stuff like that. Because the first track "Hero" is spelling out fun, and not the subdued music of The Last Samurai. This track opens with flutes until the heroic pumping theme shows enough potential to put a tiny smile on your face. It's not that catchy nor sensational like some of the At World's End themes, but it does the trick.

The vibrant "Let the Tournament Begin" shows glimpses of potential, while "Dragon Warrior is among us" hops around in the familiar MV sense, with enough rhythmic and choral moments to entertain the warrior within you. Naturally long tracks can hold more development and yet that is not what "Tai Lung Escapes" offers us. Expect more the usual tune changes, layered in a darkish mood (with an evil theme consisting of some Chill Factor beats).

Luckily there's enough change of heart. "Peach Tree of Wisdom", "Accu-Flashback" and "Impersonating Shifu" hold some soft whispers of the Chinese violin, cello or flutes. Especially the cello in "Peach Tree of Wisdom" is very nice, and the explosion of sound in "Accu-Flashback" is surprising. The 10 minute long "Sacred Pool of Tears" offers us various moods. For example, a thundering opening with some action music is spotted (this is definitely Powell at work), the percussion pieces are short but riveting. The emotional music (with various outbursts) bring you into a Zen mode from time to time. Altogether this is a great cue that has a little bit of everything.

From "Training Po" it goes into the action territory. This track in particular uses choir and percussion to create its big sound. In "The Bridge" the sound is awesome because this is the track that people are desperate to hear. A spicy opening, a rhythmic piece with some hints of danger (Tai Lung's theme), some electronic whooshes and the fun ideas that spiced both composer's career until now. You better watch out for the killer main theme version near the end.

The action continues in "Shifu Faces Tai Lung", "The Dragon Scroll" and "Po vs. Tai Lung". The first in particular will capture the interest of those who liked the choral mass in Powell's Horton Hears a Who. You see, it reappears here as well. The sprightly "Po vs. Tai Lung" dances as well on the Horton melody, implementing that Powell perhaps wrote the bulk of the score, while Zimmer just penned down the themes. The promising title "Dragon Warrior Rises" in fact doesn't bring a stirring finish, as it's a rather calm piece. So is the soft "Panda Po" and the ever so lovely sound of the violin blossoming in "Oogway Ascends".

The version of "Kung Fu Fighting" isn't bad at all, a little more oomphed in various places but I can understand if people appreciate the original version just a tad more.

So how good is Kung Fu Panda? I think it's a fun score, it moves along pleasantly and offers the moments I wanted. John Powell and Hans Zimmer together is never a bad thing, even though I feel and believe that Powell composed the most, and Zimmer was merely present. Kung Fu Panda will not surprise a lot of people, but it will amuse the most of you. And basically I didn't expect anything less of the score to begin with.

Tracklisting

1. Hero (4.41)
2. Let the Tournament Begin (1.58)
3. Dragon Warrior is among us (2.56)
4. Tai Lung Escapes (7.05)
5. Peach Tree of Wisdom (1.53)
6. Accu-Flashback (4.04)
7. Impersonating Shifu (2.17)
8. Sacred Pool of Tears (9.50) Excellent track
9. Training Po (1.28)
10. The Bridge (3.22) Excellent track
11. Shifu Faces Tai Lung (4.46) Excellent track
12. The Dragon Scroll (2.31)
13. Po vs. Tai Lung (2.40)
14. Dragon Warrior Rises (3.22)
15. Panda Po (2.39)
16. Oogway Ascends (2.03)
17. Kung Fu Fighting * (2.30)

* Featuring Cee-Lo Green & Jack Black

Total Length: 60.16
(click to rate this score)  
 
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(total of 82 votes - average 3.84/5)

Released by

DreamWorks 001134402 (regular release 2008)

Conducted by

Xincao Li

Orchestrations by

Jane Antonia Cornish, Germaine Franco, Kevin Fliesch, Dave Metzger & John Ashton Thomas

Performed by

The China National Symphony Orchestra