Week 3 of EW’s 2011 Summer Movie Body Count continues with Kung Fu Panda 2, featuring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Gary Oldman. Click here for a reminder of our extremely precise definition for what counts as a death, and how we’re counting them. And since we’re going to be talking about deaths here, the requisite spoiler alert should almost go without saying, but we’ll say it anyhow: SPOILER ALERT!
Walking into the theater to tabulate the number of deaths in Kung Fu Panda 2, I was convinced my job would be simple. Surely the only characters that would perish in this family-friendly animated film would be the movie’s big baddie, and perhaps a wise mentor or two. Heck, I wasn’t even convinced that the PG film wouldn’t make sure the grand tally would equal zilch. But who knew that Kung Fu Panda 2 would have the most complex death count to tally? This film had enough twists and turns to be a San Francisco street!
Watching Kung Fu Panda 2, we are under the assumption that when Po (Jack Black) and his team of kung fu fighters battle bad guys, they merely injure their foes comically, not mortally. So though early scenes in the film saw Po kicking, punching, and simply dominating a group of wolf bandits, we cannot count these unconscious bodies as dead bodies. Instead, we witnessed (sort of) our first confirmed death when Master Rhino (Victor Garber) is murdered by evil peacock (no… ) Shen (Gary Oldman) and his fire-breathing, kung-fu-fighting death machine. But this is where we experience our first complication: According to official Summer Movie Body Count rules, we must actually see a character die to tally them. And, since this is a PG film that caters to children likely not to enjoy burning rhino flesh, the scene cuts away just prior to Rhino’s death. Since this death leads Po and his warriors to defeat Shen, we’re making an exception to the rule. Off-screen, plot-driving deaths count! (Clearly, in PW HQ, we enforce rules like a fraternity house.)
Then there’s more PG fighting. Hey, look at that: Po even fights with a radish in a dream sequence! (The radish, however, was victorious. Does not count. But a victory for healthy eating!) More wolves are knocked unconscious with the help of a Chinese dragon costume. Then Po battles a wolf on a moving carriage, and, eventually, the wolf lands face-first at maximum speed into a brick wall. Dead?! No! Twist! Kung Fu Panda 2 lives by Wile E. Coyote rules!
Despite their kung fu skills, our heroes are taken into custody by the evil Shen, but manage to escape a burning, toppling building. It appears as though the building may fall on hundreds of evil wolves — but, no surprise, the scene is cut before the tower hits the ground. No dice. More wolves become victim to Po’s fists, but then we finally get some blood when our panda has a flashback to his youth: Po realizes that Shen mass-murdered pandas in his hometown when he was a baby — including his parents. We see Po’s father sacrifice himself for his child, landing belly-up at the bottom of fiery debris. Death No. 2! Well, kind of. Read on, M. Night, for a twist! Right before the credits roll, we see Po Sr. suddenly have a realization: “My son is alive!” Wha?! So, no mass panda murder? And no dead daddy? Death tally, still at 1!
But what about Po’s mom? After she places her son in a crate of radishes — where he’s discovered later by adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong) — she runs out into the woods, followed by torch-carrying, blood-hungry wolves. We’re led to assume she’s been killed, but … did she enjoy the same fate as Po Sr.? Since we don’t have an answer, we’re going to count this as an offscreen, plot-driving death. Or at least take out a missing person report.
Though we see plenty more fistfights, only two more characters bite the dust during the final brawl scene, which takes place on several boats: a brave wolf who ignores Shen’s request to shoot flames at Po and the warriors in fear that he’ll kill his own people (Shen slices him with sharp peacock feathers) and Shen himself, who is killed by falling boat debris during the climactic fight with Po. As for the wolves who fielded Po’s inner-peace-fueled fire? Since we did not see any bodies, I’m not counting them. I just imagine, simply, after losing their battle for evil supremacy, they went home to watch The Bachelorette.
So, overall, Kung Fu Panda 2 boasts four deaths, though one, Po’s mom, is somewhat unconfirmed. Though not quite as deadly as Pirates 4 (which saw 32 deaths) and Thor (88 deaths), I’m sure plenty of characters in Kung Fu Panda 2 got some nasty splinters from fighting on those boats. Ouch! So now our Summer Movie Body Count equals 191 deaths. Now look at our poll below and, in the comments, talk about your favorite death scenes of the summer!
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