Sunday, June 08, 2008

Kung Fu Panda: Belief in oneself

Belief in oneself. That's what Kung Fu Panda is all about. At least that's the take home message for me. We watched the movie yesterday at MUVICO located at New Tampa (we have grown to like this cinema complex for its spacious seat arrangement, suitably stacked on an incline to remove any worry of visual obstruction with reclining cushion seats, arm rests and adequate leg room plus excellent acoustics). We had a family conference and collectively decided that we would not pay the extra $3 per head to watch it on IMAX at Channel side, a good 12 miles away. (Wify's version of the pugilistic Panda is shown here holding the coveted Dragon Scroll in one hand over the head, with an inscription of the Chinese character for pugilism across the chest, in the shower of the peach flowers.)

The movie trailers shown during the pre-show segment were mostly catered to the children audience, understandably so, including the animated version of the Star Wars genre, The Clone Wars. Wonder whether it would meet with the same box office success as its human counterpart when it is released later in the year.

The feature presentation started with a nice musical score, a decidedly Chinese beat. We learned earlier on that Panda Po came from a noodle family with a secret recipe passed down through generations. And the movie then rolled on, and gradually revealed the provenance of the Dragon Scroll, supposedly a much coveted martial arts secret that only the designated Dragon Warrior could view. The two parallels did not become obvious until later, embedded in the words of Po's father (but I may have paraphrased here, relying pretty much on my memory after the fact), played by a gander (I almost wrote goose, which is the female, strictly speaking) of all animals:

If you want to make something special, you just have to believe it's special.”

I would leave the movie itself to connect the dot between the two, lest I'm guilty of “spoiling the fun”.

While watching the movie and as the plot progressively unraveled, Po's name began to strike me as having a deeper meaning the selection of which was not random. I recall the term “Po” coined by Edward de Bono, that world-renowned progenitor of lateral thinking/thinking out of the box, to convey exploring beyond the bounds of conventional wisdom. To refresh my memory, I consulted Wikipedia and was rewarded with the following:

A "Po" is an idea which moves thinking forward to a new place from where new ideas or solutions may be found. The term was created by Edward de Bono as part of a lateral thinking technique to suggest forward movement, that is, making a statement and seeing where it leads to. It is an extraction from words such as hypothesis, suppose, possible and poetry, all of which indicate forward movement and contain the syllable "po." Po can be taken to refer to any of the following - provoking operation, provocative operation or provocation operation. Also, in ancient Polynesian and the Maori, the word "po" refers to the original chaotic state of formlessness, from which evolution occurred. Edward de Bono argues that this context as well applies to the term.”

But perhaps I'm thinking too much into this, but I sure would like some feedback one way or the other.

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie, notwithstanding the fact that it has a strong Chinese root. But the destruction of property when the fight rampage was on seems excessive (collapsed stone walls, and exploded buildings and ground, etc.), perhaps exaggerating the potency of the highest level of unarmed combat there is done understandably for cinematic effect. Also, those who are veterans of Chinese martial arts movies and are an avid fan of Jackie Chan (who plays the voice of Master Monkey in the movie) would recognize some familiar fight sequences, for example, the chopstick fights between the Master Sifu and Student Po going for the Chinese dumplings with dexterous display of blocking moves.

Talking about Master Sifu, I was stumped by CE's question on if Sifu is Master in Chinese, why then “Master Sifu”, a seeming classic redundancy error (like repeat again?)? An oversight?

In the annals of Chinese history, the evolution of martial arts, especially the Shaolin lineage, is intertwined with Buddhist monks (another lineage, Wudan, would be more associated with Taoism). So it is little surprise that some vestiges of Buddhist influence were sprinkled here and there. For example, one scene had the Master Crane writing the Chinese calligraphy for the word Chan (Zen, wify's version is shown to the right). Then there is this not so subtle reference to the Buddhist worldview of being mindful of the here and now, imparted by Master Oogway (Chinese for turtle, Wu Gui) to Po under the Sacred Peach Tree (again, paraphrasing):

Yesterday was history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift. That's why its called the present.”

Carpe Diem!

3 comments:

Kitty Girl said...

Haha! Of course, leave it to Dad to overthink an animated movie... But who knows? Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps they just thought "Po" sounded Chinese enough. Perhaps "po" because it sounds like "Pa" (Father) in English and could also mean grandmother in Chinese... Hmm! Kidding, probably not. We have not seen this movie yet--likely will wait for the doovda version. We are very excited for M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, which we are likely to watch in IMAX this Friday!!! Also--Mom's panda painting is very funny!!!

Say Lee said...

Dee looked up the Internet and found that Po actually is the chinese character for "commonplace" or "general". Mom thought it sounded like the chinese character for "precious" but when pronounced in Hokkien.

Well, for the next movie venture we have a split vote: Dee cast the lone dissenting vote against The Happening and prefer The Incredible Hulk instead.

Kitty Girl said...

Hmm... Brian and I had almost the same dilemma when we found out both opened the same day. However, since we had already decided to watch The Happening on the day of, we will be watching The Big Ugly Green Man Movie at a later date... Or perhaps--the same day!!! @_@