The new villains of Kung Fu Panda 2

(The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - From DreamWorks Animation — the studio that brought you How To Train Your Dragon, Shrek and the Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated Kung Fu Panda — comes the latest adventures of one of the most unlikely heroes ever to transition from noodle shop employee to kung fu master.

Additional new cast members include Michelle Yeoh as the Soothsayer in service to Gary Oldman as Lord Shen, whose visions of the future play a key role in the destiny to come. The cast also features action superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc.

In the world of ancient China — the version that serves as home to the characters of Kung Fu Panda 2 — fireworks, or sky flowers, were the dominion of the ruling peacocks, until a son in line for the throne saw their potential for destruction. In turning the purpose of fireworks from constructive to destructive, the peacock named Shen sets his own course toward darker purposes…and, inadvertently aims his life’s path to eventually cross with a panda named Po.

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc

Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson interjects, “For the villain in this film, we went a completely different way from Tai Lung, who was hardcore, full-on strength and brutality.  And we couldn’t really go much stronger than he — Tai Lung could punch his way out of a mountain. So we looked for someone more threatening in a different way — more intellectual, smarter, devious. Po has learned to master the art of kung fu, so something was needed that could trump ability.  Lord Shen is, at first, an unimposing-looking guy. He’s a white peacock, after all, not much of a threat, right? Well, in addition to his fighting skills, which are imposing, he also has speed, and all of that is backed up with weaponry. He’s sinister and scary in his own way.”   

To voice such a clever, flamboyant and accomplished bird as Shen, filmmakers sought out one of the best and most versatile character performers working in entertainment: Gary Oldman.

Michelle Yeoh as the Soothsayer

“I love the challenge of conveying a character fully just using the voice,” explains Oldman. “And Shen is a particularly interesting character. His cleverness led to a miscalculation, and what he had hoped would be an invention worth celebrating turned out to be a weapon that inspired fear. It’s that moment when a child, who is immensely proud of something, finds out that what he has accomplished is deemed wrong. That makes for a great deal of hurt — not only does he want to prove himself right and worthy, he wants to take those down who stood in his way in the process. He has come back to take what is rightfully his. I think he fits very nicely in the gallery of Oldman villains.”

Co-star and leading panda Jack Black echoes the praise of his director and producer: “The villain this time around is an evil peacock and it’s played by one of my favorite actors of all time, Gary Oldman.  I’ve always drawn a lot of inspiration from his performances, way back to ‘Sid and Nancy.’ And to see all of the different villains that he’s played?  Probably my favorite is ‘Dracula.’ In the scene where he’s with the white wolf, and he says to the girl, ‘He likes you.’ There’s something almost delicate about the evil in that scene that was really amazing. I was really excited when I heard he was playing Shen.”

Kung Fu Panda 2 opens in theaters nationwide today.

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