Kung Fu Panda’ is back for another instalment, where this time Po has two very big challenges to face – one very powerful enemy, and one quest for self-discovery. After his last Kung Fu lesson with Shifu, Po (voiced by Jack Black) is put in the position of teacher, which leads him to question who he really is. Unfortunately for the village, Kai, otherwise known as “the jade slayer”, “the beast of vengeance” and “the maker of widows” has returned from the spirit realm to collect the chi of all the great warriors in an attempt to make himself powerful. After the village is destroyed and the majority of Po’s friends have been stolen, Po has to become the ‘master of chi’ in order to defeat Kai and send him back to the spirit realm.
Alongside the main story, Po finally gets to meet his real dad, Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston). Li takes Po back to the hidden village of pandas, where he tells Po that he can teach him how to become a master of chi. Understandably, Po’s adopted dad Mr. Ping is not so happy with this advancement, and becomes increasingly annoyed as Po learns the way of the panda.
Usually the three-quel in a movie series, when finishing with a massive war against the bad guys, turns out to be pretty bad (think: ‘The Matrix’, ‘The Hobbit’). It’s something predictable and overused, and I always regret watching it. When I saw that this was the idea of the third ‘Kung Fu Panda’, I wasn’t overly pleased, but luckily they did it quite well. Although it does indeed end in a big war, it’s not all about the filler – there’s actually a lot more content regarding Po’s journey to self-discovery, which is much more valuable.
Unfortunately, the story line is a little bit predictable for any adults watching, although this might not be the case for younger viewers. The themes of betrayal and identity are important for kids, but I feel they’re getting a little bit overused now. I also felt this way about some of the effects – yes, slowing down when someone’s getting kicked in the face looks cool, but it’s just been done too many times.
The comedy and animation makes up for the lack of originality though. As always, the animation is seamless, and there’s lots of switching between normal animation and beautiful, painted-style scenes when showing backstory, which works well both visually and culturally. Po is the same Po as usual (which is mostly a good thing), and the addition of a whole village of pandas is actually really funny at times. Again, it’s not particularly original, as the baby pandas seemed remarkably similar to the ogre babies in Shrek, but it was still cute to watch. Kai turns out to be a pretty awesome enemy – again, despite having an overused motive, his ability to absorb other warriors’ chi and then use it to attack is rather original, and added a great dimension to the film. It also showed an important message for the kids – you can take or steal as much power as you like, but at the end of the day you’re no more powerful than when you started.
On that theme, there’s also a lot of ancient proverbs floating around, which is something that I love about the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ series – it gives children a lot more to think about than just which characters are winning. There are a couple of really emotive scenes thrown in there as well, and the pace is generally quite good. I found the final half an hour or so wasn’t quite as enthralling as the rest of it (from an adult’s point of view), but it would probably still appeal to younger viewers. Despite not being quite as good as the previous two films, it’s still got a lot of slapstick to keep viewers amused.
There’s not so many laugh out loud moments as I wanted though, and so I’m giving it 4/5.
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