In recent times, I can’t think of another film franchisee which has delivered with such consistency as the Kung Fu Panda, which seems to be raising expectation with each of its new instalment. It’s particularly commendable because we have seen in the past that delivering a successful sequel without some fatigue or resentment is a tough job, and most of the (planned) movie franchises fall stagnant just after the first one
Under the fluid direction of Jennifer Yuh Nelson (who helmed Kung Fu Panda 2) and Alessandro Carloni, the new film pulls us in with anotherworldly prologue set in the eternal spirit realm. Last seen vanishing into a vortex of flower petals in the first Kung Fu Panda, the wise old tortoise Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) is setting down for a few centuries of well-earned rest, when he is attacked by his ancient frenemy, Kai (J.K. Simmons), a blade-wielding Yak who has challenged thousands of kung fu masters and stolen the chi, that he stores in jade amulets and users to raise a powerful supernatural army. Once he defeats Oogway, Kai harnesses enough power to escape back into the modern world, where he becomes determined to hunt down, the one destined to overthrow him: Po, the Dragon Warrior.
Also, in Kung Fu Panda 3, as the trailers suggested, our protagonist Po (Jack Black), gets reunited with his father (Bryan Cranston), who pursues and takes him back to the panda village deep in the mountains. Now in the last movie, there were some pointers as to why the Pandas were killed in the first place, and why did Po end up in the valley, serving noodles.
Now, from the first movie, one thing has been a very constant in Kung Fu Panda, our protagonist Po, in the movies, does some deep soul-searching, and realizes that everything, every technique that he’ll ever learn is already inside him, ready to be unleashed when realized. Now this trusted blueprint allows the filmmakers to combine humour, genuine heartfelt emotion, and action in equal measure. I particularly enjoyed the good-humoured and surprisingly touching subplot about Po torn between his love for his adoptive father-goose and the Papa Panda he never knew he had.
Jack Black continues to amaze us as the bumbling but eternally optimistic Po. Being from a design background, I must say, the animation is gorgeous, blending influences from traditional Chinese art with a stunning palette of colours that make the images pop nicely rendered 3-D. Along with that I also have a small complain with the modelling department. Po’s father, or the other pandas in general, except Po, are made to look a little less human. They could have been better.
I’m going with three-and-half out of five stars for DreamWorks’s Kung Fu Panda 3. Though it is not as inventive as Pixar’s best works, you never know when DreamWorks might start implementing their plan of making Kung Fu Panda into the originally proposed six-part series, and this might turn out to be the most successful movie franchise ever.