When Kung-Fu Panda stumbled through the screens back in 2008, our hearts melted for this lovable, bumbling Panda Po with all his dreams and aspirations of becoming a Kung-Fu Master! In the third instalment of this “AWESOMENESS” franchise, DreamWorks has embraced the last two films in the best way they can. There is plenty in Kung-Fu Panda 3 that echoes the first films and unlike other franchise movies this is not a tired recycling of the same storylines and themes. Instead we are presented with a film of such gusto that reinforces and thankfully captures the action and humour of the first movies and builds on it to make you leave the cinema in fits of laughter and smiles!
If Kung-Fu Panda 1 was about Po learning how to become a hero and Kung-Fu Panda 2 was him learning to hone his skills, then Kung-Fu 3 is Po's journey to becoming a teacher. In the latest instalment Po’s long lost father suddenly reappears, in one very humorous scene. But when a supernatural villain named Kai turns up from the spirit realm with every past kung-fu master’s chi, Po must he himself learn the power of chi to save the village & China. The reunited pair then travel to the hidden panda village from where Po was born so Po can learn the long lost forgotten powers.
Right from the beginning in the opening credits, it’s hard not to mention the spectacular animation, which looks even more stunning in 3D. The character designs and environments are truly breathtaking and you find yourself completely absorbed into the world of Po and the lost panda village -and to top it off the set rivals most action films in terms of cinematography and scale.
Jack Black is back as the voice of Po, and he is, as always the heart and soul of this movie. Some of the biggest laughs and ahhhh moments in the film come from him and along with the beautifully expressive faces of Po. Po faces many of the similar challenges he supposedly overcame in Kung-Fu Panda 1 and 2 and some scenes may feel redundant as a result. That being said there is a whole lot of new stuff in the film too. While Po attempts to teach his panda relatives the art of being the best they can be, the Furious Five are given their own missions and to top it all off there is a slew of new characters as well. The flirtatious Mei Mei is an immediate standout (played by the delightful Kate Hudson), but the most notable cast addition is Bryan Cranston as the voice of Po’s father (biological) Li Shang. Both he and Mr Ping (adoptive father) play off each other so well throughout the movie. Like the last two the family dynamic is at the core of the film.
J.K Simmons graces us with his presence as the voice of Kai, who joins the series as a very impressive villain. What works about this character is he is the old rival of Master Oogway’s which brings the story to a full circle. When we are introduced to Kai at the beginning he has stolen the chi from thousands of Kung-Fu masters, including Oogway, and collects these on his belt as jade amulets which he can release as “jombies”. The laughable thing about it is that nobody actually knows who Kai is until he mentions his past with Oogway – adding the humour throughout the film. Simmons plays an impressive role and does a great job of doing both the scary and comical of Kai.
It is sad to say but Kung-Fu Panda 3 definitely feels like the end of the trilogy and wraps the Dragon Warrior’s story up in a satisfying way. The core message is heartfelt and valuable “Be the best you can be” and for kids young and old that’s a pretty pertinent lesson to learn. This is definitely a must watch as it is a beautiful animation you can really be immersed in and the film culminates into a gratifying and climatic finale.