Tag: kung fu panda

Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
★ / ★★★★

The animation looking beautiful is probably the only compliment I can give to “Kung Fu Panda 3,” directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, because it provides no compelling story, the characters we have come to know from previous installments are not challenged or changed in any way, and the jokes rely too much on cutesy exchanges and exclamations. I imagine children as young as five or six years old are likely to be entertained because of the colors and battle scenes. But intelligent viewers within the same age group are likely to be bored. The film scrapes the bottom of the barrel for a semblance of creativity.

A major character introduced is Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston), the long lost father of Po the Dragon Warrior (Jack Black). The central story involving the father-son reunion is not dealt with in a remotely interesting way. Of course, the requisite scenes involving Li and Po bonding through the activities they like to partake in, what they find amusing, and how much they look alike are present, but the screenplay offers no genuine emotional connection between them.

The writers, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, have simplified the script to such an extent that what is left is a skeletal idea of two characters coming together. There is no substance to them; there is not one scene where Li or Po expresses how much it means to him to have found a surviving family member. I experienced a sinking feeling that the writers felt as though deep, complex emotions would go right over the heads of their target audience. So, as a solution, we are pummeled with reductive, superficial exchanges followed almost immediately by kinetic action scenes. It is astounding that given the numerous battles we are provided, not one of them stands out.

Consider Pixar films and Miyazaki pictures. They are often highly successful within and outside the expected age demographic because emotions and situations are dealt with honesty, respect, and insight. We are continually surprised by the characters and the world they inhabit exactly because we are allowed to understand their perspectives—whether it be through open dialogue, creative ways in which thoughts are expressed without words, and the decisions the characters make sometimes, especially when they are difficult or goes against their own set of morality. Life lessons organically seep into our minds.

Here, lessons about working with your natural talent is forced and, once again, reductive. The better nugget of truth to offer is that sometimes you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone because you might find another strength that you otherwise might not discover if you stayed within your bubble. Providing alternatives is not the picture’s strength: It has a vision of going from Point A to Point B and is blind to everything else. It offers no excitement or surprises.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” inspires kids not to think outside the box. It doesn’t even teach lessons about empathy—which is pretty much the bread and butter of animation aimed toward young children, the standard. So, who is the movie for, really? The answer is the studios. This is nothing but a cash-grab from audiences who have been impressed by the “Kung Fu Panda” brand in the past. Here’s to hoping people realize the charade so no more sequels would be made.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

Young Shen, a peacock, was supposed to lead Gongmen City when he grew up. But when Soothsayer (voiced by Michelle Yeoh), a goat, predicted that someone in black and white was going to thwart his thirst for power, Shen (Gary Oldman) decided to kill pandas all over China. When he returned home, his parents banished him from the city. Years later, bitter Shen reappeared, equipped with newfangled metallic weapons and ravenous but dim-witted wolves, to take back the city, eliminate kung fu, and gain control of China. “Kung Fu Panda 2,” written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, was a hasty but scrumptious sequel filled with non-stop action, cuddly rabbits, funny jokes about the anthropomorphic characters, and gorgeous animation. With a relatively simple storyline, the film wasted no time in sending Po (Jack Black), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) to release Gongmen City from the evil peacock with feathers as knives. But it was far from an easy task. Each successive action sequence became increasingly difficult for our heroes which meant more complex plans of attack and trickier camera angles. It also meant more scenes where Po had to clandestinely blend into the environment to no avail. I loved the aerial shots especially when the Dragon Warrior and his friends attempted to sneak into the city while in a dancing dragon costume. Looking down, it looked like a helpless caterpillar desperately trying to find its way out of a labyrinth while avoiding nasty predators. I also enjoyed the scene in which our protagonists had to run to the tip of a building as it slowly collapsed. There was a real sense of peril as Po and company were thrown around like rag dolls. Since Shen wielded a myriad cannons, the city was eventually thrown in a state of calamity, its residents dispersing like flies. Although potentially too violent for kids, the filmmakers found a way to hide certain realities. For example, someone who was hit by a cannonball was almost always immediately shown as only slightly wounded but ultimately safe. There was an interesting subplot involving Po’s origins. Po finally realized that Mr. Ping (James Hong), a duck, wasn’t his biological father. Mr. Ping was heartbroken from the prospect of Po treating him differently other than the father who found him in a box, raised, and fed him tons of radishes when he was a baby panda. Fragments of memories began to manifest themselves and they caused turmoil in Po’s mind. It proved to be inconvenient because the only way he could learn a special kung fu move, with the aid of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), was to find inner peace. “Kung Fu Panda 2,” directed by Jennifer Yuh, was surprisingly fresher than newly dug radishes. It is a product of synergy among comedic asides, kinetic martial arts, and the more sentimental scenes between Po and his dad. Most of all, it is a testament that sequels need not rely on typicalities to duplicate the successes of its predecessor. Its ambition and execution make it a solid companion piece.