“The Big Fat Panda” and somewhat surprisingly, almost all of his celebrity voiced friends return in Po’s third animated adventure, but what, if anything could possibly challenge the seemingly unbeatable “Dragon Warrior” after his last two films?
Though Po the Panda has rightfully earned the title of “Dragon Warrior”, earned the respect of his idols The Furious Five and their Master Shifu, and defeated the evil that (allegedly) killed off all the panda’s, he still has much to learn as Kai, an enemy from master Oogway’s past (remember him from the first movie?) returns, with skills that not only surpass Po’s but even Master Shifu’s as well.
Adding to his woes Po also has to deal with the new role of teacher, as bestowed upon him by Master Shifu (man, that name is so redundant!), and the return of a face from his own past that he had thought long since lost.
Not just master of Kung-Fu
If all that seem a lot to cram it in, it is, but as as in the previous outings Dreamworks breezes through the Kung-Fu drama, slipping effortlessly between action, comedy and more serious plot beats, never waiting too long between jokes or to advance the story.
While a third of the story mimics that of the first Kung Fu Panda (There’s an ancient evil coming, but we have just about enough time to prepare!) the other threads of Po’s lost family and his growth as a teacher, more than make up for any nagging feelings that this is retreading old ground.
It doesn’t hurt that Kung Fu Panda 3 is simply gorgeous to look at, constantly switching between different style treatments; from the (slightly) more realistic art style used for the majority of the film, to the much more stylized approach used for the legendary action sequences, to the flat style telling the tales of Master Oogway’s scrolls and the dazzling calligraphy combat and floating islands of the spirit realm.
While the press screening wasn’t shown in 3D, many scenes, particularly those in the spirit realm with it’s multiple planes of action, looked as though they would be a perfect fit for the like technology (let us know in the comments what you thought if you saw it in 3D).
Back in Black (and white)
Jack Black slips back into his role like an old pair of slippers dinner, as do the rest of the stars who return like Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan, which is kind of amazing considering that animated sequels used to be the dashed out by studios looking to make a quick buck with sound-a-like voice actors.
Not only do all the voice cast return again, like Dustin Hoffman’s Shifu, The Furious Five also seem a little better integrated into the story than last time, with slightly more time for David Cross and Jackie Chan, although Lucy Liu is barely present in the film. It is weird though that the members of the five and other martial art masters are referred to by their species rather than their name (Monkey, Tigress, Crane, Master Chicken, Master Bear etc.) Shouldn’t Po be Master Panda by now?
Bryan Cranston, as a not-so-mysterious Panda, and veteran James Hong form an irresistible double act however it’s J.K. Simmons’ steals the show. The voice of Cave Johnson and J. Jonah Jameson is perfectly suited to the blustery blow hard Kai, who’s menace is constantly undercut by his frustration at not being recognised and feared by those he meets, his legend having being swept away by Oogway.
My way or the Kai-way
The character of Kai also a provides a nice nemesis for Po, as his dragon warrior skills are no match for an enemy from the spirit realm, one that can turn his friends and allies against him, although it is odd that music maestro Hans Zimmer used a riff from an Imagine Dragons track as Kai’s theme (it’s even listed in the credits!)
Like the recent Zootopia, Kung Fu Panda 3 nicely conveys a heart-warming message but does so while also delivering an engaging, entertaining, beautiful and sometimes surprising adventure that nicely caps the series, if this is to be it’s end.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is released in Malaysian cinemas on 10th March 2016 in 3D, IMAX and Cantonese-dubbed versions, with sneak previews from 4-6th of March.
Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, James Hong , Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Kate Hudson, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim
Directed by: Alessandro Carloni & Jennifer Yuh
Official Site here