Film Review: Kung Fu Panda (USA/China, 2016)

The strong, funny and perhaps a little clumsy panda is back on the screen to entertain the audience once again in Kung Fu Panda 3. Produced by DreamWorks Animation in a first time collaboration with China’s Oriental DreamWorks, the Kung Fu Panda franchise is back with its third installment on the screen after a 3 years’ gap (2008 and 2011). The previous two movies have grossed more than $US400 million in the US alone, and were loved around the world. The fans, including myself are very excited to welcome back Po, our beloved panda hero.

In the last episode, the audience were hinted about the reunion of Po (voiced again byJack Black) and his long-lost panda family. Thus the plot line for Kung Fu Panda 3 has its background set in the secret panda village where the pandas have been living their relaxed, loving life. But there comes the villain Kai (J.K. Simmons) who desires to destroy the world. Will Po be able save the his family and the world once again as a dragon warrior? Just like the previous movies, Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t just about the fight between the protagonist and the villain. One factor which I love the most about the series is that the movie has so many underlying messages for the audience to observe. I have been able to identify several messages again, and I think the presence of these message makesKung Fu Panda so enjoyable for everyone, across all generations.

Po is finally reunited with his long-lost family who looks just like him. But then what happens to his relationship with his adopted duck father Mr. Ping (James Hong). In previous series Po was shown to be stressed about the difference between Mr. Ping and himself. In the third episode, the family relationship is once again underlined. Most people go through the stages of puberty where differences between family members become a stress and the relationship with the parents are reconstructed. People become mature through the experience, and Po is presented as the exact reflection of such situation. The audience will realise the importance of family affections and understanding the differences with Po.

One can say that Kung Fu Panda is all about witnessing the friendship between Po and his fellow Furious Five Kung Fu fighters Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (David Cross). We as an audience become tensed when they fight each other and excited when they work together to defeat the villain. Their relationship also reflects ours’ as we live along with friends and colleagues around us. In Kung Fu Panda 3, the audience once again laughs and cries with Po and his friends as they struggle towards the victory, teaching us lessons of maintaining a relationship.

We all get lost once in a while trying to define who we are and what we can do best. Po has shown psychological growth and maturity throughout the series as he experienced different events and defeated several villains. In this episode as he sets out to complete a new mission from his master to teach a village of pandas, Po once again have to test his capability as a true dragon warrior. Through his previous victories Po came to believe himself as the most powerful Kung Fu master with nothing more to learn. But as he faces new situations and difficulties, he will soon realise that maybe he is yet to define his capabilities and who he is.

Watching and reviewing about these messages hidden in the movie, I become more aware of how Po represents the thoughts and lives of the audience. We as individuals experience the relationship between family, friends and even with ourselves. Understanding who we are and what we are capable of is such a hard thing to do and it does take a long time for us to find the answers for ourselves. Po also has to find the answers himself in the movie with helps from friends and family. Thus Kung Fu Panda 3 may just be the replicate of our lives in the form of pandas, trying to teach us important life lessons. So with the beautiful animated settings of the movie and the underlying messages, Kung Fu Panda 3 can be enjoyed by everyone, especially those who have been waiting for Po to return and show off his Kung Fu movements.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Kung Fu Panda 3 is currently playing in cinemas nationally.

This review was originally posted by Lucy Lee over at Hello Asia.