Kung Fu Panda 3 is obviously the third movie in the popular panda-powered franchise. And while I've enjoyed these movies, I never exactly became a major fan of them. And so I didn't keep close tabs on talks of a third movie and I didn't exactly burn the second movie into my memory.
But this was a pretty fun romp in this alternate, animal-filled version of some place kind of like China. And this movie really advances the lore of things and included some pretty awesome fight sequences. If only they had upped the combat level a bit more and things would have been really, really epic.
Synopsis: Kung Fu Panda 3 is a third animated movie in the Kung Fu Panda movie franchise and was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni. As highly adverted in the trailer and in other marketing collateral, this movie introduces the fact that there are other pandas left in Po's world.
The movie begins in the spirit realm, where Grand Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) rests. But his peace is disturbed by the spirit of Kai (J.K. Simmons). In his time in the spirit realm, Kai has learned how to steal the chi of others and he has been gathering power to return to the mortal realm by defeating the spirits of other masters. He defeats Oogway, but not before he is warned that the Dragon Warrior had been identified and was fated to defeat him.
On the Po (Jack Black) side, things get a little weird since Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) announces that he will retire to a life of meditation and it's up to Po to take over the role of teaching the Furious Five. And around the same time, another panda shows up in town and turns out to be Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), someone who may be Po's father. And he may also be the key to Po becoming a chi master like the pandas of old in order to be able to stand up to Kai and stand a chance to defeat him.
The big spirit realm fight was a great way to open the movie in a way that was bound to capture one's attention. Since it was a battle of two spirits, there was some major bit moves that tied into spiritual or even supernatural abilities. So we're talking about some pretty epic CGI Wuxia-style combat involving animal warriors. Good times.
The movie has the usual ups and downs though as we get bogged down in character development and another arc involving Po needing to learn something important in order to be able to master the martial arts technique needed to defeat the big bad guy. We've seen this story arc over and over again across the different movies so it's getting a little tired. But it's a plot that has generally worked for the past movies, so I guess that works out.
I feel like the creators tried to work on the criticism of the movie. A good example of this is the fact that there was a bit more of an effort to add more dialogue for the rest of the supporting cast, especially the Furious Five, save perhaps for Viper (Lucy Liu), who remained largely silent once again. I think the character that benefited the most was probably Monkey (Jackie Chan), but maybe it's just a manifestation of the producers having a bigger budget this time around.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is a fun addition to the franchise and it feels like it was closer to the fun of the first movie with a relatively tighter narrative and some great action. I just wish there were more action sequences or at least a much bigger ending fight than the one we ended up with. But it's still a fun movie and it gets 4 out of 5 cute little panda babies.