Saturday, January 30, 2016
Kung Fu Panda 3 Review
The Kung Fu Panda franchise has done an amazing job at finding the perfect balance between action, comedy, and emotion that is great for both kids and adults. The idea of a bumbling panda becoming a kung fu master is a really silly, yet hilarious premise. At the same time, it packs a huge emotional punch as we learn in the first movie that the secret to becoming special is believing in yourself. Whatever goal you have in life, if you believe you can achieve that goal and then work hard to achieve it, that goal can be reached. What a great message! Then we learn in the second movie that your past doesn't have to determine your present or your future. Another great message! Now speaking of the past, this third movie is out to teach another great lesson and it uses Po's past to set this up. If you remember the end of the second movie, we get the tease that Po's real father is still out there and is living in a thriving panda village. That clued us in early that they had an idea in mind for the third movie long before it actually was released. Five years later, that's the exact premise he goes with. Po's biological father shows up and Po goes to this panda village to learn a new lesson and prepare to stop our new villain, one that is more powerful and dangerous than any other villain we've seen in this universe so far.
In addition to the brilliant look of his character and the well-written backstory, what seals the deal for Kai is J.K. Simmons' fantastic voice acting because this character just sounds like a scary beast that you don't want to mess with. We learned in Whiplash that J.K. Simmons is excellent at being scary as he played the band teacher from Hell in that movie and that definitely carries over in this movie. Thus he is able to carry this movie on his back and make it a fantastic ride as he just terrorizes the whole country. Not even Master Shifu or the Furious Five is a match for this guy. Adding to his power is that once he defeats someone, he is able to turn them into jade zombies of themselves and use them to fight on his side, thus in addition to his own strength, he has an army of former heroes that are being forced against their will to fight for the wrong side. Thus the only person that is able to stop Kai and his army is our Dragon Warrior Po and his own army of pandas. But the catch here is that Po has to be able to teach them. That's his next step as a kung fu master. He's trained to become a kung fu master and he's learned to fight, but now he has to teach and that's what he has a really hard time doing.
Yes, this movie is quite the wild ride from start to finish. But specifically the finish. Even though this is a movie you can thoroughly enjoy even if you know the whole movie, I won't spoil what happens in the second half of this movie. You can probably see the ending coming from a mile away, but that's okay in this instance. It's not the type of movie where crazy twists and turns are needed. Needless to say that the ending is an absolute blast and probably the best finale out of all three Kung Fu Panda movies. If I'm being nit-picky, it's the first half of the movie that does struggle a bit. The first two movies flowed very well. They had the perfect balance of humor and emotion while providing a lot of fun action with a great story. This movie has all those elements, but it's a lot less engaging to start out. It still has a lot of great humor that made me laugh pretty good, but a lot of it did feel a bit forced. It felt like they were trying really hard to capture the magic of the first two movies. While they didn't necessarily fail, there were times where I could tell they were trying too hard. Certain things were a little too silly. The writing wasn't always clean and crisp. The flow wasn't perfect. But it was fine. I was still enjoying myself even if the magic wasn't fully there.
In the end, I had a ton of fun Kung Fu Panda 3. No, the magic of the movie wasn't quite there during the first half of the movie as there were times it felt like they were trying too hard to repeat what they accomplished in the first two movies, but I was still having fun with the movie. That magic was recaptured in the second half of the movie and thus as a whole I think this is another great addition to the excellent Kung Fu Panda series. I think it's harsh to call this the worst movie of the franchise. Third best is probably the most accurate terminology because all three of these movies are great! In my opinion, this third one does have the best villain of the three as well as the best final battle of the three. The ending doesn't necessarily gift-wrap the franchise up, if you know what I mean. This is the type of franchise where they could do a Kung Fu Panda 4 without making people angry. But with the way that Dreamworks is slowing things down and focusing on quality instead of quantity, it'll be at least five years before they have room on their schedule to make another one, so in my opinion they might as well call it good. If they do, they can now proudly say that they have made of the best animated trilogies ever. Well done Dreamworks. My grade for Kung Fu Panda 3 is an 8/10.