The first Kung Fu Panda is about Po’s present – becoming the Dragon Warrior and trying to live up to that title. Kung Fu Panda 2 delved into Po’s past and confronting the archaic nature of kung fu against modern day technology. In Kung Fu Panda 3, we look to Po’s future as a teacher to all in the Valley, as he comes to an understanding of who he really is.
Kung Fu Panda 3 feels a lot like a culmination of everything Kung Fu Panda to this point. It has much of the light-heartedness of the original movie while bearing the darker tones that the second movie brought to the table.
I don’t remember why, but I felt a lot of trepidation before watching the movie because it seemed much more kid-friendly than before, which would have been really disappointing to me after the more mature Kung Fu Panda 2 had impressed me so.
Luckily, this wasn’t the case. It was definitely a lot brighter and cheerier than I remember Kung Fu Panda 2 (or even parts of Kung Fu Panda) being, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The humor, too, appeals to both adults and kids alike, I feel.
Expect spoilers after this point!
At this point, Po has fought 2 overwhelming dangers to the Valley, so it kind of makes sense that the whole “End of the world” feeling isn’t emphasized too much. Although, when four of the Furious Five (and Shifu himself) become jade figures, and the Jade Palace gets destroyed along with Oogway’s statue, there really is a sense that the stakes are high, which is great, story-wise. It made things much more exciting.
I’m really glad that Kung Fu Panda 3 didn’t go the Spider-Man 3 route, where there were multiple villains, as I feel like it would have been hard to execute as well. Kai seems like a very powerful villain who’s manages to be both entertaining and semi-complex. In his few appearances he manages to get a few jokes off, which was really quite nice. It’s also an interesting backstory to a villain (I think the Kung Fu Panda movies as a whole tend to have pretty good villains) – a former good guy (though his nicknames say otherwise, though they add layers to his past – if he was working with Oogway, a title like “Maker of Widows” sounds really dark) who was corrupted by the power of chi. He was Oogway’s best friend, which immediately puts him on the level of Oogway in terms of talent and power (especially after Oogway is defeated) – this is also considering that Oogway had become something of a mythological figure by the third movie.
Throughout the movie we see Po showing off some amazing fighting moves, which is really nice to see and shows great development from what I remember from the first movie. And in general, it’s great to see this movie reflecting on how much he has progressed since the first movie. He’s really come into his own as the Dragon Warrior, and now it’s less about his personal problems (his original dad coming back never really presents much family drama, really, which is great, honestly – I feel like I’ve seen too much of that so this more positive take on it was awesome), but more about taking what he’s learned and becoming a figure for others to learn from. And in the process of teaching others, he learns more about himself in the process. This is a great way to go for the series as a whole, which makes me feel like they try really hard not to rehash the material. Though the formula is often the same – there’s a danger to the Valley of Peace, and Po must rise up to stop it – the journeys always feel different.
That said, the ending, while great, was a bit much. Po, who hasn’t even started to learn chi before the final fight with Kai, becomes a chi master by the end of the movie. It’s kind of ridiculous, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough (and admittedly, it’s kind of understandable – Po’s always learned fast, considering he becomes a Kung Fu master by the end of the first movie, and he DID receive everyone’s chi so maybe it unlocked his understanding of chi control or something?) – this isn’t that big of a deal. It reminds me of the Majin Buu arc of Dragon Ball Z, though – where Goku takes in everyone’s power for the final Spirit Bomb and BY THE POWER OF EVERYONE, Kid Buu is finally defeated. It’s just kind of cheesy, and I personally consider it the worst arc (and ending, honestly) of Dragon Ball Z, so for Kung Fu Panda 3 to do something similar is sort of lame.
Okay, no more spoilers.
All in all, this is a great ending to a great trilogy of movies. Kung Fu Panda 3 luckily did not become the Shrek 3 of the Kung Fu Panda series, and is an excellent movie in its own right. I would have to watch all 3 movies again in order to rank them properly, but I highly recommend anyone to give Kung Fu Panda 3 a watch – it’s on Netflix!