Kung Fu Panda 3 is the perfect conclusion to the awesome journey of Master Po. Unlike Kung Fu Panda 2, the third installment is a bit more comedic with a strong supernatural element. The exaggerated fantasy element of martial arts was always present, but they go full chi this time around. Kung Fu Panda 3 was unique for being a co-production between DreamWorks Animation and their Oriental division. Giving China a greater say in the success of the project. I didn’t rewatched DreamWorks animated movies that often after I turned 20, but I should because I forgot just how epic Kung Fu Panda 3 is. After a physical threat like Tai Lung and a mental threat like Lord Shen, the next ruthless villain became the supernatural Kai. A yak spirit warrior with the typically comedic voice of J. K. Simmons. If Tai Lung had a personal connection to Master Shifu and Lord Shen had a personal connection to Po, then Kai has to have a personal connection to Master Oogway. The wise tortoise was absent in Kung Fu Panda 2, but this was a chance for Randall Duk Kim to return. The colorful computer animation used in the spirit world is breathtaking.
Kai uses a set of jade swords and his own power to extract the chi from the great kung fu masters. Turning them into his own jade zombie (jombie) minions. Such animal masters include Master Croc, Master Bear, and Master Chicken. Meanwhile, every other major voice actor from the first & second movies return to finish Po’s story. Although envisioned as a 6 part saga, a trilogy is really the way to go. Jack Black fully understands Po as the beloved Dragon Warrior. The Furious Five are his greatest allies & best friends. An aging Dustin Hoffman is even given more to do as Master Shifu plans to retire. Giving Po the disastrous task of becoming a teacher in the Jade Palace. The previous movie’s cliffhanger is addressed by having Po’s biological panda father find him. Bryan Cranston replaces the previous actor as Li Shan. He’s a big hungry panda most concerned with connecting with his son. The other father gives Mr. Ping a much bigger role as the goose in the middle, but the valley is attacked by Kai’s jombies before anything can come of it. They learn of Oogway’s past with Kai as they both discovered a village of pandas that possessed chi.
It’s enough to bridge both stories together and an excuse to have an entire cast of marketable panda characters. Each panda delivers their own comedic banter, but the most interesting case is the ribbon twirling Mei Mei. Although she was clearly modeled after Rebel Wilson, Kate Hudson replaced her in post-production due to scheduling conflicts. Li shows his son what it means to be a real panda, but he never knew chi to begin with. Something Po desperately needs to learn in order to beat Kai. The Furious Five are split up with the more comedic Mantis and Crane scouting ahead. Then the Jade Palace falls as Monkey and Viper are also turned to jade. I always expect Angelina Jolie to have the biggest role as Master Tigress. This time she goes to warn Po and also ends up being loved by a female panda cub. Much like Seven Samurai, the only logical solution is for Po to train the village how to fight like pandas. All the martial arts action is on par with the entire series, but the visually dazzling spirit world fight is a major highlight. It’s enough to make Po a true Dragon Warrior. Ending with a satisfying kung fu demonstration set to “Kung Fu Fighting” and uniting everyone. Kung Fu Panda 3 is an other worldly way to end a trilogy of awesomeness.
Preceded by: Kung Fu Panda 2