Will there be a Kung Fu Panda 4? You can most certainly count on it! In fact, we can expect at least another 3 sequels, which is really no surprise considering the overwhelming success of this franchise, not withstanding the financial success abroad, namely China. Financial success doesn’t always equate to critical success. As good as a film this might be, there are some missing links. Entertaining it is, and visually stunning it might be, but there were aspects that could have been improved.
All the promotional material for these films have always highlighted the Furious Five along with the Dragon Warrior, but in this film there seems to be a considerable lack of character development or interaction with this fantastic ensemble, which is such a let down, because so many memorable moments were etched into Kung Fu Panda canon during parts 1 and 2, and I am sure a lot of us went in, expecting no less. With the new characters introduced and the story focusing on Po and finding his inner self, we got very little of the Furious Five.
The voice talent department was a step up here, with science teacher turned meth kingpin AKA Byran Cranston voicing Po’s dad, and super villain jazz drum instructor J.K Simmons as Kai, these talented voice actors provided great flavour to the sound of this animated film.
I do know that some might consider the blending of traditional animation and CGI a good thing in this case, and the result is pleasing to the eye, but does it feel like a cheat? If you’re going to go full Real 3D on a film, why fall back on traditional 2D animation? Was it a budget thing, or was it an artistic gamble? Again, I can not stress more how advanced the CGI technology out there is by now, and when you look at films that are using this technology to the full and not cutting corners, the results are truly amazing, consider The Blue Umbrella as an example.
Then there is the impactful message of the power of Qi, pronounced chi. Here is where a lot of the younger viewing audiences would have been a little confused, as this film tries to explore deep concepts such as life after death and death itself. At the same time it tries to present the concept of Qi, the idea that there is a life exacting energy in all beings, the life source of everything around us. Ambitious to say the least, but points must be given for a major blockbuster film presenting such concepts. It does feel pompous though, and inappropriate for a film that is here purely for entertainments sake, and unfortunately a grand cash grab. Expect more from the Kung Fu Panda franchise, as we continue to witness it’s sad demise.