Action Movie Friday: Kung Fu Panda 3

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Kung Fu Panda 3
MPAA Rating: PG
Release: 2016
Genre: action, adventure, martial arts
Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim
Director: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writer: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $140 Million
Box Office: $518 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%

Gingersnaps Rating: Three and a Quarter Cookies!

Summary:

Po, the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five face their next greatest challenge when an old enemy of Oogway’s returns from the spirit world. Kai has taken the chi of many Masters of Kung Fu and is determined to take the chi of all the Masters in the mortal world. Po must learn what it really means to be the Dragon Warrior and himself. He must learn what it means to be a panda and who better to teach him than the convenient return of his father, Li.

Review:

Supposedly there are more movies in production, Dreamworks would like to do six of them. They increased the budget by 20 to 25 million, but earned roughly $100 million less worldwide. It wasn’t a flop but it wasn’t as much as the previous movie. So, we’ll see if more are put into production or not.

The last two movies have been based on the premises of trying to solve ‘unsolvable’ problems. Like, how can kung fu defeat something that ends kung fu? And in this movie, how do you teach yourself to be, well, yourself? This reflects the theme of the first movie that Shifu must learn to accept Po as who he is instead of who he wishes Po to be.

And it all gets mixed up with Po’s personal life. Hopefully next movie we’ll either find out his mother is alive or we’ll move on from this whole story entirely. I mean, mixed up in all the martial arts and fighting is a story about how Li and Mr. Ping have to come to grips that Po has two dads, the one who fathered him and the one who raised him.

Kai, as the villain, gets roughly the same amount of story time as Shen. Both of them even have the same revenge style motivations for what they are doing. In that respect, the story maintains the level of the previous movie. Oh, and finally, the Furious Five get to do more than just back up Po or be mean to Po. Too bad they’re so ineffectual at what they are doing. I’m still lost as to why these are supposed to be such great warriors. But, cue title of movie.

The story all comes together in a mix of coincidences and accidents that are interspersed with montages to get us from one place to the other. So, it feels a bit too easy. You know Po is going to win from the get go because he’s the Dragon Warrior, even if we don’t exactly know what that is supposed to mean. Since, everything that the other Furious Five say about the Dragon Warrior and what the Dragon Warrior is supposed to be seems to be rumor and hyperbole.

At this point of the story, we have to accept that Po is like the idiot savant of Kung Fu. You show him a technique and he can figure it out in mere days. Either that or all pandas are like this, because none of the pandas as presented seem to be very smart in the IQ department. Which I don’t want to think about too hard. But they all manage to figure out how to do the Chi technique in a short amount of time once Po begins ‘training’ them. (Who knew hackey sack was part of kung fu? Not me.)

Yes, the message, ‘be the best self you can be and be yourself’ is sort of there. But it also leaves out the fact that if Po hadn’t seen the Furious Five in action, he wouldn’t have wanted to be like them and learn Kung Fu. Sometimes we need mentors, heroes and idols to get us to step out of our comfort zones and try new things because we want to be like them.

The story is there, it just need a few tweaks to make it better. One bite out of the cookie. Just one.

All right, there were all sorts of big rocks breaking apart and people flying around but nothing that really made me go “holy crap.” So, no cookie. (Sorry, once you put something into the “spirit” world, it becomes less awesome and more, oh, this is just the physics of that place.)

The fights were entertaining, merely for the fact that it really does show that idiots can defeat kung fu masters. I know there have been complaints about how the pandas dealt with the jombies. (I can’t believe I just typed that.) And, really, if you want to beat people who fight within a rigid set of rules. You break the rules. That and despite the extreme over powered nature of the chi dragon in the spirit world, it was fun. One cookie.

And every movie, every movie, I feel like this franchise is taking baby steps to better female characters. Viper sadly gets taken out pretty early on and turned into a jombie. Tigress is the messenger character and plays the part of the befuddled audience witnessing Po’s seeming insanity of turning panda’s into Kung Fu warriors by having them train at what they already like to do. She and Po also actually have a serious conversation that doesn’t end with everyone being dismissive of what Po is going through. Progress. But, let’s talk Mei-Mei. Oh Mei-Mei, proof that Po isn’t the only panda with an active internal monologue that spills out their mouth. Mei-Mei literally tangles Po up in knots without actually ever becoming a love interest. Unfortunately, she doesn’t actually end up more than that. Befuddle Po with her ribbon dancing and well, take those skills to nun-chucks. (Not really the same thing at ALL.) Still, a tiny step forward and major props for staying away from a romance plot line. (That the movie just didn’t have time for as written.) Three Quarters of a cookie.

Universe wise, there are some very odd things going on here in the movie. One, they can’t seem to keep a straight time line. Two, so, did Shen get really distracted by Po’s mother or what? So that most of the other pandas were able to escape to a ‘secret village’ high in the mountains that was hey, known by Oogway! And how does mastering Chi really work, because, really, Po just sort of had a bunch of Chi given to him by his friends and family and then went on to suddenly be able to use it! There is more to universe building than physics here. So, while the physics didn’t pull me out, some of the ‘what?’ things did. There should be a series bible with all the facts of the universe in it that they’re using. There is no excuse! So, I’m going to take another bite out of a cookie here. Three Quarters of a cookie.

Kung Fu Panda 3 needed a few tweaks and some attention to detail to make it better. It wasn’t a horrible offering but it wasn’t up to the standards of Kung Fu Panda 2 either. Three and a quarter cookies!

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