Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016, Jennifer Yuh & Alessandro Carloni)

After the brawler antagonist of ex student Tai Lung, and the weapon-wielding peacock Lord Shen, DreamWorks animation studios have opted towards a supernatural villain within their third and final Kung Fu Panda production. Like the other two villains – which opened up possibilities to be explored within the main character of Po (Jack Black) – the inclusion of the spirit warrior Kai (J.K Simmons) manages to freshen up proceedings in a way that resonates a different type of conflict. This in turn allows the progressing of the overriding story arc held within this cinematic climate. Immortal and carrying a new identity to the mythology surrounding Kung Fu Pandas world, this narrative decision allows Kung Fu Panda 3 to be the best in the series and one of the best-animated features to have graced the big screen. Blending the inclusion of this interesting and threatening antagonist with more open acknowledgement to the history of the characters, DreamWorks allows the third film to develop from the already deeper second installment with an eye to closing the franchise appropriately.

After 500 years of imprisonment within the spirit realm, Kai defeats his old compatriot master Oogway and steals his Chi so as to re-ascend to the mortal world. Before he leaves he is warned that the dragon warrior, Po, will defeat him. Ignoring this warning Kai ascends and begins to use his superpower to steal chi from other Kung Fu masters including members of the previous films Furious Five. During this time Po meets his biological father, and is taken to the secret panda village where he is taught how to be a Panda – with the aim of mastering the ancient panda technique to control chi. This mastering of chi is the only manner in which to halt Kai’s advances, but with his rivals power increasing in strength every time a master succumbs, Po realizes he must use his Panda brethren to stop the supernatural threat. Implementing himself as a martial arts teacher, Po instructs the panda community to be the best them that they can.

Finally opening up the films narrative to incorporate the Panda community, Kung Fu Panda 3 takes the franchise forward effectively while also defining a greater retrospective depth to what has come before. Bryan Cranston as Po’s biological father brings another level to the voice over work throughout this film, highlighting the A-list feeling of those actors involved in personifying the characters through their voice. His dynamic with both Jack Black and James Wong bring a different level to the relationship of the trio of characters, with both father characters battling to win the affection of their son. This leads to funny sequences that will cater to the younger demographic, but also draws an emotional connection to the exploits explored by the three characters on screen. As a viewer you can understand the emotions held by these characters, and the level of voice work and animation in developing this appropriately reaches a level unseen in any previous DreamWorks production.

Like other DreamWorks productions, Kung Fu Panda 3 has some of the most beautiful animation sequences within this genre. Raising the quality further than their previous work, the animation studio can easily be seen as a true rival to Pixar’s dominance over the industry. With beautiful watercolor inspired sequences to showcase flashbacks, the imagery and colors used in closing this franchise are of an extremely high quality. In truth Kung Fu Panda 3 closes the franchise in a fun and highly effective manner.

Plot – 4
Acting – 5
Direction – 4
Special Effects – 5
Retrospect – 4
Overall – 4.5 out of 5