Hello, Spongey here.
I’ve promised to focus on General Reviews this year, and I plan to keep to a promise for once. Since I have the means, I’ll be seeing plenty of films this year, so I figured I would share my thoughts on most of them.
Except the bad ones, I’ll save those for full reviews, which is why you won’t hear about Norm of the North until it’s out on DVD. …Yeah.
Anyway, time will tell which films I end up seeing, but I hope to catch most of the blockbusters I have interest in. I also plan to see every single widely release animated film. Yes, that means I did see Norm but more on that come review time.
You’ll be seeing a general review for almost every animated film of 2016, unless Trolls or Angry Birds ends up being as bad as norm. …Which will hopefully never happen. With that said, let’s get onto our first review.
Let’s go back to 2008. Dreamworks was known for comedic films that used pop culture references and celebrities, and the films tended to be hit or miss with critics. This was the dark age known as the mid 2000’s, after all.
You know the story from here. They came up with something called Kung Fu Panda, which everyone thought was going to be terrible from the title, but it ended up being really good. It took itself rather silly while still being funny, with great animation and action.
This started their rise, and soon after they came up with stuff like Megamind, and of course How To Train Your Dragon. Now they come out with a better mix and put a lot more thought into their comedies.
And it all started with Kung Fu Panda. Who figures the story of a fat panda who wanted to be a Kung Fu master would actually be incredibly solid all around? I really do enjoy this movie for it’s Martial Arts action, great animation and solidly likable characters.
Then in 2011 there was a sequel. You think this would be the crappy cash grab everyone was expecting from the first…but no! It’s actually even better, continuing the story in an natural way giving us more character development, even more awesome action, a great villain, and even some emotion.
It was actually better than the Pixar Sequel from that same you, who figured that would happen?! There was also a Holiday Special I haven’t seen, and a Cartoon series that was pretty decent.
This franchise has been pretty surprising so far. It might actually be my favorite Dreamworks franchise. As classic as Shrek is, it’s aged a bit and while I also love How To Train Your Dragon, it’s a bit more of a big epic Pixar production than a Dreamworks movie.
Kung Fu Panda perfectly mixes their more comedic style for the studios recent dramatic turn, giving two excellent movies. They aren’t without their flaws, but I mostly love them. But now have the 3rd one.
This is where things get trick. Can they keep up the awesome like Madagascar or droll the ball like Shrek? With this series, either is possible. When I heard about the concept, I was pretty excited.
But two things worried about later me. One thing was some of the ideas shown in the recent trailers. It sounds fine but slightly sillies than the previous film, which was a lot more dramatic. That’s fine since the first one was silly but it was still something to note.
Then they announced it was coming out in January. Oh boy. That doesn’t mean it’ll suck, but it means the studio doesn’t have as much faith in it as some of their other projects. But on the other hand, I mostly have faith that the writers and artists will try their best to give us another solid experience.
With all of that said, is this 3rd entry in the series more of the kung fu action we’ve come to except, or is it finally going to stumble? Let’s find out.
In the Chinese Spirit Realm, the spirit of Grand Master Oogway has his chi stolen by an evil Yak chi master called Kai who was sent to the spirit realm. Kai soon becomes determined to steal the chi from the dragon warrior. Meanwhile, Master Shifu announces his retirement and passes of the role of teacher to Po who is struggling to find his true place as the Dragon Warrior.
This doesn’t become easier when Po’s biological father turns up and reveals a whole secret panda village. Now Po must became the teacher as he tries to stop Kai and resolve his personal issues as well.
In general, I think the story is…pretty solid! It does come with some of the issues I was worried about, but the high points really make up for it. I’ll talk about the negatives first. In general I do like the structure of the story, as Po must train with his Father to be ready to take on Kai.
However, it does look a bit seem a bit lighter than before. It doesn’t really have the same epic weight to it as the previous film. That itself isn’t bad, but at sometimes it did feel like the same ofl stuff from before, with Po finding himself and all that jazz.
But that I can forgive, my other issues are still problems. It’s a bit rushed in the 2nd act, and they use the liar revealed cliché in a pretty predictable way. Neither are huge problems, but it may effect your enjoyment a bit.
With that said, the writing mostly works. The set does work to give us some solid character develop, as well as the usual action and heart. While it’s not as emotionally rich as the 2nd one, it has it has it’s moments, and it feels natural.
As familiar as some of it is, it’s a natural direction to take the series. The last movie teased Po’s father and it figures that Po would find his true place as dragon warrior. Each part of the plot is done well, especially Po’s Father as his backstory is pretty heart breaking, if a bit cliché.
My favorite aspect of the these films in terms of writing has been the mix of humor and drama, as these films have pretty solid humor, especially with Po, that is mixed well within the story. This entry thankfully keeps at it.
There is perhaps a bit more humor in this one, but most of it works because the characters are likable enough to carry it, and most of it is pretty funny. Only a couple times does it inter with the drama and even then it’s not that bad.
The highlight is the ending, where the whole trilogy comes full circle in glorious fashion. No spoilers, but it’s incredibly satisfying. Speaking of the ending, it’s actually not abrupt and leaves me satisfied!
The last time I said that was Twas the Night….which means Bryan Cranston should be in every movie now. We’ll get to him.
As a whole, the story is a bit familiar and has a few problems with pacing and cliches, but makes up for it’s nice mix of humor, some nice emotion, and a decently engaging plot that helps bring the trilogy full circle.
A bit more problematic than the previous film, but it’s at least as surprisingly solid as the original film.
If there’s one thing that’s even better than before, it’s the animation, which is expected. I won’t go into a lot of detail since it’s pretty straight forward. The character animation is very good with some nice variety in the animal designs, and Po is especially well done as they play with his weight.
They do some of that in this one, since they have multiple Panda’s to work with. Of course the action scenes are done very well, enough if there aren’t quite as many this time around. And like the first, we have some 2D animation in the flashbacks and stuff, that is pretty awesome.
For me, the highlight in terms of animation are the training montage, and climax. No big spoilers, but they use colors in an incredibly beautiful way. The climax is especially awesome with the animation.
They really set it up this time with those scenes alone, but the rest of the animation is great too. I’ll admit maybe the 2nd one did a better job due to having more action scenes, but the animation here is still great for what it does.
That’s about it, very solid character animated with some moments that are just amazing. We can move on.
This should be quick, as this is the kind of movie that has 3 or so big charecterst that have development, and everyone else is just there. However, that works out for this one….for the most part. I’ll get my issues with the characters out of the way first.
Like some people, I find the celebrity casting of the Furious Five to be kind of pointless. They do decent jobs, but they add nothing to the characters, especially since they rarely get development for the most part.
It’s even worse her as they have less screen time, for spoiler reasons. It’s not a huge deal, but since the other big names they have in the movies are used well, it sticks out as a flaw. Among the many Panda’s is this girl, voiced by Kate Hudson who has a crush on Po.
It’s not very funny and it goes nowhere. Seriously,. It’s barely brought up but they make a big deal out of her first scene. She doesn’t do enough to be a huge problem, but I just didn’t find her funny. Also, her voice actress was replaced and it’s obvious because the character is modeled after the original VA.
Now onto the actual characters. Of course first is Po, voiced by Jack Black. This guy is incredibly likable, as he’s fanboy in the funny way. He also naturally develops in all the movies in a way that makes him more complex and interesting.
He’s just as good here, with his development and relationship with his father, not to mention which I still won’t spoil. Again, he may have familiar development but he still works, and he’s as charming as ever.
Then there’s Shifu, voiced by Dustin Hoffman. He doesn’t do much but I figured I would bring him up because why not. He was the mentor before, but now he’s retired leaving Po as teacher. Again, he doesn’t do much but I find him pretty enjoyable with how he interacts with Po and he does learn some things as he tries to get Po to find himself.
For that reason, I figured I would bring him up. Then there’s Ping, voiced by James Hong. He spends of the movie bitching about Li because he thinks he’s stealing Po from him. Pretty cliché and honestly not that funny….but they resolve it decently, so I can let it slide.
Now let’s move on to the new characters, starting with our villain, Kai, voiced by JK Simmons. He’s a pretty decent villain, boasting a cool power and even being pretty humorous at some points.
His backstory is cliché and he’s not as interesting as the previous villain, but I thought was a pretty decent threat. Not the best villain ever, but he works for what he’s trying to be. Plus, his power adds a sense of urgency that worked pretty well.
Next is Po’s Father, Li, voiced by Bryan Cranston. While he is used for cliches, he’s still really likable due to what he goes through, and the chemistry he has with Po. His backstory, as I said, is quite emotional and do enjoy his development.
And…I think that’s about it. Yeah, the ones I went into detail on are the only ones that do anything important. The rest exist, but don’t do enough for me to go into any detail, like the other Panda’s.
This works for what the movie is going for, but perhaps more development for the Furious Five could have been nice, since that is an issue with this series. With that said, the characters that do important things are still either likable, or as used well.
The returning characters are still solid, and the new characters are enjoyable too. Sometimes cliches are used, but the likability or emotion makes up for it in most cases. Once again, the 2nd film developed most of the characters better, but this was done pretty well too.
Overall, Kung Fu Panda is a very good conclusion to the trilogy. While it has minior pacing issues, some cliches, and feels a bit familiar, it makes up for it with the usual great animation that uses other styles, likable new characters, decent use of old ones, and a pretty solid story that brings everything full circle with great emotion and humor.
In the end, my suspicions of it being weaker 2 were confirmed, but thankfully it still managed to be a really enjoyable film. It does a lot right and still decent heart, and a really cool ending that is very satisfying.
Most of my flaws are forgiven due to the new things we got, although it makes it weaker than the 2nd film. I know I keep talking it up, but it’s just that good. It has everything great about the other films, without most of the flaws.
Compared to the original, this one is about equal. That one also had a few minor flaws, mostly due to the set up. Both are also equal in their strengths, although the first film has the edge for being surprisingly good, while this about as good I expected it to be.
Either way, it’s a really good family film on it’s own with good humor, great animation, and a decent story. If you liked the first two, you might as well check out this one. How much you like it will depend on your expectations, but if you keep them in check ,you’ll like it.
If you didn’t like the others, don’t bother. It’s more of the same. But if you do like them, you’ll have fun with this one. While I still have no idea why it came out in January, it at least gives us something to watch in this dry month.
So yeah, I recommend it, I really enjoyed it, at least about as much as the first one, even if the2nd one stands out as the best. Which is odd, since usually part is the boring middle chapter, but sometimes part 2 ends up being the best ala Empire Strikes Back.
I hope they stop here, because I can’t see them doing anything else with how this one ends. I want this to stand as another really good animated trilogy, where each film is very solid and has few flaws between the 3.
Now 2016 animation can redeem itself and really get started. I think next up is Zootopia, which should hopefully be good.