Back in 2008, we received the surprise, box-office smash-hit Kung Fu Panda. Just under a decade later and the third instalment in the now animation juggernaut franchise has released, concluding the feel-good, action trilogy: Kung Fu Panda 3. Here's my review of it.

Right from the opening, we're introduced to the antagonist of this threequel, the supernatural bull Kai (voiced by J.K Simmons) -  who is going around stealing chi from Kung Fu masters, having just escaped the spirit realm and entered the mortal realm. Meanwhile, our Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) has been continuing to train and get stronger. However, as his power increases, he is faced with more challenges as he is set to take over from his current mentor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and become a mentor for the Furious Five just as his long-lost father Li (Bryan Cranston) emerges and informs Po of a secret Panda village, all as a new threat arises when Kai comes after his chi.

With an industry so over-saturated with unnecessary sequels, spin-offs and reboots, it begs the question of which films do we actually need to see? Did we really need another Kung Fu Panda film? Not really. The first two were fine and fun and didn't really warrant a follow-up too much. However, is a third film understandable? Yes, it is and you can see from a story and logistics perspective just why this film was made. Honestly, I loved the original Kung Fu Panda and I thought that, whilst not as great, the sequel was a solid film nonetheless; they are harmless, fun animated flicks to watch and Kung Fu Panda 3 continues the tradition; it's yet another fun, harmless and enjoyable family flick.
For starters, this film looks incredible. The animation in this franchise continues to impress, with each film looking so colourful and aesthetically arresting - from an animation and technical stand-point. It's an animation bursting with colours and vibrancy and energy and it plunges the viewer in. The direction is also great and franchise director Jennifer Yuh (this time joined by Alessandro Carloni) continues to expand and develop this story and these characters and this world impressively, constantly building on everything that has already been established in the prior two films. However, we've seen it all before. The Kung Fu Panda franchise is a solid one but all the films are pretty much the same, they're very formulaic and repetitive and Kung Fu Panda 3 is no exception. The premise is interesting and handled very well but the structure is exactly the same as it's predecessors and there's nothing in the front of originality or trying to change things up a little either.

As always, this film follows Po discovering something about himself and has an important message of embracing who you are and it has a nice message on family too. However, it's a film that is tons of fun to watch too. The action sequences are all grand and colourful and epic and immensely creative and it's wonderful to watch witness and the film is very funny too. The majority of the jokes all hit (a scene involving Po and his father fooling around with armour is a particular highlight for me) but there is the occasional gag that falls flat or comes off a bit forced. The film is incredibly feel-good and heartfelt and had me smiling throughout. However, there's a lot of emotion and drama too and, for the most part, it's really effective because of how much we invest into these characters. There's a lot of subplots and tones and characters being juggled here and it works well but, towards the third act, I felt ad though things got a little convoluted as the film tried to tie everything up. The ending was very predictable and cop-out too but it's also understandable in context.

The stellar voice cast ensemble is great as always. Jack Black is perfect as Po and we've grown so used to him as our eponymous kung fu panda that it's hard to even begin to imagine a better voice actor for the role. Bryan Cranston is a terrific new addition too, as Li, so energetic and his voice lends itself to the big, happy panda perfectly too. In all honestly, all the voices fit their corresponding characters perfectly. J.K Simmons makes a menacing antagonist, as Kai, so powerful and ruthless. The usual returning cast members are all good too - Dustin Hoffman as Shifu is sheer brilliance; Angelina Jolie as Tigress etc. However, the supporting cast all feel very underused here - switching to supporting roles to focus on Po and the pandas but, even then, newcomer Kate Hudson's Mei Mei was tragically underdeveloped with very little screen time. The cast is exceptional but it's a shame they were put to the sidelines.

In the end, Kung Fu Panda 3 is tons of fun. This is a very enjoyable, feel-good animated flick that will keep you smiling throughout. It's not without flaw, however, and there's nothing too unique to this endeavour but it's harmless entertainment, nonetheless. This is a solid film and a very solid, competent conclusion to what has been a fairly decent and harmless - if not quite groundbreaking or masterful - trilogy. You can't help but watch this and be sucked in by the vibrancy and energy.


Kung Fu Panda 3 is a solid, fun and heartwarming conclusion to what has been an incredible, feel-good animated trilogy.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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