Thursday, April 13, 2017

Huh. Kung Fu Panda 3 is worth watching.

Didn't expect that.  I absolutely love the first one.  The first one is an actual classic kung fu movie.  Tai Lung's escape from the prison is an incredible action sequence.  When he faces off against the Furious Five on the mountain bridge, it's an incredible action sequence.  Po's training montage at the paws of Master Shifu is an incredible action sequence, and Po's final battle against Tai Lung is, again, a beautiful action sequence.

Kung Fu Panda 2 wasn't as awesome in the action department but it had some greats, too.  It had that lovely opening battle with the wolves in the mountains while a little bunny plays his guitar, it had that hilarious chase through the city and - what I consider to be the best action sequence in the movie and its centerpiece - the Jackie Chan-esque battle of submission against Masters Croc and Ox, and a steel door.  Seriously the best use of a prop in a martial arts scene since Master Chan picked up a ladder.

What Panda 2 lacked in action it made up in heart, in my humble opinion.  The sequence when Po remembers the trauma of his childhood while learning to catch a raindrop is... beautiful - even if the dialogue at the end is a bit ham-handed.

Panda 3's fight choreography doesn't offer the spectacular, minutes-long sequences of the first or second - there are these lovely, brief and razor-sharp exclamation points of lightning-fast action here and there, but nothing so generous as the original's Five Vs. Lung.  It makes it up, here, in literal God of War-grandeur spectacle.

It begins with a beautiful fight between (dead-since-the-first-movie) Master Oogway and his just-as-ancient foe Kai, in the floating, idyllic realm of the spirit world.  Kai is a bull who is also Kratos from God of War, with literal Blades of Chaos - except his are made of jade.

So imagine a fight sequence against a super-zen tortoise and Kratos, with all the epic grandeur of like the Poseidon fight from God of War 3, but entirely produced in high-end CG.  It's a really good analogy, actually, because instead of the blink-and-you'll-miss-a-move, drawn-out choreography of a classic kung fu flick you've got these gigantic, mountain-shattering moves that read very clearly to the viewer and result in the environment blowing apart in dazzling detail.  It's absolutely beautiful.

It has no equivalent of the Five Vs. Lung or the Ox and Croc sequence, but it's actually funnier than the first two movies - even if some of it feels as a result of Dreamworks' desire to push baby panda plushies or something - and the gorgeous environments remain a highlight.  The movie's climax doubles down on the visual spectacle of its opening, annnd yeah.

I'm lookin' forward to watching it again one day.


  1. And I love the falling action with oogway at the end. The panda movies really nail the small scenes and James Hong always does amazing work as ping the duck.

    1. Right? I'm really glad they gave him an expanded role in this one.