I did want to see this one in theaters, but, well, life happened. That may have worked out for the best, though. I enjoyed the movie, but I still felt it was somewhat mediocre. It has its good points, but it’s certainly the weakest addition to the franchise so far.
In the first movie, we had Po the Panda embark on an unexpected journey of self-discovery, when he is chosen to be the Dragon Warrior. He, his teacher Shifu, and the Furious Five all have significant roles and personal arcs, adding to the film significantly. And everything that comes into play at the climax is set up throughout the preceding story. The climax is built out of the rest of the movie.
In the second movie, Po had another journey of self-discovery, as he runs into an unexpected reminder that brings a subconscious trauma to the surface of his mind. He finds inner peace somewhat quickly, though, and while Tigress is still more or less an equal to Po, the rest of the cast fades a little into the background. As for the climax, while it makes some sense, the way it is told, it still comes a bit out of left field.
Now in the third movie… guess what? Po has a journey of self-discovery! What a surprise! He has something else to learn and master, and he does so practically instantaneously! Shifu and the Furious Five are just red shirts now, along with every other martial arts master, opposing the villain just long enough to lose and show how much of a threat he is. Then everything needed for the climax… just kind of happens. Just because. It all felt very rushed, ya know?
Basically, this was a definite step down for the franchise. I’ve heard that there are or were supposed to be six “chapters,” but my interest is very much waning now. The most interesting thing to happen in this movie was the villain. Seriously, Kai was kind of an awesome villain, a Judas returned from the grave, and with a wicked theme song! 🙂
I also liked the additional relationship between both of Po’s fathers, the goose who adopted him and his biological panda father. The goose learns how to share, so they can both be there for Po as he needs them, but he’s also a support for the panda, when the latter makes a mistake and earns Po’s anger. Having the two of them face Master Shifu was kind of hilarious, as was the panda village’s defense against Kai’s jade warriors.
I did find it poetic that they brought back Master Oogway, and explained his decision to appoint Po as the Dragon Warrior. It wasn’t just his faith in the universe, but also the experiences of his past, which guided his hand that day. And his hopes for Po were even greater than anyone guessed.
For the most part, the movie was… cute, in a little-kid way. But it fell far short of what it could have been, and certainly far short of the previous two movies, which is somewhat disappointing. It felt less like a movie and more like a two or three-episode arc on a kids’ show, without any interruptions.
So, in what may be my briefest review yet:
Rating: I’ll give Kung Fu Panda 3 perhaps 7 stars out of 10, being generous.
Grade: C-Plus. Also being generous.