Review of Kung Fu Panda 4

Kung Fu Panda 4
Kung Fu Panda 4
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DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda movies stand out among other franchise successes in the same genre. In any case, underestimate Po and the Kung Fu Panda films at your own risk, with this, we are reminded that it is impossible to downplay anything connected to the series. The truth is, weighty animation is possible which brings out a lot of real emotions and at the same time, provides room for comic scenes, making each film more interesting than the previous one. This remains true for Kung Fu Panda 4 too but his current quest suggests that maybe it was time he handed it over to another character.

That’s basically how things work here as Po’s old trainer Master Shifu (played by Dustin Hoffman who returned) tells him that a new Dragon Warrior should be chosen so that Po may take a higher path of spirituality. Sadly though, his friends from the Furious Five will miss this one, however, you still get what they do: off Po goes together with another partner who thinks less of him to fight yet another powerful villain and also discovers something new about being a kung fu master. Zhen (Awkwafina), a shifty fox thief serves as the doubting ally whom Po makes a deal with just to find Viola Davis-voiced “empress of disguise” calling herself “The Chameleon,” who desires through magic and deceitfulness to learn kung-fu skills. For Po, there is no such thing as bad or good only one or zero in between them whereas Zhen has been designed to blur these distinctions. Obviously, all the heroes join forces towards the end, therefore this moral ambiguity lasts only for some time.

In an unusual way which relates back to her nature as a criminal; she intends to take away from them what made their predecessors in fights against PO formidable opponents throughout history. She is literally and metaphorically a chameleon, a small creature that can change into anything or anyone and also assume the form of a more powerful warrior. Her scaly transformation is one of the most intricate animation effects, with jagged motion.

On the other hand, Awkwafina as the other newcomer is much better at puncturing Kung Fu Panda 4’s touching scenes with jokes having been in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon before which are notably serious. It is quite evident from her character Zhen why it was so easy to discern her as a negative hero compared with Po since its animations were quick enough for him to sprint inside fast-paced sequences. Eventually, they worked together well enough but we will miss out on the established relationships between Po and Furious Five.

Similar to previous Kung Fu Pandas, there is an abundance of over-exaggerated physical comedy. The humor is derived from the many creative animal designs present in this world – piggy pigs, plump cows, and fish-eyed reptiles, while Captain Fish (Ronny Chieng), a drunkard shipwrecking Arowana that resides within a pelican’s mouth and pops out of its beak to tell people off, adds something new. Po’s family tree is a little messed up; they are two dads: hyperactive goose Ping (James Hong) and elderly panda Li Shan (Bryan Cranston). They are an especially funny duo with their opposite body structures – the big grizzly bear lumbering around alongside the fluttery bell-shaped bird – plus complementary voices.

The action scenes are really good as usual, though none stand out quite like some of those in the franchise’s large ensemble setups. There’s however an almost brawl within a building that keeps shifting on its foundation at one end. This film also seems to have downplayed violence and danger slightly: whereas Kung Fu Panda 2 had Lord Shen killing his henchmen with throwing knives, here someone falling to their death is called “getting hurt”. It might just be a matter of writing style but it seemed strange compared to the normal kind of frankness about death and the afterlife that Kung Fu Panda has.

Director Mike Mitchell has an impressive animation resume on his profile so far but he comes into the Kung Fu Panda universe only now in Trolls and Lego Movie 2-maker mode; this one feels as if both himself and Stephanie Ma Stine who shares co-directional advice with him want to take things in another direction going forward. Kung Fu Panda 3 felt like a trilogy capper hence this movie’s obsession with succession and moving on. Sometimes it works for them; other times it sounds sorta of like fanfiction where you know what Kung Fu Panda 4 is about because the characters are literally telling you. Not that it does seem too much like the film is trying to coax you back or prove its resemblance to any other thing that you adore. And at the end of it all, your appetite for dumplings remains unquenched, just as it did from your first meeting with Po in these films.

Final thoughts

DreamWorks’ underappreciated film series about a kickboxing panda has released its fourth installment called Kung Fu Panda 4. where dumpling lover and dragon warrior Po contemplates giving up his role as a fighter to a new martial artist while confronting The Chameleon who wants something from him – his knowledge of kung fu. However, even with some elements missing or changed from previous movies, there are still enough additions made and excellently staged fight scenes done here making this another commendable addition to the franchise.

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