Cartoon Karma – Kung Fu Panda 3 | Everything Wrong and Right With
[♪ Singing ♪]
[“Character Dialogue“] I love the logo openings from the past two films,
but this is drawn out. The film’s visuals pull no punches,
opening with the breathtaking, painterly Spirit Realm, free from the limitations of gravity and physics and reestablishing this series’ masterful highs
at lighting and colour. OOGWAY: “Our battle ended five-hundred years ago!”
KAI: “Well now I’m ready for a rematch.” How come Oogway and Kai only meet now? The only solution is that this happens
right after Oogway ascended, but that would mean Kai took ages to return
after taking out Oogway. The timelines don’t mesh up, folks. Real considerate for Oogway
to write the Chinese character for Chi mirrored, so Kai and the audience could read it. Inner Peace skills can take many forms, folks,
though not deflecting Negative Karma, I’m afraid. Rushed pacing in this film
means many Big Moments don’t feel notable. This opening has lots of revelations, but that it zips right by them and
heavily compresses the fight diminishes their impact. This fake out about Po and the Five racing to
something dramatic had its punchline done well, and the visuals here are something else, but it’s given well over a minute of buildup.
Talk about drawn out. BUNNY: “Go, Dragon Warrior!”
PIG: “Defend the valley!” Defend it from what?
They’re just heading back to the Jade Palace. SHIFU: “Today, will be my final class.” He hands the class over to Po straight away,
so technically his previous class was his final one. The Five limp to him just like he did
to them and Shifu in the first film after the Training Room did a number on him.
Nice visual echo. There’s lots of callbacks to the first film, but barely any
to the second outside of indirect plot-mandated ones, and even those are done
as to not come across as such. It can’t help but read as the filmmakers feeling
the darker direction Panda 2 went in didn’t work. I feel it helped Panda 2 be more emotionally raw,
among other things, so this rubs me the wrong way. The way they handle Shifu is great.
Rather then force an unneeded arc upon him, they keep him to the sidelines but use him where it fits,
alongside many fun reactions and one-liners. This is how to keep a character around
that you don’t need without them feeling redundant, something animated sequels often struggle with.
I’d say it actually betters Panda 2 regarding Shifu. SHIFU: “A five-hundred-year prophecy fulfilled –” Five hundred years? Didn’t Po say – PO: “We’ve been waiting a thousand years for this!” Neither Po nor Shifu should be wrong,
they know their stuff. Conspiracy theory: two dragon scrolls.
Get cracking, fan theorists! The film doesn’t quite sell Chi. Not only does it
tread over a lot of Inner Peace ground from before, but it also reads as another Force expy.
Yes, Chi’s been around for millennia, but taken within this film on its own,
it doesn’t sell. A slightly over-processed grasp of Taoism shouldn’t
bother, but with the above two, it does a smidge. PO: “Almost there Shifu, just a little more confusing
and you’ll be the next Oogway.” Ha! Brilliant. Did I really used to sound like that? This duck’s voice is clearly male, so stone me
how he’s laying eggs, other then Rule of Funny. No reason he couldn’t have been female. KAI: “Kai has returned!” FARMER BUNNY & GOOSE: “Who?” KAI: “Master of Pain. Beast of vengeance.
Maker of widows…” GOOSE: “Eh?” KAI: “Okay, I used to work with Oogway -” The gag of no one knowing who Kai is is a little clunky
in the writing, but J.K. Simmons really makes it work. Whatever the levels required, he kills as
a bad guy, even if the script doesn’t give him
nearly as much to do as Shen gave Gary Oldman. What toy manufacturer would make a figure of Tai Lung,
given his fall from grace? Or, if Po made these figures himself, as past films’
credits indicate, why would he do so? I – I don’t… PO: “What about the Dragon Warrior lookalike contest?”
MR. PING: “Oh, Mrs. Chow always wins that.” MRS. CHOW: “Skadoosh.” That may very well be my favourite gag in the whole film. LI (muffled): “I’m Li Shang.” PO: “What?” Watch Ping closely. Looks like he says “what” too,
but they removed it in post. DreamWorks’ ADR staff’s better then that. LI: “Little Lotus, was the name you were given at birth.” Po’s original name being “Lotus” is great, not only for being another nod to Chinese culture
in how important the lotus flower is, but for Li’s underplayed switch to using Po.
After this, he only says Lotus thrice; twice in a moment of panic when Po’s in danger,
and later when showing Po the portrait of his mom. Thus, he clearly respects that Po has had his own life.
That adds to Ping’s character too, as it makes Ping’s rage as his arrival in Po’s life
one-sided, to its benefit. MR. PING: “How do we know this stranger
is even related to you?” The reluctance to directly refer to Panda 2 prevents the characters from validating
they’re related when Ping demands proof. All Po would have to do is ask Li
“was our village attacked by a peacock?”, and when Li confirms it,
that’d be the proof. LI: “There’s a whole bunch of us.”
PO: “Where?” LI (whispering): “A secret panda village in
the mountain.” PO (yelling): “A secret panda village -”
LI: “Ssh!” Given how he urges him to quiet down,
could have just said “I’ll tell you later.” Po’s fitness always seems confined to action scenes. There’s only so many times
they can do that before it gets old. PO: “Like the Urn of Whispering Warriors.
Someone broke that, once.” LI: “Who?”
PO: “Some idiot…” I like how the joke works
even without reference to Panda 1. After all, sometimes people do see animated sequels
despite having missed the original. Panda 2 was my first. They seem to have swapped out some,
but not all of the artefacts since Panda 1. Don’t see the thought process,
this place doesn’t give tours. Shifu really needs to have a talk with Po
about ruining priceless artefacts. This scene has little purpose other then furthering the
rapport between Po and Li before Kai’s initial attack. Might have been better for that to be the
subtext of a scene that serves other purposes. There’s plenty of examples
of that layering in this trilogy. For whatever reason, Li’s pants are missing in several
shots. Guess Baby Po not liking pants runs in the family. SHIFU & FIVE: “Your father!” PO: “Wow, how did you just guess that? Oh wait a
second, oh yeah, of course, we look exactly the same.” Well, not “exactly” the same. Is there a word for saying, “you all look alike to me”
about your own race? Because that’s what Po’s doing. PO: “It’s okay Dad, I do this every day –” Every day, huh? Not much of a Valley of Peace, is it? MR. PING: “Wow, wow, wow, not my good pan!
Eh, take this one.” Great balance of priorities, Ping. Seriously, there’s too much undercutting
of fights with jokey asides. It was in the first two,
but not as much as this. SHIFU: “It’s blank? Are you kidding me? Not again. “Wait, wait, hold on, sorry. Oh, okay -” His live delivery reads like he’s leading them on, but Shifu rolling back to reveal more
is played like he’s genuinely surprised. It took time for an Art Shift flashback,
but it was worth it. Appropriately, this reflects the art on Chinese scrolls. Don’t know if the Chinese animators did this, or if it was
effective mimicry by the Californian or Indian artists, but bravo either way. Let’s talk about Kai, folks. Simmons kills it,
and his design and animation make him feel physically and magically imposing all while seeming otherworldly,
given he’s a Spirit Warrior. [Kai’s Theme] And the musical motif reworked from Imagine Dragons’
“I’m So Sorry” is awesome every time it pops up, leaving an impression that the themes for Tai Lung
and Shen, for all their foreboding feels, didn’t leave. But as an actual character and antagonist,
he’s kind of flat. With the other two, their backstories’ connections to Shifu and Po informed them as characters
and the films they resided in. Here, Kai’s once-profound connection
with Oogway doesn’t inform the film outside of the two scenes where it’s referred to.
A villain doesn’t need that to be compelling, but when it’s there but comes across
as empty exposition, it drags the character down. It’s easy to miss, but this is the same chasm the Five
battled Tai Lung over, bridge rebuilt and all. Fits, as it’s supposed to be the main way
in and out of the valley. Given how far they’re already implied to have come,
and having the appetite of, well, pandas, hard to believe this is their first lunch break,
Ping’s appearance being a surprise and all. MR. PING: “I raised Po for twenty years,
before I finally told him he was adopted.” SHEN: “Thirty years I’ve waited for this moment.” All the timeline discrepancies today, folks. PO: “You can fly?”
MR. PING: “I’m a bird, Po.” We’ve seen other geese fly, like Zeng,
but given we’ve never seen Ping fly in two-plus films… yeah, I’m not buying it. LI: “We’re pandas! We don’t do stairs.”
PO: “I’ve waited my whole life to hear those words.” For the most part, they keep finding new ways
to gets gags out of pandas and stairs. This rope was nowhere to be seen looking up at the cliff,
even though the plank they get off at can be seen. Okay, you’d have to be a crank to be immune
to the probing beauty of establishing the Panda Village. I’m sure it’s even more probing for Chinese audiences,
where the panda is so revered. DIM: “We can it a snack-lece!”
SUM: “That’s right! Yum yum!” With all the jokes about pandas constantly eating, you have to wonder how the pandas resisted
long enough to make that in the first place. The biggest casualty of the rushed pacing
is the intro to all these pandas, who only come across as one-gag characters. And there’s nothing wrong with one-gag characters,
but the film clearly thinks they’re more then that. LI: “Pandas don’t walk. We roll!” So, they didn’t go downhill even once
between the Valley of Peace and here? Uh huh. Po and Li just randomly switch where
they’re at at the table, going by the background. BAO: “What’s that?”
MR. PING: “My hat!” BAO: “What’s that?”
MR. PING: “My beak!” BAO: “What’s that?”
MR. PING: “My wing!” BAO: “What’s that?”
MR. PING: “My dumplings!” [crickets] In early development,
Mei Mei was in an arranged marriage to Po. It’s good that was cut,
the film’s overstuffed as it is, alongside that feeling low-stakes given everything else.
But Mei Mei has nothing to do as a result. She’s emphasised enough for her
uselessness to be apparent. Artists, when a character is surplus to requirements,
try cutting them, not clinging to them. CRANE: “Wings of surveillance!” MANTIS: “Just because you say ‘Wings of’ before something,
it doesn’t mean that you’re doing a special move.” CRANE: “Wings of disagreement.” For all that the Five bar Tigress
are underused in these films, the filmmakers do well in
giving them amusing moments. They have Master Croc in this one,
but he looks and sounds different from before. Think it’s supposed to be a different crocodile
entirely that the credits misnamed. Props for them remembering each of the Five have
different fighting styles. Crane’s all about deflection. What’s funny is that Mantis probably
increased in size as a result of this. It’s hard to find a lot to say about this
“life in the village” sequence. It’s just there, there’s not a lot to it. Ironic, then,
that it’s followed by arguably the best scene, where the writing, pacing and emotion all combine
for a moment of raw probing beauty. LI: “Sorry about the mess. I don’t usually get visitors.” Po came into his hut earlier, waking him up early, so
Li’s attempt to lighten the mood is readily transparent. LI: “I had this done on your one-hundredth day.
Your mama couldn’t hold you still. “You nearly ate the paper.
It’s true.” For all that Li’s relationship with Po
is a bit thinly sketched, his moments with Po all feel sincere and earnest. You can feel him navigating
the murky waters of adult parenthood. Much like with this very sequence in Panda 2,
the film manages to have a flashback of footage from the previous film not come across as gimmicky,
but instead the opposite. Highlighting Li’s grief over the loss of his wife is crucial, for making his lie
about being able to teach Po chi, in order to protect him, come across right. PO: “You don’t have to worry
about losing me ever again. “M’kay?” I’m legit not joking, even watching this moment
in isolation for scripting teared me up. D’aww. They’ve got someone to hug,
but I still want to reach out and do it. BIG FUN: “Let me get some of that!” And, it’s gone. He walks on camera
from somewhere other then the door too. [crickets] The freaky thing about the rushed pacing?
It applies far less to the back half. I don’t understand why they couldn’t extend the runtime
to give it a little extra breathing room and weight on top of cutting out unnecessary moments. That said, the back half resonates better
as a result. Kai’s name was going to be ‘Tain Sha’,
which means ‘ferocious spirit from heaven’. Don’t know why they dropped that,
would have kept the trend of meaningful villain names reflecting their characters, with Tai Lung meaning ‘Dragon Warrior’
and Shen meaning ‘God’. MONKEY: “Mantis, it is me! Your bestie!” All three films we’ve had subtle visual references
that Mantis and Monkey are close, with how often Mantis is on him.
Nice to have solid proof. What an action scene. The way they gradually progress Kai gaining the momentum,
as well as him clearly toying with them a bit. Does it make him overpowered?
Yes, but he is supernatural, so fair is fair. [Inner Peace Theme with Main Theme progression] I love how the music for Po trying chi here is an evolution of the Inner Peace music from Panda 2
that meshes in the main theme. MEI MEI: “Who’s she?” Awkward remnant from discarded
arranged marriage subplot is awkward. Seriously, the cute girl panda that adores Tigress
as an action figure and in person makes more of an impression then Mei Mei. PO: “Now why won’t you show me?”
LI: “Because I don’t know it!” Wow, what a shocker. How have their footprints not faded? LI: “I’m not in his life. Not anymore.” MR. PING: “Your son got mad at you.
Welcome to parenthood.” Might well be the film’s best line, that. This film
gives Ping more to work with then the previous two, where he excelled but was confined to a few scenes. With an organic reason for him
to be along for the action, he’s consistently comic while always being heartfelt. There’s such gorgeous visual beauty
throughout the whole film, and it really shows in scenes like this,
selling them much better. PO: “I can’t teach you Kung Fu! I couldn’t even
teach Tigress, and she already knows Kung Fu!” He’s not wrong. PO: “Your real strength comes from being the best
you you can be, so why are you?” The film does a mostly good job at making its
“be the best version of yourself” storyline not retread ground common to children’s films,
but occasionally it comes across as tacky. He tosses up twenty dumplings, yet each of the
five kids only does keepie-uppies with a pair. Where’d the other ten go? All the colour experimentation in this training montage,
gradually styling itself as it goes, is something else, folks, truly. Yup, that’s Tai Lung as another of Kai’s minions.
What a fitting Easter Egg. And yet though he sends out Jade Zombie Tai Lung
with the others, it’s nowhere to be seen in the battle. Also, his waist amulet chain only had four at first,
reverting to more only when he grabs them. PO: “How about you spare me the chit chat?
Ugh, chit chat.” KAI: “In the – / In –
PO: “Chitty chitty chat chat. / Chat chat chat.” KAI: “In the -”
PO: “Chit chat!” Kai isn’t that given to monologues, all
things considered. Hope Po wasn’t holding that
in reserve for the right villain. That Mei Mei uses legitimate weaponry
makes her takedown of comic silliness stand out awkwardly in a way the others don’t. On what level does this make any sense? KAI: “Wait – it’s working! No! No!” (chokes) (laughs) “No, it’s not.” Hm, where do I get the feeling I’ve seen this before… DISCORD: “Oh no! No no stop!” (chokes) “No no! “I can’t take it any more!
I’ll do whatever you say!” (laughs)
“You’re hilarious!” It’s just occurred to me:
why did he never use Oogway as a Jade Zombie? Seems like the perfect way to
psychologically mess with our heroes. That’s twice Kai’s cut a circle in the ground
with his weapon to prevent others’ fleeing. Except… it really shouldn’t,
it’s just a circle in the ground. Why, pray tell, does Wuxi Finger Holding himself
bring Kai back with him because they’re enwrapped? Didn’t happened to Po before,
and he’s always touching the one he uses it on. Also, Po has to know Kai can come back easily enough. This is what I mean by the film’s
visual and directional ambition. Though the final battle is more visually “traditional”, it’s still a daring marvel
of lighting and kinetic shapes flowing sans gravity. Basically, he frustrates Kai through prolonged silliness
a lá Tai Lung. Come on now. OOGWAY: “The more you take, the less you have.” KAI: “No! It’s too much!” Yet again, we see one of Oogway’s maxims
given a literal demonstration. Well played. Shifu remarked every Master in China had vanished. Yet the only ones we see released
are ones we saw Kai capturing. Even a few extra Masters
in the background would have done. OOGWAY: “I saw the future of Kung Fu.
“And the past. I saw the panda who could unite them both.
Both sides of the yin and yang.” Actually, Yin and Yang’s supposed to mean how seemingly
opposite forces can actually be complementary. Don’t see how that pertains
to uniting the past with the future. PO: “I can’t take that.”
OOGWAY: “Just take it. I have a bigger one.” I’ve always loved how Oogway
knows how to gel with Po just right. True, Oogway may not have the growth Shifu gets,
but he’s such a winner of a character despite minimal screentime. PO: “I can go back?”
OOGWAY: “Who knows? I’ve never tried!” Kai managed to leave.
So, this isn’t a mystery to either of them. PO: “Oogway gave it to me in the Spirit Realm.”
SHIFU: “Of course he did.” PO: “I think I mastered Chi.”
SHIFU: “Of course you did.” Meta awareness at its finest, folks. [♪ Kung Fu Fighting in Chinese ♪] Even if it’s in Chinese, having a kind-of
dance party ending with Kung Fu Fighting… where’s the graceful ending, filmmakers? But it kind of alternates between that
and a resolution of Po’s teacher arc, so there’s that. ♪ Try, try to be who you are ♪ First film had Kung Fu Fighting.
Second didn’t even bother with a song. Stone me why this goes with a generic pop song
that’d fit any animated film. Something I don’t get at all is why they revert
to traditional vertically scrolling credits after the unorthodox sideways scrolling and
puppetry fade-out styles in the last two. [Oogway Ascends Theme] Still, wise choice of score cues for the credits,
including the Oogway Ascends theme. Mr. Ping and his legitimately upsetting reactions
to Li inserting himself into Po’s life has to register as a highlight. His arc is one
that feels fully resolved and given sufficient weight. Beyond that parental subplot,
the film’s a bit overstuffed. Despite barely been the longest, it feels the shortest
due to several elements and characters being underused. Again, a common animated film issue, but after Panda 2 handled its cast balancing
much more delicately, a mite upsetting. But, this film’s flaws are mostly in service
to its sincerity and heart. Even if it’s a little wobbly and lightweight,
it’s a delightful action-adventure comedy. That being the takeaway from a concept built around
Jack Black as a panda counts for a lot. That the trilogy as a whole is at a very
consistent level helps make them even better. Even if this is the weakest, it’s by a small enough
margin that the others help make up for that. Despite the majesty of the design in the Dragons, I’d maintain the Pandas are the finest
DreamWorks films, visually. This one goes even further; usually animated sequels don’t have
a surplus of visual creativity, confined to building upon the previous films. But Panda 3 pushes its artists as far
as they can go with colour and effects. The way shots shift from full colour
to saturated fields of a single hue; the transitions from “normal” CGI
to cel-shaded flat planes; the aforementioned graphic, Chinese-Flavoured
painterly style of computer animation; to say nothing of the breathtaking Spirit Realm.
Plus all the expected modern DreamWorks highs. This film kicked off a run
where DreamWorks’ films started doing really wonderfully creative stuff visually.
A run I desperately pray continues under Universal. Minus twenty-five. Assuming Universal don’t have DreamWorks make more,
this trilogy’s legacy should stand tall.