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The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

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Kung Fu Panda Series Becomes Kung “Boo” Panda With Its Fourth Film

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I grew up watching Kung Fu Panda. The first movie was the go-to film on our DVD player during every long road trip since it was released in 2008, and continued to be a comfort film as I grew older. When Kung Fu Panda 2 released in 2011, I was thrilled. It’s not often that a sequel tops the original, and I thought it did just that. The character arc was fantastic, the dialogue was interesting, and the villain, Lord Shen, has got to be one of my favorites.

 The release of Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016 wasn’t expected, but pleasantly surprising. I thought it was a good way to wrap up the beloved series that I grew up happily watching with my sister. There was a sense of finality to it, a good ending point for the story as a whole. 

Then to my suprise, they announced a fourth movie, which got released on March 8. I originally wasn’t thrilled by this, as I thought it was just a way for Dreamworks to squeeze out as much money as they can from the beloved series. I had hoped they would have just let a good thing lie, but this is the film industry after all, nothing successful can go without money hungry producers wanting to make as much from a piece of successful content. 

Against my better judgment, I decided to give it a chance. It is one of my favorite childhood movie franchises after all. It would be wrong of me not to, at the very least, see where the story has gone after so many years.

Needless to say, it was a mistake. 

I don’t often hate things; I consider myself a very optimistic person. But trust me when I tell you, I left that theater fuming. It was horrible. An absolute wreck.

Starting off, they completely ruined Po as a character. He was arrogant and pompous. Completely different then the lovable oaf that started the series. Considering the third movie provided a good conclusion to his character arc, it was disappointing to see them attempt to tack on a meaningless arc, despite having had a good conclusion to begin with.

Speaking of poorly written characters, Master Shifu was completely rewritten from the wise mentor for Po, into the dislikeable butt of jokes. He was made to be a laughing stock in the movie, which I thought was a poor film making choice. The character of a mentor is primarily used as someone that’s supposed to impart wisdom, but this doesn’t mean he can’t be funny. In earlier movies, they came up with clever ways to get a laugh out of the audience through his sternness and uptight manner, like making him appear behind characters without warning. They did this without risking the values of the character, it didn’t minimize his wisdom, and made sense for him as a character. The fourth movie wasn’t able to do this at all, and instead diminished his character to get a cheap laugh. 

Another flaw of the movie was the fact The Furious Five, which was one of the best parts about the series, were not in it, claiming to have been off on their own adventures. This was a cheap way to write them off and I have a theory they couldn’t convince the voice actors to come back, which I completely understand. The Five were such a key part of the first three movies, it was just disappointing to hear they’d been written off. 

The newest character, Zhen, felt like a copy of the common character trope of a “young delinquent, steered to a better path by an unlikely mentor.” There is nothing wrong with this trope, and I think it could’ve been done in a thoughtful and interesting way, providing an interesting direction for the story, but the way they went about it just came out to be predictable and flat. It didn’t feel like any unique thought was put into Zhen’s character, like they thought the character trope was enough to make the character. Tropes aren’t characters. They are structures for a character to follow, and I think they missed the mark on that one. 

The dialogue of this movie is what caused a lot of the problems I noticed. It was clear that there was hardly any consideration at all. It was like the producers asked ChatGPT to write a middle-of-the-road script about Po and some thief taking down Rango in drag. It was predictable, unfunny and ultimately left me having a hard time getting into the story. 

Don’t get me started on the story. It didn’t make any sense. It felt rushed, and didn’t take nearly any consideration as to the movies that came before. For example, a large portion of the movie takes place in a very large and busy city, during which Po acts as though he’s never seen one before. This directly contrasts the second movie, where almost all the movie takes place in a similar city setting! Oh, it made me so mad! 

Spoiler warning: towards the end, it brought back the villains from the last few movies. The way they portrayed the villains was so unbelievable and disappointing. Minimized them to such a big degree I was ready to chalk up the whole experience to a bad dream. It throws all the well-written, dynamic villain characters down the gutter.

On the topic of villains, “The Chameleon” was just upsetting. Coming after a line of villains with interesting backgrounds and movies, to have her one driving force be “they said I was too small to learn Kung Fu” was frankly just dumb. Especially considering we’ve, for the last three movies, we’ve seen a literal bug absolutely killing it in the Kung Fu department. She also introduced the concept of magic, which if you’re wondering if that has ever been mentioned in the movies before: nope. It’s too frustrating for me to even get into. 

Now, I know I’m probably too old to be complaining about a children’s movie, which yes that’s fair. But you have to understand, I grew up with these movies. All the characters hold a very special part in both my heart, and my childhood. To see it being used as a simple money grab is disheartening. Essentially ruining a memorable part of my childhood, which is one of the real reasons I found this new movie so upsetting.

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