Kung-Fu Panda 4 – Review


Kung-Fu Panda 4 is the fourth entry in the series and this time has a new direction from Mike Mitchell, who previously directed Shrek: Forever After, alongside Stephanie Stein in her feature-length debut, having previously directed for the Netflix She-Ra series.

This is the fourth entry, but it has so far been received poorly compared to the previous three films, it already hit a lot on Twitter when it was revealed that the Furious Five won’t be featured characters this time around, despite the fact that the long-time creatives of the Kung-Fu Panda series insisted they should play a part. I will say it now, their absence is sorely felt…

When I reviewed Kung-Fu Panda 3, I thought that the series ended on a decent note and there wasn’t much space to expand. I’ll give the team credit; they gave it a good go here. It is about Po fighting a shapeshifter that takes on the roles of its previous enemies, though not many of them can speak since Ian McShane was the only one of the previous actors they could get to reprise their role. Alongside this, Po is also trying to train up the new Dragon Warrior, and he has chosen a fox that tried to steal from the Jade Temple named Zhen (played by Awkwafina) who is aware that the villain they are seeking is a chameleon named Viola Davies.

It was weird that the Furious Five wasn’t here, and I thought that that was maybe because of budgetary reasons, but it’s not as if this isn’t teaming with A-listers. Bryan Cranston is back as Li and Dustin Hoffman is back and hasn’t been recast despite his scandals for some reason. And again, Viola Davies and Ian McShane are here. I suppose there would be budgetary issues if you also tried to get Gary Oldman and JK Simmons back to reprise their roles. I didn’t understand it for a plot reason, you didn’t really need these characters to come back since they finished their arcs in the previous movies, and especially in the case of Tai Lung’s return, I felt that it was a regression.

As for Chameleon, I liked Viola Davies in the role, but she has one of the weakest motivations in the whole series. The new character Zhen is fine, I quite like the rapport she has with Po, but the main thing I was noticing was that Awkwafina is starting to become VERY overexposed, especially in voice acting roles. I think it’s a shame because she’s okay for the most part and does a fine enough job in this film. 

As for everything else, the fight scenes are fine and are animated very well, but it did feel like whatever the budget was for this film, not much of it was allocated for animation. 

I’m not sure why some characters were here, Mr Ping and Li should have just been cameos, since their role in the whole film wasn’t really worth it, as they just go through the things they did in the last movie, just not as well.

That being said, the philosophy is there, and some of the jokes work, even though one of them involves a weird cameo with Mr Beast… I felt like some of the writing was made with the previous films in mind, but this was the first time I felt like there was less of a creative vision compared to the other films, for some reason I can’t say that I didn’t like it. It’s probably due to the fact that I’m a fan of the franchise and I’ve become blind to some of these issues, but it still maintains some of its charm, though I think a lot of that is due to Jack Black still being great in this role. This is the first time I found myself nitpicking some of the decisions in this film, and having not done that before, it feels weird.

Kung-Fu Panda 4 is a fine enough movie, but I definitely think it’s the weakest one so far. There are great fight scenes and a great soundtrack that includes a Chinese-style version of Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne. But while I enjoyed Kung-Fu Panda 4, it was also rather uninteresting in several ways, mainly in the story which doesn’t quite succeed as well as the other three movies. I kind of hope that there aren’t plans for any more movies, because I think that it could become very bad very fast.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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