‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ (2016): Justice Will Be Served
It has been almost five years since DreamWorks first introduced us to the bumbling panda-turned-kung fu master Po Ping, voiced by Jack Black, in the animated box-office smash Kung Fu Panda. That film was just the first in what the animation studio hopes is a continually successful franchise, spawning a well-received sequel in 2011 and a Nickelodeon series subtitled Legends of Awesome launching that same year, in addition to several short films.
Now, the anointed Dragon Warrior and his fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five, are back for Kung Fu Panda 3 after having successfully protected their home of the Valley of Peace and other parts of ancient China in the prior films. Despite his tragic backstory, the end of the last movie revealed that Po’s father Li is actually alive and living in a far away secret village along with other surviving pandas. The upcoming third film of the series will reunite the pair as Po travels to the village to visit with his father, voiced by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston as the newest addition to a franchise that already has Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Seth Rogen bringing its characters to life.
Kung Fu Panda 3 has had a rocky path to reaching theaters, changing distributors from Paramount Pictures to 20th Century Fox, and switching its release date four different times. The animated film, which is a co-production between DreamWorks Animation and the Chinese studio Oriental DreamWorks, was originally slated to open in March 2016, but was later moved up to December 23, 2015. The studio wisely decided against competing with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens this week, instead moving it back to next March before eventually settling on the current January 29, 2016 release date.
The movie also saw the departures of Rebel Wilson and Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) early in production. Kate Hudson replaced Wilson as the new panda character Mei Mei, while J.K. Simmons succeeded Mikkelsen as the film’s supernatural villain Kai, an evil ancient spirit that begins terrorizing China, while stealing the powers of defeated kung fu masters. The rest of the main cast returns, along with co-directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni at the helm. Guillermo del Toro returns to executive produce the project, while Hans Zimmer will once again score the film.
DreamWorks has continued to tease the 3D film’s release amid all of the changes, releasing three previous trailers, as well as a Chinese language version. This final official trailer continues to emphasize the budding relationship between Po and his newly discovered dad, showing that they share quite a few commonalities, including their prominent bellies.
The clip also focuses on the threat posed by Kai to the entire country and the world, and Po’s quest to turn the obese pandas inhabiting his new home into kung fu masters, as it was once done for him. Po will also learn what it means to truly be a panda in this new panda paradise in the process. While Kai looks to be a menacing figure in the trailer, there’s still the right amount of humor mixed in to balance things out to keep the film as family-friendly as possible.
Kung Fu Panda 3 hits theaters on January 29, 2016.