Everyone’s favorite kick ass panda is back. For the third instalment of this phenomenally successful and always fun franchise, directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson (who also took the helm of Kung Fu Panda 2) and Alessandro Carloni have created a thoroughly satisfying return to the world of Po and co. A mix of beautifully animated visuals, welcome new characters and constant chuckle-worthiness make this every bit as good as the first two installments.
This series has always had a talent for good villains; firstly there was the gruff tones of Ian McShane as Tai Lung, and then Gary Oldman as the peacock Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2. The latter film had a surprising amount of character development and is one of the best animated sequels of the last ten years. Here we have J.K Simmons as General Kai, a warrior yak collecting the ch’i from every master in the spirit realm in the hopes of returning to the mortal world and extracting revenge against those who wronged him. At the same time Po (Jack Black) is reunited with his long lost father (Bryan Cranston) who takes him to see the panda village where he was born.
The voice cast which is assembled every time a Kung Fu Panda film comes out is always impressive. Bryan Cranston has an excellent voice and is often putting it to good use, previously with a Russian accent in Madagascar 3 and before that giving one of the best ever performances of James Gordon in Batman: Year One. He and Jack Black make for a great father and son team (also: Jack Black and Walter White; black and white, just like a panda!) and J.K Simmons is one of those rare actors who is incapable of putting a foot wrong. Stay for the credits and you’ll find out that Angelina Jolie’s children got to play a few roles as well.
One of the biggest questions that is usually married to a new animated release is if it’s worth splashing out an extra few dollars and getting a headache by adding an extra dimension. The visuals are animated beautifully; the landscapes which are based on the fog drenched snowy mountains of South-western China look spectacular and the spirit realm which two of the set piece battles take place in was a wonderful piece of imagination. The 3D doesn’t do the gimmick of throwing things out of the screen but rather lets the film sink back into the back of the screen. Seeing this is 2D would be perfectly fine but adding the extra layer is worth it.
There aren’t many trilogies that have got consistently better with each film – Toy Story is one of the only examples – but Kung Fu Panda has maintained a consistent quality with each outing. Although number three doesn’t do anything new or particularly ground breaking it’s still Kung Fu Panda which is awesome. Parents don’t be worried, the ankle biters will love it and you probably will too.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is in cinemas from 24th March through 20th Century Fox.