The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Kung Fu Panda has kicked their way back into the franchise for the fourth time

Photo courtesy of Dreamworks Animations
Kung Fu Panda 4 was released on March 8 with very mixed reviews. Despite another bringing back the beloved Dragon Warrior, many criticized the lack of the original Furious Five to be one of the major criticisms for the film.

Whether it was a childhood TV show, video game or book, there is only so much that brings WCHS students nostalgia from when they were a child. One of these things involves a kung fu fighting panda and his team who defeat bad guys across China, otherwise known as the “Kung Fu Panda” series. 

After a long-awaited seven-year hiatus, the iconic panda warrior Po (Jack Black) makes a triumphant comeback to the silver screen in “Kung Fu Panda 4,” adding another thrilling chapter to the beloved series that many teenagers cherished in their childhood. However, the movie has sparked various reactions from audiences, with some feeling it could have reached greater heights. While “Kung Fu Panda 4” is a solid standalone film, it may not quite hit the mark set by its predecessors in the “Kung Fu Panda” series.

In “Kung Fu Panda 4,” Po faces new challenges, different from the franchise’s previous villains. The film opens with a mysterious shapeshifting threat looming over the Valley of Peace. As Po grapples with his role as Dragon Warrior and the responsibilities that come with it, he must not only end the threat but also figure out the future successor of the Dragon Warrior. Throughout the movie, Po befriends a quick-witted fox (Awkwafina) as they work together to defeat the shapeshifter known as the Chameleon (Viola Davis), which has the power to shapeshift into any antagonist from the movie franchise. 

One of the biggest criticisms of the movie is the plot and use of characters. Po has only been the Dragon Warrior for two and a half movies, so it feels strange for the movie to make him abdicate the title so early and take on Master Oogway’s former role as a spiritual leader to find his “inner peace.” Additionally, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and Po’s fathers serve no real purpose in the plot other than to provide comedic relief, so many feel that their role is unnecessary.

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However, the movie’s biggest surprise is the disappearance of the Furious Five characters. The entire film leaves out key characters who played significant roles in the previous three movies and have always worked alongside Po, with the reason being each Furious Five member is preoccupied with fighting other enemies across China. Viewers do get to catch a glimpse of the Furious Five at the start of the end credits, yet they all have no dialogue because the voice actors did not agree to return, taking away from some of the nostalgia viewers were hoping to see. Such a return is questionable, assuming a fifth movie will be in the works. 

Despite its cons, many positive elements still exist within the movie for viewers to enjoy. Even though you won’t find most of the original characters, what’s great about the movie is that many of the series’ antagonists, such as Tai Lung and Kai, reappear, bringing back lots of nostalgia for many and furthering their character development.

As a standalone movie, the plot is developed well and continues to bring the hype of “Kung Fu Panda.” New characters voiced by Awkwafina, Ke Huy Quan and Ronny Chieng do well as substitutes for the missing characters, and the level of kung fu displayed in the movie remains high. 

“Kung Fu Panda 4” delivers a mix of nostalgia and fresh adventures that both honor the franchise’s legacy and chart a new course for its beloved characters. While all may not enjoy it, the film still offers a fun experience, especially for those who have grown up with Po even though the absence of the Furious Five is felt.  However, introducing new characters and returning old adversaries provide enough action and humor to satisfy longtime fans and newcomers alike. As the credits roll, we wonder what the future holds for Po and his friends. Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: the spirit of “Kung Fu Panda” continues to inspire and delight audiences worldwide.

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About the Contributor
Jeremy Chung
Jeremy Chung, Print Editor-in-Chief
Jeremy Chung is a senior and is the Editor-in-Chief for the Observer. This is his fourth year taking journalism. When Jeremy is not writing for the Observer, you can find him practicing on the tennis courts or walking his dog. He also loves to watch action and comedy movies and spend time with his family and friends.

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