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‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ garners mixed reviews

Source: Devian Art

Dreamworks released “Kung Fu Panda 4” on March 8, marking the fourth installment of the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise for the first time in eight years. Following the adventures of the panda protagonist Po, the new sequel encapsulates a brand new adventure that combines comedy and light-hearted action.

Directed by Mike Mitchell, “Kung Fu Panda 4” surpassed $482,000,000 in global box office totals, and has already outshined the previous two movies in the domestic box office, grossing $181,000,000. The movie stars various familiar actors such as Jack Black returning as the voice of Po, Awkwafina as Zhen, and Dustin Hoffman as Shifu. After the announcement of returning voice actors and fan-favorite characters, the movie garnered high expectations from the public. 

“I was excited because I watched the previous three movies and I like Kung Fu Panda,” Erin Park (9), an animated movie fan, said. “I was especially interested because trailers and the directing team kept pointing out the return of old villains.” 

The plot begins with Po, a soon-to-be spiritual leader of his panda village, facing a dilemma when seeking a new successor as the Dragon Warrior. Struggling to choose from five candidates, he returns to the Jade Palace empty-handed where he finds a fox named Zhen attempting theft. Despite initial conflict, the duo unites against an emerging villain named the Chameleon, an evil sorceress with shapeshifting powers. 

They confront her in Juniper City, where she captures Po and seeks to harness the spiritual power of past Kung Fu masters. With the help of a criminal leader from the Den of Thieves, Po and Zhen manage to circumvent the Chameleon’s attacks and defeat her, sending all villains to the spirit realm and restoring peace in the Valley of Peace. In the final scenes of the movie, Po decides on Zhen to be his successor as the dragon warrior and begins teaching her his Kung Fu craft.

Despite the initial anticipation surrounding the movie, feedback from the fanbase was predominantly marked by dissatisfaction and frustration. Film critic Christy Lemire claims that the movie “struggles to justify its existence,” lacking in both “the delicate artistry and warm wit of its predecessors.” She adds that while previous films in the series gave viewers enough time to embrace the minute details present in the animation sequences, the new film lacks this charm, and the “subtle sense of spirituality” that primarily distinguished the franchise from others vanished from the screen. 

“It definitely fell short of my expectations,” Erin said. “Although the animation was good, I think this movie ignored Po’s character development and detached from the plots of the previous trilogy. For instance, it was contradictory when Dreamworks portrayed Po, after his years of training, as having equal strength to Zhen.” 

However, it is clear that whereas earlier films were intended to resonate with audiences of all ages, Dreamworks tailored the fourth film to match the maturity of younger audiences. Much of the movie encompasses scenes that are often comedic and silly, sure to fill the theaters with smiles and giggles from children.

“Still, I think I would like to see a fifth movie,” Allyson Lee, mother of two elementary school daughters, said. “I have daughters who would enjoy it. It’s a good movie franchise for children, with inoffensive jokes, enjoyable content, and cute animation.”

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