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‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ is an entertaining but unnecessary entry to the franchise

Luisa Bernardino
With excellent plotlines and boring tropes alike, Kung Fu Panda 4 strikes the balance to serve as an ultimately uninventive movie.


When it comes to making animated movie sequels, Dreamworks Studios has a hard time staying consistent. With certain franchises, like “Shrek,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Puss In Boots,” Dreamworks excelled at expanding the cinematic world and building the characters. With others, like “Madagascar” and “Megamind,” it is clear that the studio is just doing its best to milk recognizable characters for easy money without contributing anything to the franchise. “Kung Fu Panda 4” breaks that mold by being thoroughly baffling: a movie that is equal parts interesting and nuanced as well as trope-riddled and predictable.

One of the biggest pitfalls “Kung Fu Panda 4” experiences is the lack of the Furious Five. Tigress, Viper, Crane, Monkey, and Mantis were defining characters who helped contrast and complement Po throughout his journey in previous installments. However, this movie opted to replace those five with a new character, a witty criminal fox named Zhen. While essential to the plot and not necessarily a liability, Zhen is ultimately one-dimensional and falls into the typical clichés of the ‘mandatory sidekick.’ While Po’s two dads’ little adventures provide some diversity to the runtime, the dynamic, conversations, and banter between Po and Zhen make up most of the movie. These flat interactions ultimately drag the movie down, which is disappointing, because they had the potential to truly do things differently.

The highlights of the movie are the plot and the main villain. Po begins his journey by hearing from Master Shifu that he must relinquish his title of Dragon Warrior and become a spiritual leader. Here, Po shows his potential for character development by insisting that being a Dragon Warrior is all he has ever known as he refuses to give it up. This immature attitude is eventually fixed as he continues on his journey, playing around with proverbs, trying to solve altercations nonviolently, and learning to let go of the position he felt was so coveted for so long. A typical coming-of-age maturing story, nothing too special there.

Then there was the main villain: the Chameleon. While disliked by some critics, I found that she gave off an intimidating presence and believable motivation. Her character design is flawless, and her ability to transform into familiar characters and even Po himself make the final fight all the more interesting and unique. The Kung Fu Panda franchise has always been defined by its intelligent and tasteful fight choreographies, and to see that reflected here in a new way is riveting, to say the least. Still, her development and motives could’ve developed faster earlier in the movie, and there was missing potential for her to use her camouflage to deceive Po throughout the movie instead of just at the end. Even so, she certainly did not fall flat as a villain.

Ultimately, “Kung Fu Panda 4” is an installment in the franchise that does not shatter boundaries or do anything different. It is simply a fun addition to a franchise that does not have much else to add to its universe. While there were many missed opportunities concerning old villains, wasted potential concerning the Chameleon, and not much growth with Po and his relationship with Zhen, the movie passes as something just above the bare minimum. It is not a bad movie by any metric, but it is not as groundbreaking as the first two entries in the franchise, either.


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About the Contributors
Tanay is the online Editor-In-Chief, and this is his third year on the News Journalism team. He loves writing, speaking, and creating new things in general. When he’s not telling stories or furiously doing his homework, you’ll find him listening to music way louder than he reasonably should.
Luisa is a sophomore and it is her first year on staff as the Diversity Editor and a graphic designer. She loves to read, draw, sketch, and listen to music. Whenever she isn’t feeling avidly burnt out due to studying or listening to music way more than people should, you can find her in the library or Roleplaying.

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