Kung Fu Panda 4 review: Not a necessary sequel, but enjoyable

Po and Zhen fighting enemies

Another Kung Fu Panda sequel is not necessary for most people. However, this is still enjoyable. Although it can not compare to the awesomeness of some of the previous movies.

The original Kung Fu Panda movie is an animated classic. The second film was a great sequel and the third one is not as good as the others. This franchise did not need another movie because it is perfect the way it is, but I can never turn down watching Jack Black do what he does best.

Jack Black returns as Po in Kung Fu Panda 4 and does an amazing job in this role as usual, making hilarious jokes, overflowing with charisma and great voice acting, with his great comedy delivery and some screams that will crack you up. Some other returning voice actors include Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, James Hong as Mr. Ping, Bryan Cranston as Li, and Ian McShane as Tai Lung. 

Tigress, Crane, Monkey, Mantis, and Viper – The Furious Five – are absent from this film. Po stated that each of the members is gone doing separate missions which is why they only appeared in the movie at the end credits, but with no voice acting. The absence of these characters felt weird since they were such a big part of the previous movies.

The Furious Five are whom Po looks up to, and they have been his biggest inspiration ever since the beginning of this franchise. The group has been on his side ever since he became the dragon warrior, mentoring him with the help of Master Shifu.

Seeing Po move on to the next big step of his life without the Five did not feel right.

The movie begins with the return of Tai Lung, the villain from the first Kung Fu Panda movie. He was last seen when Po used the Wuxi finger hold on him. He intends to take over cities and won’t let Po or anyone else stand in his way. So far, it is unexplained how Tai Lung came back to life after the first movie, but who can complain since he was a great villain in the first film?

It is shortly revealed that Tai Lung technically did not come back to life, but we are introduced to a new villain who can shapeshift into anyone. The Chameleon, voiced by Viola Davis, uses her power to take energy from any kung-fu master, past and present, to gain even more power and take over cities in China. She is shown to be very hungry for such power and she demands more and more loot from her goons.

The Chameleon has a very cool character design. She is small in size, but very big in skill as she absorbs power from others and manipulates anyone with her disguising power. She is willing to betray anyone to get what she wants.

Tai Lung being absorbed by The Chameleon


Po saves some kids from a stingray, showing off his kung-fu skills and proving that he can still amaze us after all these years. Even when Po is just fighting a stingray, the fight scenes are astonishing and fun to watch. The kung-fu moves used, and the destruction of the fights’ atmospheres elevated the quality of the fights.

What makes the fights fun to watch are the smooth animation, great visuals and cool moves from each fighter. You never know what Po or his opponent(s) will throw next from their quick reflexes and awesome kung-fu skills.

The animation overall is the best of the franchise. Looking back at the first film, it improved over time, becoming smoother and more stunning.

Po is now at the point in his life where he has to step down as the dragon warrior and choose a successor. When he does so, he is promoted to spiritual leader of the Valley of Peace. Throughout the film, he has difficulty embracing change and it affects his thought process during his journey with Zhen.

Po has been the dragon warrior for all three of the previous films. His having to not only give someone his position, and move on to a position once held by Master Oogway is a bit underwhelming. Nobody can replace Po.

Voiced by Awkwafina, Zhen is a quick-witted fox who spent her whole life looting valuables from people. Throughout the film, she is seen stealing small bags of money from other bandits, and even civilians. She is shown as untrustworthy when she lies about being new to mahjong, only to win many games and take the other players’ money.

Awkwafina does a decent job of voicing Zhen. Her voice acting is fine, but it could have been better if she showed just a bit more enthusiasm in some lines. Having more characters in the franchise is not needed, but her character is a satisfactory addition to the movie.

Despite her being a criminal, she is chosen by Po to guide him to The Chameleon’s base. Po intends to teach Zhen to do the right thing, which is something she is not used to as a thief.

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Po saving the kids from the stingray

As a duo, these two characters have good chemistry. Zhen is more enjoyable when she has moments with Po. They both made a good team when fighting off tavern members and sneaking into The Chameleon’s base. You can tell Jack Black and Awkwafina had fun voicing these scenes where they are interacting with each other. The bonding between these two made a twist in the film unexpected despite Zhen being untrustworthy.

Mr. Ping, Po’s adopted father, and Li, Po’s real father, have a side plot where they both go on their journey to try to follow and find Po, out of worry that he will be seriously hurt in his journey to fight The Chameleon. This kind of subplot is nothing new, side characters trying to follow the main characters and go to the same places they went to, with some comedy. I did enjoy James Hong and Bryan Cranston’s voicing during these scenes, acting very worried for Po and even trying to act tough as they tried to get information out of the tavern members. Li acting fearless even though he felt some fear from the tavern members was funny.

What I did not like about this movie is how they made most of the villains look weak, especially The Chameleon and she’s supposed to be the most powerful out of all the villains in the series. They succeeded in making her look the most powerful near the end, but I feel like she had very little time to show off her power. She should have had more time to shine, and show off how powerful she can be.

Some of the comedy from this film did not disappoint. Jack Black got some good laughs out of me, but from the other characters, not that much. Although when some of the characters passed through a china shop very carefully during a chase scene, it was brilliant. Everything else was not too memorable when it comes to humor, so this movie ranks low in that category.

When it comes to the lesson learned from this film, it is kind of a good one, and it did have me thinking after I left the theater. Change may seem like a bad thing for most people, like Po having to pass down his position as the dragon warrior, but it is not such a bad thing. This lesson is a bit unoriginal, but the way this movie taught it was pretty interesting.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is overall not too bad. As usual, it has some good comedy, amazing animation, great characters, and awesome fight scenes. It lacks some originality and the villains, especially The Chameleon, should have been portrayed as more powerful opponents. This movie was not necessary as the franchise should have ended after the second film, but it is enjoyable to watch.

And if you like hearing Jack Black singing a Britney Spears song, watch this movie until the end credits.

Kung Fu Panda 4 gets a 7.8 out of 10


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