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Kung Fu Panda 3

February 29, 2012

At the end of Kung Fu Panda 2, there’s a short scene–one of those useless appendixes that serve no purpose other than to set up the potential for a sequel.

This one showed that, secreted high up in the mountains, there was a whole colony of pandas in exile, and one panda who turns around and says, in a revelatory tone, “my son is alive!”

Cute, but troubling. We had just finished watching a movie where Po searches for his parents as a way of determining who he really is (stupid, to me, but perhaps more resonant with an adopted kid). Revealing that Papa Panda is alive doesn’t really add any more to the narrative and seems to suggest that the next installment will be the same story emotionally, only with different players. One of the problems with sequels: the characters never seem to have learned anything from their last escapade when the next movie starts.

Here’s my take: instead of redoing the narrative about finding who you are through your parents, the story should be about the pandas reintegrating into a society that’s moved on without them–and Po’s status change from “odd foundling” to “speaker for his people”. How to integrate martial arts into this narrative? Maybe some of the racism could manifest itself physically, forcing Po to defend his family at the cost of appearing biased toward them/ethnocentric. Pushing this idea to its logical conclusion, the Five would side with Po, and perhaps be forced to disband due to their perceived loss of impartiality.

The really brilliant feat, of course, would be pulling this off in a way that’s understandable to Kung Fu Panda’s target audience, and not preachy.

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