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The Northwood Howler

“Kung Fu Panda” strikes again?

Sophia Ho
SKADOOSH: “Kung Fu Panda 4” concludes the beloved childhood series with a fantastic blast

From laughing at his goofy antics to suspensefully following along with action-packed kung fu scenes, viewers have grown up alongside Po (Jack Black), the dumpling-loving Dragon Warrior. In the fourth installment of the legendary “Kung Fu Pan- da” movie series, viewers can expect to come full circle and experience the world of the Dragon Warrior for one final time as Po steps into a new role.

In the three preceding films released over 16 years, the courageous panda discovered his love for kung fu, rose to the title of the Dragon Warrior, used his talent to protect his home and found his family. In this film, Po faces the difficult decision of accepting the role as a mentor and choosing a new Dragon Warrior to guide. While this change does not come easy, Po must learn to accept his new role as he tackles his final challenge of protecting his home from The Chameleon (Viola Davis) and teaming up with Zhen (Awkwafina), a wanted thief.

Many established sequels that release new movies have faced negative reception as they can fall into the trap of being repetitive or destructive to the original plot. Given the “Kung Fu Panda” movie’s glowing reputation, there may be many doubts about whether this movie will live up to the standard of the original trilogy and provide an impactful conclusion.

However, this movie is  necessary one for providing closure to the audience. It expertly expands the storyline to include new characters while weaving the narratives to conclude the series. The movie still maintains the original bouts of humor, suspense and inspiration from the original trilogy, but also follows a more mellow plot with a smaller focus on the action-packed fighting. Even with the same core characters and themes, the movie feels slightly separate from the original trilogy, appealing more to older audiences rather than the younger target audience of the previous films.

The movie’s animations of the settings, characters and fight scenes were dramatically improved in visual and auditory quality and detail since the previous film in 2016, making even the regular 2D viewing a great experience. The addition of new characters benefited the plot, especially in Awkwafina’s rendition of Zhen. She perfectly executed the layered characters in making her mysterious, yet playful and immature, allowing viewers to connect to her quickly through out the film.

Throughout the movie, Po focuses on his development as a leader and fighter as his trust and responsi- bility are tested during his mission. Themes of trust and overcoming emotional challenges accompany the overall topic of growth and relate heavily to many of the original fans of the movie series as they have grown alongside the panda.

With powerful scenes that provide perspective into Po’s biological and adopted fathers grappling with worry and fear for their son, the movie creates an inclusive and heart- warming environment for the viewers with its representation of adopted and found families. Breaking the bounds of traditional familial systems, the movie balances the importance of relying on loved ones with the necessity to develop ideas, stand on your own two feet and make decisions.

The “Kung Fu Panda” series is timeless, and one that many will enjoy for generations to come for its familial themes, humor, action and its heartwarming finale. While this movie has a different approach than the previous films, it relates heavily to teenage and older audiences and provides closure for long-time fans as it tackles relatable topics while also sprinkling in the humor and suspense of the beloved previous films.

“Kung Fu Panda 4” is now avail- able for viewing in theaters.

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About the Contributors
Raya Abu-Tarif
Raya Abu-Tarif, Staff Writer
Raya is a staff writer for the Northwood Howler. You can always count on her having a book on her and she can usually weave Taylor Swift, Grey’s Anatomy, or Gilmore Girls into any conversation.
Sophia Ho
Sophia Ho, Graphic Artist
Sophia Ho is a Senior graphic artist with a tendency to slay. As soon as she goes home, she draws silly guys and watches 3-hour video essays on Youtube. You can mention her name at First Class Pizza for 50% off your meal!

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