The highly anticipated sequel to a cherished DreamWorks film is on the horizon, and the trailers have already sent Kung Fu Panda superfans like me into a frenzy.
Kung Fu Panda 4 is set to release on the 8th of March this year, featuring returning characters and new ones alike: Po, Master Shifu, the Furious Five, and unexpectedly — Tai Lung.
With the introduction of a new villain — Chameleon (or so I assumed, since that’s what they have introduced the character in the trailer) — a character capable of shapeshifting into anyone that it wishes. With this villain reveal, I had so many questions in my head, especially with Tai Lung’s appearance — who else are going to make a return? What lesson will Po learn to master from the encounter this time around? And most importantly — will it reach up to the expectations from avid fan of KFP 2 like me?
First Off, Let’s Address Tai Lung’s Return
Not even the first minute of the official trailer of this movie, and the audience is teased with a scene of the returning character — Tai Lung. The very first villain shown in the first Kung Fu Panda who, ultimately, brought the movie to such a powerful leap in popularity.
The fight scenes, the tensions, the upbringing of chaos all to the climatic point between him and his caretaker, Master Shifu (which still gives me chills to this day) — all of these remained deeply rooted within the fans of Kung Fu Panda, and the thrill of it returned when he was revealed.
Though I must say, returning him as a villain would definitely risk damaging his reputation as a whole. Tai Lung was brought to his destructive act because of the misguided upbringing Shifu led him on.
When he finally was realised of his blind quest for the Dragon Scroll to prove himself of his worth by Po (even though he appeared to be denying it), it was a bit too late before he was thought to be ‘killed’ where he was actually sent to the Spirit Realm. This is further proven when we see him in one of the jade pendants worn by Kai in KFP 3.
So, if he is brought back to the mortal world by Chameleon in Kung Fu Panda 4 just to make him into a villain, it would disregard Tai Lung’s opportunity to redeem himself of his past actions.
Believe me, we all would want him to reunite with Master Shifu once again.
I wouldn’t say that he should be treated as a token cameo, either. Bringing back Tai Lung means the film is bringing back the pure thrill and fear he has instilled on the audience when they first saw him. He shouldn’t be underutilised, or serve purely for nostalgic purposes in Kung Fu Panda 4 — he should come about with a strong role in the film, or at the very least, a strong supportive role.
Let’s hope they won’t disappoint us.
I Hope the Other Two Villains Won’t Make a Return
With the appearance of Tai Lung in the trailer, there are rumours of the other two villains in the sequels making a comeback as well, which, honestly, I don’t find appealing as much.
Look, I absolutely LOVED Kung Fu Panda 2. Even more so than I did with the first one, and that was an absolutely difficult decision to choose. But Lord Shen from the second title has to end his story right then and there after the battle — his story was concluded the way he would’ve wanted it: finding inner peace at last.
In the case of Kai, I honestly wouldn’t want him to return, either. Don’t get me wrong, but he didn’t inflict much emotional impact as the other two main villains did in the previous two titles (which I will talk more later).
Kai, as a whole, had little to no ties with any of the characters in the movie (apart from Master Oogway). Reviving him to return in Kung Fu Panda 4 would only stir confusion to his role in the story, apart from being a minor supporting character. Not to mention that he was, for the lack of a better word, ‘re-killed’ in the Spirit Realm.
It would only create more confusion among the viewers if Kai was re-introduced in the upcoming film. So no, while it is logical for Tai Lung to make a return (because he wasn’t technically ‘killed’), the other two wouldn’t make much sense if they were to appear in Kung Fu Panda 4.
The Atmosphere — I Wish It Would Imitate the First Two Films
The atmosphere in the first two Kung Fu Panda films is just magnificent. It’s a combination of both comedy and seriousness at times, each which suits the scenes in the films perfectly. That’s what made Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda.
While KFP 1 and 2 captivated audiences with their distinctive tone and atmosphere, Kung Fu Panda 3 takes a noticeably lighter approach. The audience can’t connect with the villain of the film in KFP 3, Kai, as well as they could with both Tai Lung and Lord Shen in KFP 1 and 2, respectively. The backstory of Kai wasn’t explored enough, the rivalry between Master Oogway and Kai wasn’t explored enough, and there’s no connection between Po and Kai to truly bring out Kai’s true motive.
In the trailer of Kung Fu Panda 4, we can see Chameleon’s ability to shape-shift, and the powers the villain has led Po to say in the trailer that they need to gather “an army of their own” to take down the sorceress. If they need a battalion of fighters, this may yet to be the strongest villain we can encounter in the series.
Which brings me to question: will they repeat what they did with Kai in KFP 3? Po doesn’t seem to know her, at least not that we know of in the trailer. The sorceress doesn’t have any connection to any of the known characters in the film, either. So, how will they make the audience empathise with the villain this time around?
But then again, seeing how well they have made the previous film that have insanely good critics, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, I somehow feel a bit relieved knowing that DreamWorks still have quite the tricks up their sleeves to really bring out such a cinematic masterpiece.
If DreamWorks can somehow make the villain fit into the story well and connect with the audience, then they would do an insanely good job. Besting previous titles are usually a difficult task for sequels.
I’m honestly just hyped to watch this film regardless. I want to see how well the efforts DreamWorks have put in. The first three Kung Fu Panda movies beautifully explored Po’s journey through body, mind, and soul. Seeing how Po’s responsibility is believed to be shifted over to something more (apart from being a Dragon Warrior) as shown in the film trailer for the fourth title in the series, it’s probably about handing over the legacy to someone new, possibly the fox shown to be with Po most of the time in the trailer.
Maybe the series is coming to a closure at last? We may yet to know. Let us know what you think of, and we will see what Kung Fu Panda 4 has in store for us soon enough.