Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Passing the torch

Panda Po’s lackluster newest adventure fails to capitalize on nostalgia
Kara Lee




Spoiler warning: This article discusses spoilers for “Kung Fu Panda 4.”

The Kung Fu Panda films are one of the best-animated film series in the history of cinema. From plot to dialogue to animation to music, they are top-tier content for viewers of all ages. “Kung Fu Panda 4” comes out nearly a decade after the third film, but a rewatch is certainly necessary to follow this new movie.

The plot follows Master Po as he is charged with choosing his successor, the next Dragon Warrior, and combating a new nemesis called the Chameleon, a shapeshifting sorceress reptile. This movie takes Po out of the familiar setting of the Valley of Peace and into a metropolis, accompanied by the criminal fox Zhen, voiced by Awkwafina. Together, with the support of Po’s goose and panda dads and a band of misfits, they defeat the villain and bond as master and student. 

While engaging, the movie’s plot is heavily predictable, particularly the twist of Zhen working for the villain all along and then having a change of heart. “Kung Fu Panda 4” lacks the heavy emotional core of the past three movies. The first had Po being discriminated against and overcoming obstacles, the second dealt with loss and an emotionally conflicted Po and the third dealt with family and death. One of the film series’ strengths is its ability to introduce both humor and sadness seamlessly to make the audience care about the characters, and this installation falls short.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” was heavily criticized for its sub-par villain in comparison to the first and second films. The fourth installment is not an improvement. While expertly voiced by Viola Davis, the Chameleon is not particularly threatening or vicious like the previous villains, Tai Lung or Lord Shen, and she does not even have an epic musical theme like Kai. Her origin story is also poorly written, as she cites her small size as the reason why she was rejected from learning kung fu — nevermind that Master Shifu, a red panda, Viper, a serpent and Mantis, a literal insect, are all proportional to or smaller than her. It simply does not make sense. 

The film’s biggest issue, for hardcore “Kung Fu Panda” fans at least, is its failure to bring back voice actors to reprise their roles. The Furious Five, Po’s good friends and helpful sidekicks, are absent for the entire film and only make nonverbal cameos in the credits. While the movie attempts to use Po’s dads as funny side characters to make up for it, their absence is painfully felt throughout the movie — especially Tigress. 

A big point of the movie is the return of Po’s previous villains from past movies. Although they were thankfully able to bring back Ian McShane to voice Tai Lung, the mute appearance of Gary Oldman’s vicious Lord Shen and J. K Simmons’ imposing Kai leaves audiences disappointed every time they are in the frame. 

“Kung Fu Panda 4” is worth a watch, as it is entertaining and as funny as the previous films, but it is not worthy of the big screen,  nor is it particularly memorable. Kids will enjoy it, however, even if adults leave unsatisfied.

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About the Contributors
Marcela Montufar Soria
Marcela Montufar Soria, Multimedia Editor
Marcela (She/Her/Ella) is an Honors College History and Classical Studies and Humanities major with a concentration in Religious Studies and a minor in East Asian Studies. She is an international student from Mexico and is the fourth member of her family to be a student at UTSA. After graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate education in Chinese history. Outside of school, Marcela volunteers at the Witte Museum as a gallery attendant during the weekends. Her hobbies include violin playing, amateur stargazing, video editing, writing, reading non-fiction, and painting. She joined the Paisano in Fall 2021, became Assistant Multimedia Editor in Spring 2022, and became Multimedia Editor in Spring 2023.
Kara Lee
Kara Lee, Graphic Editor
Kara is a communication major on track to graduate in 2025. After graduating they hope to work for non-profits that specialize in environmental concerns so they can give back to the planet that provides so much for us. When Kara is not in school or working they can be found either drawing or hiking.

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