Kung Fu Panda: The Ultimate Heros Journey

Written by

Rosie Aiston

Published on

February 22, 2024
Time to read: 3 minutes

It’s been sixteen years since Kung Fu Panda initially graced our screens. Three films and three series have already been released, and with another film due out in March, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Sixteen years of a franchise is impressive, especially with four major cinematic releases, so it begs the question; what has given Kung Fu Panda its power? Phenomenal casting (Jack Black, we’re looking at you) helps, but its Po’s journey, flaws and all, which keeps audiences coming back!

When the original film premiered in 2008, its all-star cast – Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, and Hans Zimmer soundtrack supercharged it, as it became the third highest grossing film of the year.

It was the story that was able to grip audiences, however. When we meet him, Po is running a noodle restaurant with his father, dreaming of the day he can meet his heroes, The Furious Five. The film documents his journey to become THE Dragon Warrior, having not only met his heroes, but become one of them.

Now, this isn’t the first story of someone achieving their goals, or the first time that we have seen a character underestimated, only to come out on top. What is different is Po’s relatability. He is always clumsy, always cracking jokes in the most treacherous of situations, and is always, always, driven by his desire for a good snack. These traits help make an anthropomorphic panda living in ancient China seem super real.  

Po is an aspirant hero because he is so open about his flaws; and every time we see him, he is trying to better himself. Po’s flaws mean he is always underestimated by those around him, including his enemies, which in turn helps them become one of his greatest strengths.

The story is also emotionally complex, constantly asking Po to evaluate himself and his potential. Po’s journey has led to him learning discipline; finding inner peace; and gaining the ability to teach others. Every time he overcomes a new challenge (from epic journeys to terrifying enemies) he remains the Po that audiences know and love, working to be the best version of himself.

The film’s humour is also key – the combo of Jack Black, and both verbal and visual humour is a calling card of Kung Fu panda. This powers up Kung Fu Panda’s core DNA – incredible heart and constant character development.

Perfect heroes with honed fighting skills can be intimidating, what’s unique about Po is that he never loses the things that make him likeable, whilst constantly aiming to be the best he can be. His represents the ultimate hero’s journey, because it is never ending – evolving and exceeding expectations but knowing that the journey never ends.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is set to be released March 29th and will see Po face off against his previous (cinematic) enemies, along with a new one, voiced by Viola Davis. This will hopefully serve to highlight everything Po has learnt on his journey over the past 16 years, and I’m sure also teach him a new lesson or two. See you there? Skadoosh!

Our Hook Top Trump for Kung Fu Panda. The drawing has been submitted by a fan!

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