The Financial Express

'Kung-Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight' is a well-intended but poorly written sequel

| Updated: July 23, 2022 16:37:21

'Kung-Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight' is a well-intended but poorly written sequel

The ‘Kung Fu Panda’ trilogy is one of the most influential works of cinema. It's undoubtedly many people's first exposure to Wuxia epics.  

And, with their team of animators, writers, and artists, directors John Stevenson, Mark Osborne, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and Alessandro Carloni pushed the boundaries of animation with the trilogy.  If you have high expectations for ‘Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight,’ please lower them before binge-watching the Netflix show because it is absolutely horrible.

‘Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight’ follows Po (Jack Black) on a food journey through ancient China, despite his father, Mr Ping, surprising him (James Hong). But that is cut short when Veruca Dumont (Della Saba) and Klaus Dumont (Chris Geere) attack the village that houses a valuable gauntlet. 

Po not only fails to prevent Veruca and Klaus from escaping with the gauntlet but also causes significant damage to the village. As a result, the emperor deprives him of his Dragon Warrior title and sends him on a quest to right this wrong and redeem himself in the eyes of the people, the emperor, and himself. 

Po meets Wandering Blade (Rita Ora) on this journey, who is also on the hunt for the weasels. And they must act quickly to apprehend the villainous duo before they use the gauntlet (along with three other magical weapons) to destroy the world.

‘The Gauntlet’ looks and sounds a lot like the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Infinity Gauntlet. It's impossible to understand the point of this storytelling choice, ironic or not. It's a pointless nod to a franchise that, tonally, has very little in common with the world of Kung Fu Panda. Is Po the Iron Man of this series, or more like a sarcastic Thor? As you can see, all of this leads to confusion among the audience.

This is just one of several obvious flaws in The Dragon Knight's layout. Another example is the decision to make Po Luthera's page. 

Po is a fantastic character, whether he's the sidekick or the main character. The issue here is that the show makes much of Luthera's stories about knights in the good old days of the British Empire, and Po is from the East, so whenever the story gets a little too genuine and it feels like a colonialism dialogue is inescapable, the tension is ruptured through some absolutely paper-thin joke or gag.

The plot is formulaic. As a result, the visuals must naturally do the majority of the heavy lifting. They're also difficult to look at. It's so stilted and lacking in character that you have to go back to the original ‘Kung Fu Panda’ trilogy to see if the franchise has always been this bad or if the show is the culprit. 

The voice acting is satisfactory. James Hong, Jack Black, Rita Ora, Della Saba, Chris Geere, and the rest of the cast give it their all. You can hear them trying to incorporate so much into their characters, but none of it comes through due to the animation. So, in essence, all of this talent is being squandered.

Finally, please watch the original ‘Kung Fu Panda’ trilogy before calling it a day. Netflix has it available. So, it won't be difficult to find. Don't get caught up in the murky depths of horribly animated episodic extensions of the Dragon Warrior's adventures. You'll be simply wasting your time. Nothing more, nothing less.

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