Anime Reporter takes some time to reflect on the week gone by, talking about the latest season of Venture Bros., reviewing Kung Fu Panda 3 and reacting to the latest Rick and Morty news.
Venture Bros. Season 6
We’ll start off chronologically, with Venture Bros. This is one of my favourite shows at the moment, starting off as a Hardy Boys or Johnny Quest style parody before evolving into a more nuanced take on sci-fi and popular culture in general and developing its own canon and story arcs. Why this is relevant to this week is that, even though it’s one of my favourite shows, I’d completely forgotten that the new season started up like a month ago until just this week and so I got to gorge on five episodes all at once and it was about as awesome as I could have hoped!
Venture Bros. has long had a knack for sending its characters off in new directions, creating personal arcs while maintaining its mature sense of humour and keeping the majority of its characters as pretty bad people. This season sees the Venture family benefitting from the death of one of the very few redeemable characters in the series, Jonas Venture Jr., inheriting his company, his fortune and a new home in New York City. This sees Doctor Venture rise to become a target of more high-level villains, while Hank and Dean take the chance to spread their wings and define themselves in a larger setting.
Definitely my favourite change of the season so far belongs to the Monarch. Dr. Venture’s long-time nemesis has started going through a rough patch but finds new hope in… well, let’s just say that the guy’s behind this series could have done wonderful things with the Green Hornet film. I am so pumped for more Venture Bros and I can’t wait to see what they deliver for the rest of the season!
Kung Fu Panda 3
So, I was lucky enough to get to a press screening of Kung Fu Panda 3 yesterday (I know that won’t make sense to a lot of people, but this film isn’t officially released here in Ireland until March 11th, so I’m pretty happy about it.) Unfortunately, that screening was in 3D, which I really don’t enjoy at all. At best, it’s a distraction, at worst it means that my eyes won’t focus properly for the film’s runtime. In the case of Kung Fu Panda 3, most of the 3D offenses happen during the opening scene and things either toned down after that, or my brain found a nice way to ignore it.
The film starts off with DreamWorks’ answer to Rafiki, the wonderfully Zen Master Oogway, enjoying his quiet time in the afterlife. This is soon disrupted when his old friend and slightly less old mortal enemy (both the same person), Kai appears. Kai has been dead for about five hundred years now, but that hasn’t quelled his thirst for vengeance and he steals all of Oogway’s spiritual energy, sealing him away as a jade pendant. With Oogway’s power, as well as that of all the other masters he absorbed in the spirit world, Kai is able to come to the mortal world and set about tearing down everything Oogway built and cared about.
That where Po and crew come in. Po, much like in the second film, is a confident and accomplished warrior, respected and praised around the valley and coming into his comfort zone as a kung fu champion. This comfort zone is whipped out from around him by his teacher Shifu, who makes him the new teacher and master of the Furious Five, Po’s friends and idols. Po’s attempts at teaching are pretty disastrous, but this is all part of Shifu’s lesson, prompting him to find the answer to who he is and what it really means to be the Dragon Warrior.
But wait, there’s more! Let’s not forget the revelation of the second film, that Po is not alone. There are other pandas out there and one of them, Po’s father, is in search of him. Naturally, they find each other and there’s a bit of the adoptive father, birth-father rivalry upon this revelation, but it manages to play out without feeling like a derivative sitcom plot. Actually, the same is true for much of the story. Doubtless, people have seen the promotional posters for the film which feature a host of adorable panda babies that I was all set to find incredibly irritating. The team behind this film actually did a pretty excellent job of avoiding (almost) all the nauseating stereotypes you come to expect when child-characters are inserted into a kids’ action movie. There’s no peek-a-boo, catch-me-if-you-can style scene with children evading and outwitting and otherwise competent enemy. There’s no “the baby pooped, isn’t that hilarious” diaper joke. This film manages to fit the formulas of Kung Fu Panda, action movies and movies about discovering yourself, without feeling tired or by the numbers.
The comedy is on point, the animation is wonderful and doesn’t rely as heavily on unnecessary slow-mo as the earlier films did. The star here is definitely the story though. It’s so often the case that third instalments in a series like this start to get lazy but this one really doesn’t. It feels like a complete story, it also feels like a perfect complement to the stories that came before. It draws on the same themes as the first film, while keeping many plot elements and the darker tone of the second. It feels like an ending to a trilogy that was planned out from day one. The only major flaw I can see is that the second act, when Po is introduced to the other pandas in their secret village, is that it’s a bit rushed. Characters are introduced and their quirks are displayed so quickly that you could say they’re stuffed down audience’s throats. There’s a succession of running jokes so quick that they feel more like someone just accidentally read the same page of the script three times in a row.
The voice-work is on point. Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons hold their own among an already stellar cast and Jack Black manages to continue to be far less potentially irritating in panda form.
Word has it that DreamWorks is planning to make Kung Fu Panda a six-film series. Before seeing this film, I would have groaned at such news. Now, I’m a bit more optimistic. As it stands, this film is a great capper to a very strong trilogy. If they continue to work with such care and attention, I believe they can surpass the three so far.
Rick and Morty News!
Okay, so this is basically me just being overjoyed because Rick and Morty is back this year for a third season, when all accounts suggested it was going to be at least well into 2017 before we could feast our eyeballs upon its splendour. Not only that, but the season is set to have 14 episodes, much longer than the expected 10. I love this show, as I’ve attested before, for its humour, its darkness and its unpredictability. I can’t wait for another helping!
Thanks for reading y’all,
Have a great weekend!