Oh, he did not know what hit him…
In the first film, Po the panda (Jack Black) is accidentally chosen to be the next “Dragon Warrior” of the ancient art of kung fu. Of course, Po has never practiced kung fu before and is a complete novice at it; he’s just a big fan of his idols, the Furious Five: Monkey (Jackie Chan), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper the snake (Elementary‘s Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen), and Crane (David Cross). Not only that, the Five’s master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is strongly against his master’s choice of kung fu warrior and proceeds to prove the wise old turtle Oogway wrong.
But sadly, Shifu realizes that the choice was no accident at all, for the panda shows that he does have kung fu fighting skills when it comes to one thing… food.
Po jumps to the ceiling and makes a perfect split with his legs when getting a hold of Monkey’s cookie jar. At that moment, Shifu decides to train the panda, very quickly in fact, because the evil leopard Tai Lung (Deadwood‘s Ian McShane) is on his way to destroy the village to get his hands on the Dragon Scroll.
After we laughed through that one, I proceeded to show him the sequel, for the first Kung Fu Panda is a little unfinished, even though it somehow stands as a little of a stand-alone kid’s picture. Did I mention that Po the panda’s father is a goose?
No, he really is a goose.
In the second movie, Shifu tries to show his panda student the power of “inner peace” within himself. In order to stop the nefarious plans plotted by an evil peacock Lord Shen (the dastardly Gary Oldman), Po must find inner peace through meditation and accepting that his childhood was not a happy one at first. You find out that Lord Shen had plotted to kill all the pandas so he wouldn’t be defeated through an old prophecy, and little baby Po got lost in the shuffle, losing his real parents as a consequence.
After watching Kung Fu Panda 2, I realized that the second picture is honestly the most emotional. There’s one scene where Po remembers the moment in his life where he sees his mother abandoning him in the radish basket to save his life, sacrificing herself to the wolves and Lord Shen. That moment is where Po almost breaks down in front of the goat soothsayer before she tells him to remember what happened after- the good things that life brought him: his goose dad, the Furious Five, Shifu, kung fu, and the title of Dragon Warrior.
So he gets up and says in that true Jack Black voice, “I am Po. And I’m gonna need a hat.”
We didn’t see the third picture because we didn’t have time and also because I didn’t own it on DVD. But I did get to rent it from the library and see it earlier this week with my family.
In the second movie at the very end, there is a scene where you find out that Po’s dad is still very much alive, and he’s safe living in a village full of pandas. Kung Fu Panda 3 picks up from that scene, where there’s a bittersweet and hilarious moment where Po is reunited with his real dad (Bryan Cranston). And while Po’s dad is showing his son how to live, sleep and eat like a panda, a greedy spirit warrior Kai (J.K. Simmons, Jonah Jameson from the first Spiderman films) has beaten every master in the spirit realm, including Oogway, and taken their chi to come back and take chi from every panda in China.
The only way Kai can be stopped is by a true master of Chi, in this case, the Dragon Warrior because he’s a panda. It’s the last step for Po on his way to adulthood, for Shifu tells him that the next thing on his agenda is to teach kung fu to others. Of course, Po doesn’t want to teach, because he doesn’t know the first thing about it and he still thinks he’s a novice, until he meets the village of pandas and decides to teach them.
This is my favorite part of Kung Fu Panda 3, particularly when Po gets his shiny robes and makes a gold dragon made out of his chi.
And in each of the Panda movies, he says the same thing when fighting his foes, in the Jack Black manner. Skadoosh.
Every time I watch one of the movies, I keep picturing Black’s face as Po is speaking… “Legend tells of a legendary warrior… Whose kung fu skills were the stuff of LEGEND!” Cracks me up every time.
But what the animators at DreamWorks did was they did an awful lot of research on Chinese medicine, martial arts, culture, and practices they did for thousands of years. The beginning prologue of Kung Fu Panda 2 is amazing because it looks exactly like one of those paper puppet theatres the Chinese used to show to children, telling them stories of legends of lovers and warriors. Some Asian cultures still do this in their countries.
Also, my mom pointed out two Chinese translations. Shifu in Mandarin means master, and Po means soul. The true soul of a panda, you can’t stop that.
But throughout all three movies, there are a lot of old proverbs and words of wisdom from the characters. Oogway, the wise old turtle, says things like, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present.” And of course, the nod to Shifu, “There are no accidents,” meaning everything happens for a reason.
It takes a long time, three movies, for Oogway to finally tell Po the real reason why he was chosen as the Dragon Warrior, not just because he’s got kung fu skills. He was of pure heart and soul, just like his namesake, wanting to just live life in happiness.
In the first movie, we learn kung fu. In the second, we learn the healing power of meditation. And then the final movie teaches the healing powers of Tai Chi. I once took a tai chi lesson from Buck Rogers actress Erin Gray one year at the Farpoint convention, the year everyone was snowed in and no one was not allowed to leave the hotel for unsafe weather conditions. That was fun.
Right now, my mom is learning more about how to do meditations, yoga, and other zen things to help heal her body and mind. My mother has a digestive condition where she can’t eat certain foods or they put her in deep, physical pain, so she’s trying to see if she can heal herself holistically as well as avoiding starches and dairy.
But this movie franchise gets me to think. Perhaps being in touch with mind, body and spirit might be able to help me with my condition. I used to do guided meditations until they became too much for me and I started feeling mad at myself. At one point, I tried to do a meditation that was about “loving kindness”, where you had to take your love for a person and turn it toward yourself, and I felt so disgusting inside that I cried.
I haven’t done a meditation since. In fact, I haven’t done a meditation since I left Loyola Clinical Centers and started seeing a therapist at Franklin Square. It would be nice to start that again, but I feel like I have no time for it, or the money, for sessions are $7 an hour per week. Plus, my current doctors wouldn’t agree to it.
But more to the point, I should go back to doing something like this. Harnessing Chi, or energy, can be a very healthy thing. If I learn to learn the Tao of Skadoosh, the way of the mighty panda, I could actually achieve better happiness.
Maybe the happiness is in me all along. Just like Po.
The Nerd Queen