If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This is bothering me quite a bit, so I might as well post it to see if anyone else agrees with me.
I will be talking about the ending of the film. If you haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda 2 and know all of the major plot points that lead up to the ending of the film, leave now. This is your spoiler warning. Beyond this paragraph, I will be going in detail as to what the ending is and what it implies will happen, as well as various plot points in the movie itself that support my theory. If you don’t want the movie ruined for you, leave now.
Now that I got all those people who don’t want to be spoiled out of the blog, let’s get down to it, shall we?
So, as we all know, the film ends with Po accepting that the goose is his dad despite the obvious biological differences. Po also comes to accept that he may very well be the last panda in all of China, and has come to peace with the genocide of his race at the command of that peacock Shin. But wait! The film then does that super fast zoom to some other part in China, and what do we see? Po’s dad!! He’s alive! He’s also the village elder, wearing the same green robe that Shi Fu (and Ooguay in the previous film) wore. And the panda race is thriving! They survived Shin’s attempt at genocide!
And so is the set up for Kung Fu Panda 3. It’s pretty obvious that Po will end up running into his dad, encounter his lost race, and learn about their culture. This last point is where I believe the plot will center around.
It is highly plausible that the panda race in the movie’s world is a race of pacifists. They don’t believe in violence and live off of the land. As far as Eastern philosophies go, the pandas could very well represent the same ideologies as the Tibetan monks, where the marital arts are practiced as a form of meditation instead of a form of self defense. This could play very heavily into the main conflict Po will have to face, since he comes from the philosophy of using kung fu to defend and protect. While not as aggressive as characters like Shin and Thai Lung (the villain from the first film), the easiest way to generate conflict is to simply cut it down to the fact that Po is hitting people with his kung fu rather than using it to find spiritual peace and enlightenment.
What supports this theory is the actual genocide that Shin attempted. It’s very clear in the film’s back story that the panda race is a very peaceful race. They are big and imposing, but they won’t fight back. They could have easily defended themselves if they wanted to, as displayed by Po’s father in the big flashback, but he is the only character that is actually shown doing so. The rest of the village ran for their lives, with Po’s mother making the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect her child. While you could argue that they were surprised by the attack, the scene with Po’s father shows that, once again, they could at least martial their defenses to fight back when it all went down.
On top of this, we still haven’t seen spiritual side of kung fu very much in either of the Kung Fu Panda films. In the first one, it was more of an atmospheric element that was associated with Ooguay. He is the village elder, he is the master of Kung Fu for that area, and he presents wisdom that only comes after years of meditation and reflection. In the second film, the spiritual element of kung fu is more present, but it was more about coming to terms with self rather than seeking enlightenment. Even though Po is now at peace with himself, he still hasn’t reached enlightenment. Shi Fu is actually closer to that state than Po is at this point in the franchise’s story.
Of course this theory of mine would make a very boring story. The only way to make this interesting in to a Western audience that may be unfamiliar with the spiritual side of the martial arts is to present a conflict where these two philosophies would come to the surface. This could be anything from Po using his martial arts to defend his father and his fellow pandas to the shock of the collective race, or it could be Po’s father rejection of his son for adopting a more violent form of the martial arts instead of a passive and spiritual one. And outside factor will definitely come into play that will cause one or the other to see the light, and through the circumstances, both will see the benefits of each other’s different philosophies as well as learning to accept aspects from them. My money on what the outside factor is going to be is on a member or team from Shin’s genocide army that continued to hunt the pandas down without knowing that Shin died. After all, the pandas didn’t really piss off anyone but Shin, and I highly doubt Dreamworks would pull a Disney retcon and create a villain who hates pandas without a motive. The “I’m still doing my job long after my boss has died” assassin/solider is just the easiest villain to create at this point.
Well, now that that’s out of my system, I have to say that the fact I can see this plot coming upsets me slightly. I mean, I hope they explore this angle, but at the same time, the set up that the ending presented caused my brain to have a vision of the future. It’s as if the ending actually spoiled the plot for the third movie before I even saw a trailer for it.
Hopefully, Dreamworks will do something with this set up that I didn’t see coming, and I’m wrong. They clearly are trying something different with this franchise, since this is also the only Dreamworks film I’ve cried at. And we’re talking Pixar level tears here.