Kung Fu Panda 3 Blu-ray Review
The Kung Fu Panda saga continues with potentially its best entry yet; a superior sequel which is fun and funny; action-packed and, as Po would say, just outright awesome.Perhaps the perfect character (animated or otherwise) for larger-than-life Jack Black, the lovable, enthusiastic panda-turned-martial-arts-master faces his toughest challenge yet as Dustin Hoffman’s mentor passes on the mantle and leaves Po to be in charge of the famous Furious Five (Seth Rogan’s Mantis, Angelina Jolie’s Tigress, Lucy Liu’s Viper, Jackie Chan’s Monkey and David Cross’s Crane). And this is only the tip of the iceberg, particularly when Po’s long lost dad turns up (Bryan Cranston), threatening the position of his his step-dad (James Hong), and taking his focus just as a dastardly ancient warrior returns from the netherworld, Kai (J.K. Simmons), intent upon stealing the Chi of every master he comes up against.It’s Black’s baby though, and he utterly embraces the typically self-depreciating role, like a child in awe of his skills and powers, kicking ass with an utterly fun-loving attitude which can’t help but have the effect of leaving you grinning throughout. The jokes are both clever and well-timed, hitting home but far from providing the only interest in this surprisingly well thought-out affair, whose story is arguably the strongest of all three films, posing a veritably real threat to Po and the Furious Five and, indeed, the whole kingdom, and taking the action and set-pieces to another dimension of pure awesomeness. Kung Fu Panda 3 is fantastic fun for all the family and it’s great to have the panda(s) back.
Picture QualityKung Fu Panda 3 looks utterly stunning in HD.
The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio is absolutely astounding, and often jaw-dropping. Colours pop with unparalleled vibrancy, both in the real world and the netherworld, with mystical powers radiating a warm golden glow, and cursed jade boasting a rich near-radioactive deep green aura. Every single nuance and fine detail is picked up on, leaving the characters – in particular the pandas – looking well-rounded to say the least, even without the benefits of a further dimension. Some of the action setpieces slow time at the perfect moments and promote freeze-frame-worthy spectacle. Black levels are strong and deep, and this is as close to flawless as we will likely get on the format.
Sound QualityIt's a shame that regional voice actor changes leave the UK with only a lossy DTS track.
In a strange twist of fate (whilst this has happened before, it hasn't often taken us back to the prehistoric days of lossy tracks) the UK release of Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts the UK soundtrack which has some UK-specific voice actor changes to smaller (largely unnoticeable) parts. Unfortunately the UK track is only available in lossy DTS 5.1. It's something of a travesty, particularly when you consider that the disc itself does sport the full US DTS-HD MA 7.1 track - it's just inaccessible to those who play the disc in Region B (if you're lucky enough to have a Multi-region player set to Region A, or a Region A-locked player, you can just play the US audio in its full glory even on the UK disc).
The reality is that the track, even with its lossy limitations, is still amidst the best the earlier, now-redundant format, can offer, and whilst you do notice the lack of presence and punch, it's mainly on direct comparison that you find just how much the UK is missing out on, but there's no denying that it was an unforgivably bad decision to only deliver a lossy track. Of course, there is also an argument that even the US are missing out - for a film which was released in Atmos, you have to wonder why there's no sign of that in any territory - but, in the meantime you'll either have to play through Region A or seek out an imported disc. Although it's worth pointing out that if you buy the US disc and play it in a Region B machine, it will probably just default to the lossy DTS 5.1 track anyway, since they're exactly the same disc.
ExtrasAlthough there’s nothing distinctly meaty, a plethora of fun additions only provide further entertainment.
From the sing-along riff on Kung Fu Fighting, Everybody Loves a Panda Party, to Po’s Posters of Awesomeness (the posters that adorn his dad’s shop), to Panda Paws (a talent show), and Make a Panda Party Paper Pal (although the US’s insert is missing here), the disc is packed with short little 3-minute features short to entertain the young and old, although clearly more designed for the former. Play Like a Panda looks at the way they brought the younger panda cast to life, whilst The Origin of Skadoosh looks at the roots of the catchphrase; Faux Paws offers a bunch of part-complete additional scenes with Directors’ Introduction; and the disc is rounded off by a Gallery and a number of Previews as well as the original Theatrical Trailer.
VerdictKung Fu Panda 3 will have you hooked throughout, irrespective of age, and if this is the quality of the latest sequel you can see why they’re talking about doing even more.
It's a shame that, despite outstanding, often jaw-dropping video, and a nice selection of extra features, the audio is an outright disappointment made unforgivably worse by the fact that the US's full DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is actually on the disc and only accessible if you play the disc through a Blu-ray player set for Region A. Those in the UK instead get a different audio stream, with minor voice actor differences which were re-recorded for the UK, but shockingly delivered in plain old lossy DTS 5.1 which, whilst doing its best, still has inherent limitations in comparison to its superior successor. However, whatever workaround you decide upon, don't miss out on the film just because of the UK disc's self-imposed shortcomings.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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