Kung Fu Panda introduced many of the core concepts of wuxia to new audiences back in 2008. Its popularity saw the creation of two more feature films, several short films, and two animated series to continue the story of Po, the Dragon Warrior, and his friends in the Valley of Peace. It proved that audiences of all ages can enjoy wuxia, and I gave it a 15/15 on our Essential Wuxia checklist.
Is Po a Wuxia Hero? I gave this section an 8 out of 8. Po begins his journey as the son of a noodle merchant who dreams of something more: “Didn’t you ever want to do something else? Something besides noodles?” he asks his father. Po’s passion, we learn very early on, lies in kung fu, and his admiration and respect for those who have mastered kung fu borders on obsession.
Though he struggles with self-doubt throughout the entire movie, he never backs down from doing what he thinks is right, eventually working up the courage to take on challenges far beyond what he initially believed himself to be capable of. His devotion to his master and training, his generosity to both friends and strangers, melts the doubts of those around him, though it takes him longer to realize his own self-worth.
Is the movie Essential Wuxia? I gave this section a 7 out of 7. The resounding message of the movie is that “there is no secret ingredient” that makes people special. All you have to do is believe in yourself, and you can do great things.
This is a hard-earned lesson for Po, who struggles throughout the movie between what he wants to do and what he believes he’s incapable of doing. His self-deprecation and jokes add some much-needed levity to the solemn cast of the film, as do his fanboy exclamations about famous swords, famous armor, and famous figures he meets; but his low view of himself at times overpowers the strides he makes in his training, and obscures the lessons that the (admittedly enigmatic) Grand Master Oogway tries to teach him.