Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda (2008 )

Rated PG

Starring Jack Black

Before we begin, let’s have a look at the check list. Jack Black comedy? Check. Cute animated animals? Check. An inept and unsuitable protagonist who is the “chosen one”? Check. Before you even walk into the cinema, you know what you’re going to get. You know how the plot is going to go and how its going to resolve. Only one question remains – will it be worth watching?

Jack Black gives his voice to a panda named Po. Po is a huge fan of the martial arts heroes the Furious Five. He longs to be a member of their team – a legendary Kung Fu warrior. However he is a clumsy, over-weight noodle cook. When the time comes for the master of the Furious Five, Oogway the Tortoise, to choose one of the warriors to become the legendary Dragon Warrior, he chooses Po instead of one of the Five. What follows is a fish-out-of-water story as Po attempts to become a Kung Fu warrior, much to the despair of his teacher Shifu.

Is it really a spoiler to say how this movie ends? I mean to me it was obvious from the premise alone. If you don’t want to know, now’s the time to get out of here. You still here? Good.

In the climatic battle between Po and the villainous Tai Lung, Po realises the secret of the Dragon Warrior. The scroll he had been given, containing the secret, was blank. A blank, reflective surface. See the secret was to look inside yourself and find the power that was already within. We all have the potential locked up inside us, waiting to be unleashed.

While this message has been a staple of movies for a very long time, I found it very timely. “Unlocking your inner pottential” is the mantra of this contemporary spiritual age. It’s the secret of “The Secret”. It’s the message of New Age religion. God is inside you, so know yourself and unlock your true power. You are the most important person in the world, so release that potential and live like it. The sad thing is that this message is being proclaimed by some who claim to be Christian.

In some pulpits, the message of Christ’s saving works has been replaced by the saving works that we unlock within ourselves. The uniqueness of Christ has been replaced by uniqueness of us. In this theology, Christ is one of many ways to God. If we live the best lives we can, if we engage in “spiritual” pursuits, if we embrace our specialness, then we please God and are going to Heaven (if that’s where we want to end up).  If we’re holding back, if we’re not using every inch of our potential then we’re dishonouring God.

Shifting the gospel away from Jesus and onto our selves is a travesty. The Bible teaches us that we are worthless because of our sin. We have been so stained by our unrighteousness that we are completely unworthy of God. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-2). We can’t come before God on our own. Our sins have put us in a position that deserves death. Teaching a gospel of unlocking potential follows that if we try hard enough, we can be good enough for God. This is not true.

Because of our position, because we did not even have the potential to save ourselves, Christ died for us. He paid the price. His gift of salvation means we can come before God. Not because we are good but because he is good. The way to honour God is not by being “spiritual” people. The true way to honour God, the only way to honour God, is to accept Jesus as The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6). It’s not about you, it’s about him.

Po the Panda learnt the way to true fulfillment was by looking inside himself. As Christians, we know the was to true fulfillment is by being in Christ.

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2 responses to “Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda (2008)”

  1. movie buff says :

    i’m gonna wait for Kung Fu panda to come out on DVD at this point… Jack Black is classic for sure, he’ll be forever famous for his work in School of Rock

  2. alamanach says :

    On the other hand, might we interpret Kung Fu Panda as having an anti-idolatry message? Tai Lung is fixated on the scroll, and betrays his master and adopted father for the sake of the scroll. In prison he dreams of the scroll. This magnificaent kung-fu warrior, who could have been an incredible force for good, is destroyed and useless due to his obsession with the scroll. And when Tai Lung finally gets his hands on it…

    it’s blank.

    There is no worldly object that will save you. Kung-fu won’t save you, the scroll won’t save you, being the dragon warrior won’t save you, even the mystical turtle guy won’t save you. So where is the answer? It’s not in things. So things must not be made into idols.

    Ultimately the answer is not within yourself, either. You’re definitely right about that. I saw Kung Fu Panda on an airplane, where viewing conditions are not the best, so I can’t remember exactly how Po worded his interpretation of the blank scroll’s meaning. Did he explicitly say the answer is within each of us? I don’t remember. In any case, one’s self is not the worst place to start looking. Po is a clumsy and rather ill-disciplined panda. He has flaws, and thus cannot be perfect. When we start to recognize and acknowledge these flaws, we start to understand what the Bible is talking about when it says we are fallen. If Tai Lung were not blinded by idolatry, he might have been able to recognize that.

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