this is meant to be kung fu panda

Kung fu Panda theme analysis “The more you take, the less you have”

Let’s be honest, the lesson that greed is bad isn’t exactly new in film. But I really like what Doug Walker said in his Kung fu Panda 3 review , that it’s told so simply and effectively here. They don’t need tomake a huge speech about greed and it’s consequences that would bore the audience. There is beauty in simplicity and Kung fu Panda as a franchise understands that very well. 

They out right state the moral in the beginning of the movie. And they display what Oogway meant through out the course of the movie.

Kai takes

and he takes

and he takes

and he takes

until he takes too much. And it destroys him. And It’s not only Kai who’s had to learn this lesson. 

Tai Lung was so consumed by his greed that he almost destroyed the entire village. Injuring and possible even killing innocent citizens. 

And was even willing to murder the man who raised him from a baby. 

Shen was so consumed by greed he committed genocide. 

And purposely hurt himself in hopes of hurting his enemies too. Burning his ancestral home to the ground. 

And they too were destroyed for because of it. 

A Warrior of Black and White

An explanation of why I believe Lord Shen wasn’t defeated by Po and neither was he meant to.

[Spoilers for Kung Fu Panda 2 below]

After watching Kung Fu Panda 3 (and loving it), I went back to rewatch parts of my favorite second part. One moment in particular always struck me as intense - the one where Shen closes his eyes just before his death. Has he found inner peace in that last moment, I wondered. We don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. I think he might have been relieved that his demise would come from an accident (one of his own making, too) and not from the prophesied “warrior of black and white”. He accepted it as the closest he could get to victory - going down, but not as he was foretold.

All this time he expected a panda to be the one who defeats him, but I think it was never the meaning of the prophecy. 

I think the warrior of black and white was Shen himself.

First of all, just like the pandas, he fits visually (add red and you got it). Secondly, and more importantly, unlike Po, Shen deals in extremes - everyone is either for or against him. Remember how easily he turned on Wolf Boss? Shen has a very black and white view of the world.

Thirdly, let’s look at the prophecy:

“…if Shen continued down this dark path, he would be defeated by a warrior of black and white.”

If he continued. That is a very important point. He didn’t have to continue his research of weaponizing fireworks. He could have stopped it then and there. But because he deals in black and white he did not consider his own course of action could possibly be the problem. He believed someone was out to get him, because everyone is either an ally or an enemy, there is no middle ground.

It was his black and white outlook that was his doom. If he continued making judgements based on that, if he failed to see how it was a dangerous way of thinking both to him and others, then he would be defeated. By himself.

And that’s what happened. Po may have taken down his ships, destroyed his canons, but who made the canon fall on Shen - the peacock himself. Why? Because even when everything was lost and Po told him he held no grudge, and Shen could have turned a new leaf, instead he pressed on.

And so he was killed and thus ultimately defeated through no will other than his own. I find it deeply poetic that what kills him is the very thing he was pursuing. Sadly, I don’t think he ever understood this. He is indeed a very tragic villain.

Before Shen’s turning point, where he went out to command a genocide of the pandas, we have really little idea of whether he was really that bad a guy. His parents seemed to care for his well-being, he was rich, he was busy inventing weapons. Maybe they were for defense. Most likely they were an attempt to make his firework-inventing elders proud. One way or another, Shen’s character was tested by the prophecy. And thus the warrior of black and white came to be. Not Po. But Shen himself.

And so Kung Fu Panda 2 remains my favorite from the three currently existing movies. And one of my all time favorite movies in general. 

It shows us a hero, who has all the reasons to be filled with prejudice, to believe himself the ultimate judge, the chose one, one who knows best - and yet he is a flexible forgiving guy, who knows how to move on and let go of things. And the villain is his exact opposite - someone whose judgements were extreme and who could not let go or move on, focusing on one path until it consumed him. At any moment Shen could have stopped what he was doing and saved himself from defeat, but he couldn’t see it.

Shen’s final exchange with Po is very powerful to me. It’s what makes them different, it’s what gives one strength and dooms the other to failure. 

The moral of this story is: don’t be inflexible warriors of black and white, kids, or you might get yourself killed. But if you do go out the same way Shen did, maybe at least the fireworks will create your image in the sky:

P.S. Of course the prophecy could also mean Po, cause he is a balanced dude, thus black and white, but hey, I like my theory. XD