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Kung Fu Panda 3 (Hans Zimmer)

January 23, 2016

Cover_KungFuPanda3KUNG FU PANDA 3

Hans Zimmer, 2016, Sony Classical
23 tracks, 69:17

The martial panda is back, but without John Powell this time. Can Hans Zimmer really pull this one off on his own?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

The comedic adventures of Po (Jack Black) continue in this third instalment of the “Kung Fu Panda” series. Besides Black, there are voice roles for the likes of Angeline Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan. Returning to score this film is Hans Zimmer, though this time it is sans John Powell.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with “Oogway’s Legacy” which features Po’s beautiful theme (which was established back in the first score and has mercifully been retained). Here it is performed on solo cello against lush strings, winds and virtuous piano (courtesy of Lang Lang). It’s an excellent and very typical Zimmer cue. The way it builds to a powerful crescendo, then drops, letting the solo cello take over… it’s something the composer does quite often, but it works every time.

“Hungry for Lunch” is… hang on, wait, what the heck? Someone is doing one barn-storming impression of John Powell! Racing percussion, a quirky theme for flutes, trumpets bouncing all over the place… If I hadn’t known that Powell had no involvement with this score, I would’ve thought this cue was all him. So, anyone who worries that Powell’s absence may harm this musical franchise need not worry.

“The Arrival of Kai” sounds like an Asian interpretation of “Pirates of the Caribbean”, whilst “A New Father” offers a beautiful Asian-flavoured melody (for erhu I’m assuming) as well as more Powellesque playful material. “The Hall of Heroes” is as wild and zany anything the funny Brit has ever written – or not, or something. And I love the softly arpeggiating strings and vocals in “The Legend of Kai” (which may be a technique nicked from Powells’ “Dragon 2”). Then when the main theme is played on top of that, it’s really powerful stuff.

Lush strings and oohing choir give “The Panda Village” a magical feeling, again more Powellesque than Zimmeresque. It frequently reminds me of “El Dorado”, actually. Anyway. “Jaded” is another great energetic cue (more in a Zimmer way this time), especially the second half and really especially the last twenty seconds or so. The score concludes beautifully with “Father and Son”, which features a Gabriel Fauré (“In Paradisum”) inspired piano accompaniment.

There are twenty-three tracks here, and most (if not all) are either really beautiful or incredibly good fun. The long and short of it all is: if you’re familiar with the first two “Kung Fu Panda” scores, you’ll know what to expect. It’s typical Zimmer (and Powellesque) fun, with strong themes and colourful, Asian-flavoured orchestrations. Pardon me this cop-out, but there’s little point to me doing a track-by-track analysis of such a vivid, and often quite zany, score.

Is it any good?

Hans Zimmer’s “Kung Fu Panda 3” is an incredibly fun ride in a fast machine. Arguably the best score Powell never wrote. When it’s fast and fun and zany it sounds just like John Powell. When it’s more noble and introvert it is really beautiful, poignantly so, with solo cello and various ‘ethnic’ instruments taking the lead – in a way that is very Zimmer. I love Zimmer in ‘Asian’ mode and this is no exception. It’s well written, just brilliantly orchestrated, and performed with gusto by … whoever performed it (sorry, I don’t have those details at the moment – but if you were part of the orchestra and you’re reading this: well done sir/madam). All that whackiness does get a little tiresome, but in all this is a great album to cheer you up any ol’ day.

Rating [4/5]


01. Oogway’s Legacy (feat. Lang Lang) (2.00)
02. Hungry for Lunch (1.15)
03. The Power of Chi (4.12)
04. The Arrival of Kai (2.01)
05. A New Father (3.13)
06. The Hall of Heroes (2.59)
07. The Legend of Kai (4.01)
08. The Panda Village (3.39)
09. Mei Mei’s Ribbon Dance (2.05)
10. Jaded (3.54)
11. How To Be a Panda (1.53)
12. Portrait of Mom (feat. Lang Lang) (1.48)
13. Po Belongs (feat. Lang Lang) (2.52)
14. Kai is Closer (3.15)
15. Two Fathers (3.11)
16. The Battle of Legends (3.31)
17. The Spirit Realm (3.18)
18. The Dragon Warrior (2.51)
19. Passing the Torch (4.15)
20. Father and Son (3.00)
21. Kung Fu Fighting (Celebration Time) – Shanghai Roxi Musical Studio Choirs / Metro Voices London (2.59)
22. Try – Patrick Brasca feat. Jay Chou (4.00)
23. Kung Fu Fighting – The Vamps (3.05)

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

One Comment
  1. MTB permalink

    The one doing an incredible Powell impression in this score is Lorne Balfe, who actually wrote a lot here. 😉 If you look in the booklet for the album, it actually says he wrote the “Father and Son” theme (he also did all the parts where it appears throughout…Portrait of Mom, Mei Mei’s Ribbon Dance, the mid-section of The Dragon Warrior, and end of The Spirit Realm). You can also hear tons of Lorne Balfe influence throughout the “Battle of Legends” track. Why he wasn’t credited on the front cover with Hans is anyone’s guess, but yes… he and (in some cues) Paul Mounsey (who did “additional music”) are what gave this score its Powell vibe. 🙂

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