- Composed by Hans Zimmer
- Sony Classical / 2016 / 69m
The third entry in the apparently six-part Kung Fu Panda series continues the telling of the true story of Po, who meets his biological father only after seeing his dumpling-eating record beaten by him and then battles a spirit warrior (J.K. Simmons) who returns to the mortal world after stealing Master Oogway’s chi from the spirit world, the bounder! The previous two scores in the franchise were credited to Hans Zimmer and John Powell, but Zimmer goes solo this time if you’re reading the front cover of the album – inside, Lorne Balfe gets co-billing and there’s additional music by Paul Mounsey. Zimmer and Powell’s main themes from the previous instalments return alongside some new ones; and while the credits have changed, the music continues very much in the familiar vein from before, full of action and adventure and no shortage of fun. The best of the old themes is the one heard most famously in the first score’s “Oogway Ascends” and it gets an absolutely lovely treatment in the opening “Oogway’s Legacy”, with romantic piano (played by Lang Lang of all people) taking centre-stage, and it’s probably the best piece on the album.
The other most prominent continuing theme – the very Powellian adventure theme – is all over the score, forming the basis of the many action themes but also appearing in a variety of other, often surprisingly tender guises. There are two main new themes, one of which is (oddly) the melody from the Imagine Dragons song “I’m So Sorry”, released in mid-2015 – it’s not a steal or anything, they’re credited and apparently participated in the score’s creation; I like the action-packed “Jaded” in particular and “Battle of the Legends” is just great. The other theme is actually by Balfe and gets a full presentation in “Father and Son” – it’s tender and touching, a lovely little piece. The score as a whole may be somewhat disposable fun but it is fun, blessed at times with the same kind of swagger and twinkle in the eye as the Pirates of the Caribbean scores at their best (if not the array of strong themes) – “The Dragon Warrior” for instance is an action highlight that really is Zimmer at his lighthearted but boisterous best. This is possibly the best of these scores so far and for an undemanding hour’s listening you can’t really go far wrong.
Rating: *** 1/2