I am a huge fan of underdog movies, from Cinderella on up. I love it when our hero is someone no one would think has any value, and then he rises to the occasion—much to the shock of everyone around him, including himself.
I just finished watching Kung Fu Panda 1, 2, and 3. And before any of you stone me for diving into something so obviously oriented toward Zen and other Asian philosophies, hear me out. (And, in case you haven’t seen the Kung Fu Panda series—and in my opinion it is definitely worth seeing—allow me to warn you of spoilers in what I may choose to share.)
Our central character is a big, fat, roly-poly panda, of course, who dreams of being a Kung Fu warrior. We are shown he seemingly has none of the natural instincts for something as graceful and powerful as Kung Fu. And yet, it is his single greatest passion.
As it turns out he is chosen by the wisest in the land, against all odds and seemingly by accident, to be the “Dragon Warrior.” This is something all the other Kung Fu warriors aspire to, have been training and competing for. He literally lands in front of the finger pointing at him. So he begins to train in Kung Fu—but he is awkward, clumsy, impossible to train—or so it appears. And all the other seasoned warriors would just as soon he quit. But, in fact, this improbable panda is the one chosen by “the universe” to become their protector.
We watch his progress in the first and second movie—how he grows and matures, honing his warrior skills through encounters with the bad guys—who also underestimate him. But he still doesn’t really know who he is. The warriors around the panda come to respect him, where once they held only contempt. They begin to see his potential. But the panda still doesn’t really know who he is.