Kubo and the Two Strings

2016-08-19 11:16

What it's about:

Set in ancient Japan, we journey with Kubo, a young boy who lives a quiet, sheltered life with his mother in a small village. After a spirit from his past disturbs the peace and rekindles an age-old vendetta, Kubo is tormented by gods and monsters and forced to find a magical suit of armour that belonged to a legendary Samurai warrior.

What we thought:

Coming on the back of critical masterpieces Coraline, ParaNorman and Boxtrolls, Laika managed to one-up themselves yet again with this Japanese-inspired Kubo and the Two Strings, a beautifully crafted wonderment of epic battles, magical pandemonium and an enthralling story that weaves itself around the philosophy of storytelling itself. From start to finish, this film deserves as many awards for all categories as you can possibly throw at it.

Set in ancient Japan, a young boy gifted with the power to bring his stories to life embarks on a quest for his father’s armour after dark spirits took his mother from him. Accompanied by a monkey and a beetle, he sets out to reclaim his story and protect his family’s legacy.

Pixar might be well known for their animated tearjerkers, but they might have just been outdone by Laika, who not only gives all the emotions and a wondrous script, but also fills the screen from top to bottom with gorgeous stop-motion artistry. I cannot emphasise the attention to detail not only in design but also in movement - the pluck of Kubo’s strings, the battle prowess of the Monkey and the Beetle, even the fluidity of paper birds chasing after a real bird. Half the time I wonder how they pulled it off, the other half I just get lost in the splendour of it all.

And the filmmakers did not only focus on the animation. The dialogue is whittled to perfection with a balance of silly laughs, tragic moments and heart-warming tenderness with a dash of darkness. Not to mention the perfectly composed score heavy with Japanese influences and string notes that amplify Kubo’s musical talent. Not only has this film entered my top list for animations, it has also entered my top movie soundtrack list. 

If you are familiar with the company’s previous films you know that their content is for older children. Even as an adult the moon twins has the potential to pop into a nightmare or two, and the whole film has quite a mature plot. The film heavily deals with loss, the mechanics of storytelling and how you keep those gone alive with your memories, which makes for quite a philosophical cinematic journey.

All of this is glued together by a stunning voice cast, headed by Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark from Game of Thrones) as Kubo, our own Charlize Theron as the sceptic Monkey and Matthew McConaughey’s animation debut as the ridiculous but endearing Beetle-man. Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes and George Takei also lend their voices, and all in all everyone was a fantastic fit.

Kubo and the Two Strings will leave you feeling both happy and sad, and mesmerised by the beauty of its fantastical world, making you wish you could just live in it forever.  Part of what makes us human is our weaving of stories, real and fictional, leaving pieces of ourselves behind in the memories of those that come after us, and Kubo and the Two Strings excelled in bringing that concept to life on the big screen. Not only is it good for the eyes, but this film is also good for the soul.

P.S. Do stay until after the credits, just so that Laika can bedazzle you even more with their stop-motion magic.

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