Kubo and the Two Strings – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review
Wow. What an incredible piece of animation, and an incredible story too.
As an infant, Kubo (Art Parkinson) had one of his eyes plucked out by his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). His mother takes the boy and flees with him from her father and her two evil twin sisters (Rooney Mara) who seek the boy’s other eye. Not really knowing his past, Kubo grows up in a cave near a seaside Japanese village. Taking care of his ailing mother by night, by day he visits the town earning money as a street musician telling stories with origami figures. He tells the same story everyday, but never gets to finish the tale of the brave samurai warrior who battles the Moon King because he has to return home when the evening bell sounds so his witch aunts and grandfather don’t find Kubo and his mother. One night however, as Kubo had made a lantern for his father at a festival celebrating the deceased he misses the bell, stays out after dark, and is chased by the daughters of the Moon King. Summoning up the last of her own magic, Kubo’s mother appears and saves him, sacrificing her own life in the process but also imbuing one of Kubo’s toys, a small wooden monkey charm with life to help protect him. Monkey (Charlize Theron) tells Kubo about three pieces of mystical armour that, if found, would allow Kubo to defeat the Moon King. Along the way, Kubo and Monkey encounter Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), a forgetful former samurai who thinks he served Kubo’s father and was turned into the beetle by the Moon King for doing so. Kubo’s own magic grows, as his origami comes to life and saves him several times by creating boats, wings and even creating a miniature samurai who Kubo believes has a link to his father.
This was very much the story of the hero’s quest. The quest for magical items is a common theme throughout the history of film and literature, as they allow the hero to take a journey and discover himself, and in the case of Kubo and the Two Strings, to discover his family as well. There were a few surprises along the way, as well as a suitable amount of humour. I think that sometimes we tend to forget that animated features are primarily aimed at a younger audience. I enjoyed how when Kubo was selling his stories on the streets at the beginning of the film you didn’t really know if his origami was magical or real and just looked like “magic” for the sake of telling the story to the us as the audience. I really enjoyed how everything unfolded (no pun intended)…
Setting aside the story, LAIKA really outdid themselves this time. The animation was absolutely gorgeous and the scale of the film was incredible. The animation at times was so perfect that it could have passed for CGI. Now, don’t forget that there is extensive use of CGI in these films, but the sets are all built, the characters are all “puppets” and physical creations. The clothing is all sewn, the backgrounds are all hand painted. The computer work comes in for the lighting and some of the other environmental effects; you can’t stop motion in a snowstorm or rain. The artwork at the finale was just mind blowing when you consider that it was all physical figures, subtly moved one frame at a time. On top of the animation, and given the title, music had to be used effectively throughout. As Kubo summoned his origami creations with his magical shamisen, the sound really became powerful. Also, I really enjoyed Regina Spektor’s rendition of The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps that played over the closing credits. I really fell in love with the scope and spectacle of Kubo, which made this one of my favourite movies of the past year.
Bottom Line: Kubo has definitely got my vote for Best Animated Picture at this year’s Oscars. Disney wins waaaay too often in this category, though I suspect if Kubo doesn’t win Best Animated Feature, it will grab Best Visual Effects, but that’s the award I want Doctor Strange to win!
Posted on 17-02-18, in 5 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, George Takei, LAIKA, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Travis Knight. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.