A wonderfully unique animation film, with mature themes and messages.
Kubo, a young boy, must locate a magical suit of armour worn by his late father in order to defeat the spirit haunting him, coming to take his other eye. Along his journey he is accompanied by Monkey and Beetle as well as an origami Hanzo (his late father).
As strange as this sounds, the film’s setting and style makes it feel natural. The magical aura from start to finish encapsulates you in a sense of wonder, and I feel the animation style is key to this.
Laika are the minds behind films such as Coraline (2009) and ParaNorman (2012) and use a very unique style, and stop-motion with digital assistance, which makes their films feel so special, particularly Kubo. The creation of this vast adventurous world is awe-inspiring, and every shot holds something impressively detailed and smooth. It’s the time and care put into the craft that makes it feel so special, and it certainly pays off.
The narrative itself is fairly strong, calling back to tales of Samurai and ancient Japan. Kubo must venture to find the suit of armour in order to stop those that have attacked his village and pursue him. It’s a fun, adventurous tale which can be appreciated by all audience members due to it’s many levels. There’s the spectacle, visuals and the adventure, but then there’s also some more mature themes and messages surrounding family, death and thinking beyond the physical world.
The only gripe I have with this film, is the villain. The villain (who I won’t spoil because it’s unnecessary) lacks clear motivation for wanting to attack Kubo, and take his other eye. It doesn’t really disrupt the flow of the movie, but when thinking about it more there isn’t really a reason provided for their desired actions. This feels somewhat jarring the more it’s thought about, and unfortunately knocks the film slightly.
However, this should certainly not stop anyone from watching this film because it is truly a masterpiece in animation film making, as are most of Laika’s works.
The cast are great, providing excellent voice work for the characters, building on the animated work, to truly make these characters come to life. Personally for me, highlights were Charlize Theron as Monkey and Matthew McConaughey as Beetle. Their chemistry steals the show and creates such a heart-warming, family dynamic between them and Art Parkinson’s Kubo, who also does a great job. I did feel Ralph Fiennes was a tad wasted in his role as the Moon King, but he too does a solid job.
To conclude, Kubo and the Two Strings is one of the most impressive animated films you’ll see for a while. It’s spectacular visuals, engaging characters and adventurous tale make it a real joy to watch, and I highly suggest you do.