Kubo and the Two Strings – Guest Review by Hans Eskelsen
Stop motion animation is risky business in the film industry. It takes an extremely long time to film each shot of movement set to an original storyline, hoping it pays off. However it usually does pay off like Wallace and Gromit, Nightmare before Christmas, and Coraline. Kubo and the Two Strings actually broke the record for the longest amount of time to film. How does this film compare to the others? Kubo and the Two Strings takes stop motion animation to a whole new level.
Travis Knight makes his directorial debut with Kubo and the Two Strings, bringing to life a story of a boy named Kubo who has to take care of his mother in a remote village in Japan. Both Kubo and his mother are hiding from her father, the Moon King and her sisters that are trying to take Kubo to make him immortal and part of their family and way of life. Kubo’s mother had left the family because she fell in love with Kubo’s father, a legendary Samurai soldier that is a mortal man. Because of this betrayal in the family, Kubo’s father was in search of a powerful Samurai armor that would make him powerful enough to defeat the Moon King.
Kubo’s mother would tell stories of Kubo’s father by Paper Mache that would come to life by a magic guitar. For money, Kubo would go to town and play the stories to the town’s people. However he could never finish the story because he didn’t know how to finish the amazing tale of his father.
As Kubo is trying to figure out whether his mother is crazy or telling the truth, he ends up running for his life from his Aunts after being caught outside after dark. His journey begins in quest of finding the suit of armor that his father frantically tried to find. He has some unusual company to help guide: a monkey, a man cursed as part Beetle, and a Paper Mache soldier of his father.
First, I think I only cracked the surface of this heavy storyline that is very detailed and full of imagination. Kubo and the Two Strings really touches on all cylinders on life’s quest of understanding the mortal and immortal ways of life and community. This film reminds me of the film ‘Spirited Away’ which illustrates the deep emotional bond and importance of family, storytelling, and the legacy one leaves behind.
From the beginning of the film until the credits I was on the edge of my seat invested in the story. It makes complete sense from beginning to end. In fact when the movie ended, I was curious about what films or stories influenced the film. It reminded me of an Akira Kurosawa film mixed with the creativeness of a Kayao Miyazaki film.
What made the film move even smoother with some comic relief was the character Beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey). It wasn’t even dumb humor, but it flowed within the storyline to increase chemistry and break up the tension of seriousness of the film. Between Kubo and the Beetle the film is full of enrichment and sense of interest of more adventure.
The stop motion animation was very well done. It wasn’t until at least 45 minutes into the film that I realized it was stop motion. To me this shows the impeccable motion of the Claymation and how the process is getting so much better throughout the years. It shows definitely in Kubo due to the amount of quality and effort put into the production.
Kubo and the Two Strings has some twists and surprises that weren’t earth shattering, but didn’t have to be. It fulfilled the story like a three course meal. It is good for both adults and children. There are some scary parts for maybe very young children, but overall this is a great movie for all ages. It is deep and intellectual for adults yet entertaining and not over the top for kids to understand. My boldest statement of the year: I wouldn’t be surprised to see this film get nominated and win the Oscar for best animated film.
5 out of 5 Stars
If you liked this film, I recommend:
Spirited Away, Never Ending Story, Big Hero Six