Adventure Animation

'Kubo and the Two Strings' Film Review: Music to the ears of animation lovers

August 19, 2016Ben MK

Laika is a fascinating example of an animation studio. While most of their competitors have turned their attention towards churning out photorealistic, computer-animated fare, the Portland, Oregon-based company has carved out an interesting, little niche for themselves, focusing on the age-old art of stop-motion animation, and consistently wowing moviegoers in the process.

Their latest, Kubo and the Two Strings, continues the tradition. A Japanese-themed fantasy-adventure, the film tells the story of 11-year-old Kubo (Game of Thrones' Art Parkinson), a gifted storyteller and a boy with uncanny magical abilities who, after the death of his mother, embarks on a dangerous quest — one that will not only lead him to a confrontation with his grandfather, the supernatural Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), but which will also lead him to discover the truth about the father he never knew: a brave samurai warrior named Hanzo.

Equipped with a stack of origami paper and a magical shamisen that allows him to breathe life into his origami creations, Kubo sets out to recover three key pieces of armor that will allow him to defeat the Moon King: the Sword Unbreakable, the Breast Plate Impenetrable and the Helmet Invulnerable. Along the way, however, Kubo and his protectors, the fearless Monkey (Charlize Theron) and the amnesiac Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), will have to contend with fantastical beasts, as well as do battle with the Moon King's masked, twin daughters (Rooney Mara).

Directed by Travis Knight, Kubo and the Two Strings is a far-flung, yet deeply emotional tale that feels firmly rooted in Japanese mythology, even though the story itself is a wholly original one, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. Heavy on themes like the loss of a loved one and the challenges of growing up, the script ventures into some fairly dark narrative territory. However, it always manages to counterbalance such moments with uplifting levity and spirited action, all of which contribute to this being Laika's most well-rounded film-to-date.

Speaking of Laika's films to date, Kubo and the Two Strings certainly feels like the studio's animators have achieved the pinnacle of their craft. From 2009's Coraline, to 2012's Paranorman, to 2014's The Boxtrolls, Laika has always excelled at creating visually enthralling films. And they've truly outdone themselves this time, with the result being a painstakingly fleshed-out fantasy world that's so believable in its art design and so rich in multilayered, thematic imagery that it's virtually impossible not to be drawn in from the movie's opening frames.

From an oversized, crimson skeleton with swords stuck in its skull, to giant-eyeballed sea monsters, to a massive, flying, spectral serpent, Kubo and the Two Strings won't leave audiences wanting for spectacular thrills. However, it's the film's smaller, more tender moments that will surely resonate with viewers. The amazing thing is that the movie does both of these things extremely well, which speaks volumes about the filmmakers' dedication to making something that will both dazzle your senses and tug at your heartstrings.

Kubo and the Two Strings releases August 19th, 2016 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 41 Mins.

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