From Laika Studios, the team behind Boxtrolls comes Kubo and the Two Strings, a beautiful stop motion animation that has heart.
Kubo and the Two Strings piqued my attention from my first viewing of the first trailer. The whimsical appeal of the film is embodied in the titular character, a young boy with a big destiny.
When spirits from the past threaten Kubo’s existence he must embark on a journey to find the armour of his father, a once great samurai warrior. Accompanied by a magical, protective monkey, a fearless beetle and guided by an origami representation of Kubo’s samurai father there is chemistry, humour and compassion within the dynamics of the group. And it’s the emotional aspect of the film that proves to be it’s biggest attribute.
Interactions between the characters are generally very dry in their humour with Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey lending their voices to the roles of the Monkey and the Beetle respectively. The tremendous attention to detail in the animation only serves to enhance these moments, particularly in their facial expressions. Each of the main protagonists are likeable.
The fabled armour that Kubo must find is made up of three parts, a breastplate, a helmet and a sword. With little in the way of explanation as to why, finding the armour is key to Kubo’s protection from his pursuers who prove to be the darker side of his family. A sinister pair of Aunts do the bidding of an evil god-like Grandfather who is intent on taking Kubo’s single, remaining eye. That’s right! Kubo has one eye because his Grandfather had already ripped one from his face.
Sinister moments are offset with comic relief and the balance is just about right. Where the story falters slightly is the relative ease with which the group are able to fulfil their quest. There are moments of adversity but the viewer never really believes that Kubo won’t find the armour. There are twists throughout and although younger viewers may miss the relevance of the ‘two strings’ element of the story it does provide a deep symbolic thread to the plot.
Kubo and the Two Strings is not your average family film. The painstaking level of detail in the animation elevates it artistically in stature above your usual Disney or Dreamworks blockbusters. But whilst the more common form of animation has come on in leaps and bounds in the last ten years, it’s the stop motion method that is most likely responsible for this film’s limitations too. It does feel at times like the story progresses too easily to avoid the inclusion of more intricate scenes. Further evidence of this is in the running time which comes to just a minute over one hour, forty. The story progresses fast but the tone of the film makes it feel over a little quicker than you might hope for.
Regardless, Laika studios have produced a truly lovely piece of cinema which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It’s artistically beautiful and atmospheric, the score enhances the visuals and the clever reworking of the Beetles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is genius, catchy and fitting. The film is funny and suspenseful in the right measures and should leave viewers feeling warm inside at the conclusion.
Kubo and the Two Strings is in cinemas in the U.K. now and will be nearing the end of it’s theatrical run in the U.S.