Marketing and promotional campaigns in the film making world are a force to be reckoned with, it forms an early opinion on audiences and is the deciding factor to viewing a film. So to stumble upon a new animated film from the studio who also animated Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls only a few months ago I was both intrigued and curious because to me Laika studio never really went anywhere in terms of getting their foot in the door despite its creation of three aesthetically pleasing films. So walking out of the cinema I can safely say that Kubo and the Two Strings is quite possibly the most beautifully crafted animated film of the year.
It’s method of using stop motion animation combining that with a secondary aesthetic look of origami paper craft blend perfectly to form animation that is both pleasing to the eye and ticks at our interests into where they can take this fascinating blend further. It’s also clever how every tiny movement from hair to leaves flows incredibly well and feels natural. when looking at the behind the scenes, you can appreciate the level of craftsmanship that went into making this film.
The hero’s journey or quest is one of seven storylines that according to Christopher Booker films can fall under, Kubo handles this storyline in a way that it reflects its Japanese look especially in its dialogue which is very similar to the way dialogue is handled in Japanese manga or anime without becoming too explanatory. It is very carefully thought off with the actors saying them the way they should be said. Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey give terrific voice over work to the characters of Monkey and Beetle, while Art Parkinson does a terrific job as Kubo. I felt that Charlize and McConaughey’s voice acting was more suited to their characters. Although, I could have easily imagined Kubo as a teenager instead of a young boy but that doesn’t take anything away from Kubo’s character.
Kubo is a young boy who is in the middle of and is the subject of a family conflict. His character is that of someone who is trying to find out the truth about his father whilst caring for his mother. The film starts with establishing the connection of Kubo and his mother and does this with minimal dialogue. It is a real treat when a film shows rather than tells two characters’ relationship between each other and in Kubo and the Two Strings it is presented with such clarity that it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they share a special family relationship, but stronger than that is the development in friendship between Monkey and Beetle. The chemistry between the two builds until it is inevitably revealed who the two really are which will be left unspoiled in this review, and although it may be a simple reveal it is built up to in a way where much like the opening of this film the audience must “pay careful attention to everything you see no matter how unusual”.
The film does have action sequences and it is at this point where I believe many stop motion animated film dip in quality. If the right amount of motion is not present on the screen, it can be very difficult to follow especially for the older members of the audience, but you need not worry, the fights are clear and along with the fast paced cutting and camera tracking you can tell that the animators had a lot of freedom in deciding how to choreograph the models of Kubo, Monkey, Beetle and many other additional characters.
If I could find one flaw with this film it is that there are moments of 3D animation being used which was OK when taking into account that doing some sequences with stop motion would be near impossible. The problem however is that moments of 3D animation seem distracting to an already beautiful style the film presents, it has the same out of place feeling as a knife in the fork section of a cutlery drawer.
Surprisingly, the film is quite funny during Kubo’s quest, with most of the comedic lines coming from Beetle. I initially thought that the funny tone was very different from the level of seriousness in the opening sequence of Kubo and the Two Strings but the more I began to feel involved with Kubo’s quest, the more the comedy started to fit with the rest of the film whilst still retaining the low level of seriousness needed for a PG animated film.
Kubo and the Two Strings is easily the most impressive animated films of the year, the story is encapsulating and it was very difficult to find any flaws with the characters themselves or the narrative presented. It’s only let down is the distracting sequences that involve 3D animation however Laika have knocked it out of the park and I believe that the studio is going to get better and better rivalling our British equivalent Aardman Animations and even knocking on Pixar’s door.
Final Result: 9/10 – Excellent
You may notice a little gold icon in this final result as well, this is my new ‘value approved’ sticker. I’ve recently noticed a drop in people going to the cinema, I’ve also asked people why this is and the most common answer I’ve received is that people don’t have the time and money to see films. Therefore, I have created this sticker to signify that a film is worth your time and money.
Have you seen Kubo and the Two Strings? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments.
Next Time: The Infiltrator