If there is any film this year that deserves to be a commercial success then it is Kubo and the Two Strings.
The whole premise of the film is framed around a fairy tale. The tale goes that the evil Moon King fought and defeated Hanzo, a legendary warrior, and took an eye of his only son. The only thing that can stop him from taking the boy’s other eye is another warrior and 3 pieces of mythic armour.
That boy is Kubo.
What I loved about Kubo and the Two Strings is how it seamlessly blended reality and fantasy without ever needing to explain how or why such things exist and it’s up to the viewers own intelligence to work out what is real and what is metaphorical.
Can Kubo really make paper dance and fight like it’s alive or is this just a metaphor for a vivid storyteller? Does he really have a monkey and a samurai beetle as friends? Is his shamisen really magic?
It could all just be the overactive imagination of a young, lonely, boy trying to grow up and make sense of a world that has left him with a mother that requires constant care and an absent father.
With a heavy Japanese influence I did wonder if some of the film’s meaning was lost on me though. As a stupid ‘gaijin’ I couldn’t tell you if this mythos is rooted in eastern theology or if this is original storytelling.
Either way there is so much love and care put into the animation and interaction between characters. I would not be surprised if this started out as Travis Knight’s personal hobby or pet project because it’s so easy to be mesmerised by the film’s many unfolding layers.
I mean the animation is nothing short of breathtaking with action scenes that are dynamic enough to hold its own against modern action choreography.
The interaction between characters is equally as stunning. Whether it be between Kubo and old lady Karmeyo (Brenda Viccaro) or between Monkey (Charlie Theron) and the wonderful Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) both script and acting are near flawless.
Kubo and the Two Strings is not perfect though. It is possibly a little bit too long but more importantly it loses focus leaving the end of the film to feel a bit rushed. The final fight scene had some scrappy editing and I wasn’t enamoured by the Moon King’s design at this point as it looked like something out of The Avengers.
In all honesty this might not be something to take your kids to – it’s not exactly Toy Story – but it’s the most creative and wonderful piece of art to come out on general release in a long time and one that deals with spiritualism, fantasy, life and death in a careful and delicate manner. In my eyes; that’s something worth supporting.
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ Gorgeous stop motion photography
+ Fantastic action
+ Beautiful character interaction
– Am I missing some symbolism?
– The final battle