REVIEW – Kubo and the Two Strings

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It’s been a very strong year for animated films. The dynamic duo of Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Studios brought out mega-hits with Zootopia and Finding Dory earlier in the year, and other films like Kung Fu Panda and The Secret Life of Pets (coming soon in Australia) have had huge financial success. Even something like Sausage Party has been a hit in the genre, as… unconventional as it is. Sure, we also got Ice Age 5, but nothing is perfect.

And into this stacked field comes Kubo and the Two Strings, a stop-motion animation film from the mostly unheralded but very accomplished studio Laika. And it’s probably the best of the lot. An absolute delight.

Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of the boy Kubo. Based loosely on Japanese mythology, Kubo is a boy born to an exiled goddess and a mortal samurai. Living in hiding in a cave with his mother, Kubo delights in telling stories through magical origami with the villagers. But one night, his mother’s family, led by his grandfather – the Moon King – find him and attempt to strip Kubo of his humanity so he can join them in ruling from the Heavens. Kubo is forced into an alliance with a magical monkey and a cursed beetle in order to find a powerful sword-and-armor combination that would allow him to defeat his grandfather and cement his humanity.

While the plot does seem like, from writing that, the basic “Chosen One” plot that’s appeared everywhere from Greek mythology to Star Wars, it is used as a construct for a very involved and moving story that will connect with audiences of all-ages, and tug at the heart strings of all but the coldest hearts.

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I mean, it was all too much for the YouTube user “SPACE DONG”. What more do you need to know?

It also helps that it contains a top notch voice cast. As with voice casts, it’s often hard to see a stand out, but everyone creates realistic and grounded performances. The lead role of Kubo is played by Art Parkinson, best known to audiences as Rickon Stark (or, the small Stark that no-one really cares about) in Game of Thrones, while his allies Monkey and Beetle are portrayed by award winning actors Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey. Also appearing are Ralph Fiennes and Rooney Mara in villainous roles and a small role as a villager by the iconic voice of George Takei.

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Obligatory

The film itself is also gorgeous to look at, which is something that has been a hallmark of Laika Studios over the time they’ve existed. With past films including Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, Laika have cemented themselves as masters of the stop motion animation method, and this is no exception. Combining these well crafted characters and monsters with a sweeping, epic world in which to exist, this is a movie that feels like an epic. And it is.

If I was to find one negative, it’s that the set up feels a tad convenient, and in one bit I thought it might be a little bit lazy in the storytelling. However, these were minor quibbles, and my advice to everyone is to make sure you see Kubo and the Two Strings as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

4.9/5 – a nearly perfect film, and the best option for families at the cinema in a very very long time.

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ADDITIONAL MOVIE NEWS:

  • Disney have had a pretty successful decade just recently, and one of their more surprising cash cows has been the “live-action remake” line, where the studio has taken animated hits and turned them into live action hits (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book). Another one is in the works now, as Disney have officially hired Alan Menken (long time Disney composer) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (the man behind the recent Broadway smash Hamilton) to write songs for a remake of The Little Mermaid. Personally, as long as there’s a singing crab, I’m cool with it.

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Just remember kids, if a parade of singing marine animals tell you that you should kiss a girl who has never said a word to you, please seek medical help.

  • A major piece of casting went down this week, when Jared Leto, the award-winning actor who most recently got torn to shreds by critics for his portrayal of The Joker in Suicide Squad, has joined the cast of Blade Runner 2. The sequel to the 1980 cult-classic is due to be released next year, and Leto joins a cast that includes Ryan Gosling and original star Harrison Ford… wait, we’re actually, seriously doing a Blade Runner sequel nearly 40 years later? Ok.

Indy
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this”
Dammit, Indy, stop being so negative. That isn’t even your line!

  • Continuing the theme of returning to very old cult classics, actor John Turturro is reportedly working on a spin-off based on his character in the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski, Jesus Quintana. In the original film, Quintana is a convicted pedophile and a competitive bowler who competes against “The Dude” in the bowling semifinals. The movie will have no involvement from the original filmmakers, and is probably going to be very creepy and offensive to a lot of people. So keep an eye out for that one, unless a rare Hollywood executive with a brain comes along to shut it down.

 

  • Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party was a surprise hit for Sony Pictures, a studio that has been clamoring for a hit ever since Ghostbusters failed to succeed and someone told them that they should do the Men in Black/21 Jump Street cross-over that they were so excited about. So naturally, Rogen has already been hired to work on a sequel to the supermarket based comedy. According to Rogen, he’d like to make the sequel involve the characters entering the real world in a live-action/CGI hybrid, claiming that he loved the format in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and would love the opportunity to explore the format further.

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Because with a CGI/Live Action hybrid, what could possibly go wrong?

  • This week, in “Things That Upset Racists on The Internet”: Star Wars as a franchise was once famous for it’s lack of women in major roles, a reputation which is slowly coming apart with new installments such as The Force Awakens and the upcoming Rogue One, leading some people to lament that horrid feminist occupation of their beloved franchise, with all these women coming in with their well rounded characters and expansion of a more welcoming galaxy. Well, they’re about to get a whole lot angrier, as casting is underway for a female co-lead to join Alden Ehrenreicht in the new Han Solo solo movie, and they want someone of colour for the role. What an outrage…

    The Internet’s week got even worse later on when reports emerged that African-American actress Zendaya is going to portray the red-headed (and white) comic book character Mary Jane in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. 

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