Reviewing: Kubo and the Two Strings

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Summer has finally been saved with an actually amazing film, just as it is wrapping up and moving into Autumn. They really squeezed this one in at the last minute to revitalize the 2016 summer movie line-up.

Kubo and the Two Strings, directed by Travis Knight, is a wonderfully refreshing film steeped in Japanese culture with the right amounts of comedy, adventure, danger, grief and forgiveness. This fable-like story follows the tale of Kubo, whose father died saving him and his mother when he was just a baby. Due to the enormous and dramatic loss of her true love, Kubo’s mother suffers something akin to PTSD and Kubo must care for her when he’s not telling stories to local villagers using his magic. One night, Kubo is found by his mother’s family, who wants to destroy his ability to see and be touched by humanity. To defeat them, Kubo must find the magic armor his father once searched for to protect his family.

*Spoilers Ahead.

This movie was absolutely fantastic. From the very beginning, viewers are plunged into the plight of Kubo and his mother, as Kubo warns them to pay attention to everything they see and hear, for it is all connected. Just the beginning was enough to make me feel like a little kid again. I felt as though I was sitting cross-legged on the floor wrapped in a blanket — I was completely mesmerized and immersed in the story, I truly almost forgot I was in a movie theater. (Usually I am so annoyed and distracted by the other people that it is difficult for me to focus on the film.) But, I think this was true for everyone else there that day.

First off, let’s talk about the animation. Kubo is filmed in a kind of claymation style reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Each strand and hair, bit of fur and length of robe has such a realistic and tangible quality to it, that it lent an even more magical and realistic quality to the story. When I first saw the previews for the movie, I was worried the animation would distract me, as most animated movies made today rely on technology to make them pop. But instead, the style made the movie so much more unique and I can’t imagine it done any other way.

Next, let’s talk plot line. On the way to the movie, my husband and I mentioned that neither of us really knew what the story was going to be. As in the trailer, there is a vague mention of a quest and an ultimate battle or confrontation, but other than that we had no idea what to expect. I then made the comment that, in past experiences (like in seeing Moonrise Kingdom), I had no idea what to expect and it ended up being one of my favorite movies of all time. So, we were optimistic.

After the initial opening sequence, the story starts off slow with Kubo waking up to pick up scattered origami papers, making rice and tea and feeding his mother. He then heads down to the village to tell the story of his father, Hanzo, the brave warrior, with his magic guitar and the origami figures. Later, he returns home where his mother continues to tell him stories about Hanzo and we learn more about what happened and why they are in hiding. And things become very dark.

There is so much I could talk about with the plot because, like Kubo tells us, everything is important and connected to everything else. As I don’t want to spoil too much, I will just say that this film did a spectacular job at subtle foreshadowing and feeding the audience with minute details that would wind up holding much more significance in the long run. While my husband picked up on more than I did, it was wonderful to watch everything unfold and come together the way it did.

This film is the art of storytelling at its finest. This is what I want more of from filmmakers. It seems Kubo and the Two Strings, was crafted carefully and lovingly. Just from seeing the film, I could tell that those working on it genuinely cared about telling the story the right way and making it a moving experience for viewers. I really can’t say enough good things about it.

The film deals with so many important things — love, loss, bravery, the importance of family and the importance of forgiveness — that I am so glad it was made under the guise of a children’s movie. If I ever have children, this is one of the first films they will watch. Everything was handled with such a delicate touch that made it pierce the emotions of viewers while also making them consider things from different angles. This is such an important film for both children and adults to see.

I would give this movie 10/5 stars, it was that good. I am pretty sure we will be going to see it again this weekend. And you all need to go see it too, as soon as possible.

What did you think about Kubo and the Two Strings? How do you think stop-motion animation could be used more in action-adventure films like this one? Do you think it’s important that films like this address difficult themes and why? Let’s talk.

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