Kubo (Art Parkinson) lives a simple life; by day he tells stories to the people of his seaside town, by night takes care of his sickly mother. After Kubo’s mother warns him to never stay in the town past sundown, in fear of the moon king, Kubo accidentally defies his mother’s warning and his simple life comes crashing down. Kubo unintentionally summons a vengeful spirit from his past; now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to acquire a series of magical artifacts. On this vibrant adventure Kubo must save his family as well as solve the mystery of his father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known.
This isn’t the first delightfully dark, animated stop-motion film Laika has released, with previous offerings being Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. In Travis Knights’ directional debut, Kubo and the Two Strings clearly depicts the world as a cruel, unpleasant place where family can’t always be trusted. In addition to Kubo frequently having to act as the adult, his mother grows too ill to take care of herself, let alone the two of them. Both Knight and his massive team of animators have woven together weighty, complex themes within the films stunning visuals that are eye-popping and epic in scale and scope.
Inspired from different Japanese art forms and blending them seamlessly, the eerily dark world radiates with the bold color of its more, lighter parts. Kubo immerses us into a rich world jam-packed with colorful creatures and characters, and a distinctive illustration of magic and mysticism.
Charming and engaging, Kubo is rooted in human emotions, tasked with overcoming great loss and desire for something greater within him. Kubo’s protectors, Monkey and Beetle are given enough time to fill the adventure with a little exposition and lots of humor. Both Monkey and Beetle provide amusing banter and awesome action moments throughout that leave their mark within the film.
The antagonist, a pair of sisters (whose faces are hidden behind masks) and the Moon Knight (who looks upon world from clouded eyes), add another creepy and fascinating layer to the film that emphasize the importance of expression and human emotion. All of this culminating together, the result becomes something truly unique and impactful.
Along with the stellar writing and visuals, Kubo and the Two Strings boasts a small, albeit impressive voice cast including Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, as well as its antagonists being voiced by Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes. They’re some smaller cameo roles such as Luke Donaldson and Brenda Vaccaro, though the big name that excites is the small role George Takei has as an old man in the seaside town. The voice cast with the help of the animators at Laika help bring to the life the awe-inspiring, harsh world of Kubo and the Two Strings.
Above all else, Kubo and the Two Strings is a mighty reminder that there is still plenty of room for artistic experimentation and reinvention. Travis Knight will please not only the parents, but also the children who flock to see it for its eye-popping visual. Kubo and the Two Strings accompany its stunning visuals with an absorbing, heartbreaking adventure that will impact both young and older moviegoers alike.
Overall: Kubo and the Two Strings, meshes modern animation and beautiful Japanese folklore, with an emotional spellbinding story that everyone will enjoy.
4 ½ Stars
Rutgers Student studying Political Science & Government with a minor in Journalism who has an interest in the intersection of journalism and political movements.