A few tweaks here and there, and these guys could be a force to be reckoned with.
Kubo and The Two Strings
Laika animation has thus far not steered audiences wrong, starting back in 2009 with Coraline, then Paranorman in 2012 and the superb The Boxtrolls in 2014, however with Kubo and The Two Strings, the stop-motion animators find their biggest test yet. Taking influence from Japanese myths and legends, as well as Greek mythology and a range of cinematic works, from Clash Of The Titans to the films of Akira Kurosawa, Kubo and The Two Strings is like an ancient tapestry come to life before your eyes. Despite all its influences, this is a film filled with innovation, originality and pure magic…and is perhaps the best film you’ll see all year.
The story centres on Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young boy who lives in a cave near the sea and cares for his mentally ailing mother by night and by day brings Origami to life with his magical Shamisen to tell thrilling stories in a nearby village for money. However one night, the past catches up with Kubo as sinister presences related to he and his mother come calling to finish a job they started years ago and this throws the young boy into a quest, alongside Monkey (Charlize Theron) and an amnesiac samurai warrior-turned-big Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), that will take Kubo on a journey to fight this darkness and uncover the extent of his power and humanity.
The love and affection in the painstaking craft, is displayed in every frame of this sublime achievement, which not only boasts some of the finest stop-motion animation ever rendered but is masterfully written. Blending magical thrills with a rich narrative, this is a film about the power of cherished memories in the face of great loss and is a film with so many powerful and well-layered ideas and themes. And in spite of some truly dark moments, the film always remains enjoyable and at times hysterically funny. Travis Knight’s film is a practically faultless balance of tone and rewarding viewing for any age group.
The plot is breathtaking, fresh, unpredictable and a real journey of discovery but what makes this even more of a tantalizing work is its engrossing characters. Eye patch-wearing Kubo, well voiced by Art Parkinson, is a brimming core to the film and an adorable and yet strong central figure that we join on his journey of discovery, emotion and enchantment. Joining him is Charlize Theron’s clever turn as the maternal Monkey and Matthew McConaughey’s impeccably charming and very funny turn as Beetle. And then there are the film’s truly frightening antagonists in Ralph Fiennes’ Raiden The Moon King and his genuinely terrifying daughters, both voiced spookily by Rooney Mara.
From plot twists, to stirring set pieces, to poignant character revelations, Kubo and The Two Strings is just an absolute wonder to behold. The animation is intricate, spellbinding and visionary (stay for the credits to get insight into how a heart racing key scene in the film was created) and Dario Marianelli’s score is a perfect accompaniment. This is not just animation you enjoy, it is a film you sit in appreciation of as the credits start to roll. If there is any justice the word will spread and Laika will finally take their rightful place alongside the likes of Studio Ghibli and Pixar.
Kubo and The Two Strings is precisely what cinema should be, a magical and illuminating experience, offering constant joy and entertainment. This film is deep, structured, emotive, well-voiced and just an unshakable adventure to behold. Goosebump inducing, smile raising and utterly joyous, this is possibly set to be the best film of 2016. A masterpiece.