Kubo and the Two Strings – Film Review
Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Travis Knight
Synopsis: After a terrible accident in his past, young Kubo sets off on an adventure to retrieve some valuable items from his past to help defeat a sinister force.
Review: Animation is such a staple of modern Western cinema, largely thanks to the work of animation powerhouses like Disney and Pixar, using computer animation to create magical and exciting adventures for all generations. Yet for animation studios like Laika and Studio Ghibli, in these cases, they use somewhat more unique methods to tell their stories. For the former, the use of stop motion animation is their party piece, and their latest film reinforces their growing reputation as an animation studio that is certainly showing its credentials with each new film they release.
Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a magical musical instrument who is looking after his sick mother, who warns him of the perils of being out at night, as Kubo is being hunted by some deeply sinister forces who want to take something from him. Due to these sinister forces, Kubo is sent on a mission to hunt for three valuable artefacts that will enable him to defeat those that are pursuing him. Aiding him on this quest are the appropriately named Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey).
Original films are something of a rarity in modern cinema, and this story is a wonderful breath of fresh air, that’s mysterious, magical and exciting all rolled into one. There are elements of Ancient Japanese history without any doubt and maybe a hint of influence from Ghibli, but the screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler is rich in detail and boasts some very compelling characters, and an adventure that packs plenty of heart and humour, not to mention some absolutely flawless animation. Kubo is our young hero and Parkinson’s work bringing him to life is so stellar that you just want to root for him and defeat those evil forces who are trying to take something from him.
Along with a compelling lead, the side characters are also extremely compelling and well developed. Monkey is certainly a “take no nonsense” kind of character but she has plenty of heart and compassion for Kubo. Likewise for Beetle, though he comes across as something of a bumbling idiot, he too certainly shows spirit and a fierce desire to aid Kubo on his mission. Likewise with Parkinson, the voice work of Theron and McConaughey is so on point that as an audience, you are on the side of these heroes, and although their voice work is equally stellar, you are most certainly not on the side of Rooney Mara’s Sisters and neither that of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’s Moon King.
Despite being an extremely well made and beautiful film to watch, the screenplay isn’t perfect, there are a few points where the film stumbles a bit, and while his voice work is great, when casting such a brilliant actor in Fiennes, who can certainly do bad guys very well, you would hope his character is sinister and terrifying, and while he can be, certain elements of his design did leave something to be desired. Nevertheless though, Kubo is another fine string to add to Laika’s bow of really well made animated storytelling. The studio is certainly on a roll right now, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the years to come.