Genre: Fantasy, animation
Runtime: 102 minutes
Main Cast: Charlize Theron
Production Company: Laika
Written by: Marc Haimes
Directed by: Travis Knight
Written by Nelson Cumming
Kubo and the Two Strings is a movie with ambition which is something I like to see. It fell short of my high expectations but not by a lot. The story is surprisingly dark but does provide tonal variation by the visual splendor of the animation. I think story-wise it could have been better, but I liked it.
The story follows Kubo who is raised solely by her mother as she ran away from her evil family. Kubo entertains his village by producing live origami shows. However, he is strictly told by his mother to not go out of the house at night. One day, Kubo stays up at night only to awaken a vengeful spirit. Kubo must team up with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughy) to find three hidden armaments to battle the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes)
Kubo and the Two Strings works well on the visual spectacle. It is a rare movie that undertakes stop-motion animation but does it a Japanese anime style. It is intriguing not only because that’s a rarity in a film but also because it looks visually stunning. The animation has a great blend of darkness and vibrancy, strong colors and inventive visuals. The origami scenes and the evil twins are great examples of the movies variation.
The other thing that makes Kubo and the Two Strings interesting is Charlize Theron’s character called Monkey. She provides a sweet caring voice that balances the characters overprotected but sweet nature. She makes the movie more interesting than it already was and there was really good interplay with her and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey character)
Kubo and the Two Strings was great until about two-thirds in when it started to lose me a little. The main problem it has is that some of the plot elements are not explained in the universe it’s set in. I kept wondering why memories were forgotten by banished characters even through their eyes were still intact as well as other things. Also one of the subplots was predictable which was the revelation of the Matthew McConaughey character that I thought could have gone in another direction.
I, for some reason, felt that the themes were not well presented as I would have liked. That said, this movie has the guts to explore themes of death, morality vs. immorality, and the high importance of memory shaping a human being. I just don’t think they connected with me on an emotional level. On an intellectual level sure, but didn’t have the spark to connect with me emotionally. That said, they didn’t do anything wrong, I just wasn’t emotionally connected to it when it was clear the movie wanted me to.
I think the people who will like it the most will be people who are into Japanese anime because the characters, the animation, the symbolism and the story were stylised like the works of Studio Ghibli (The studio who made Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle) but I also think a casual audience will like it as well. I think that Kubo and the Two Strings is a different movie as it tries to bridge the gap between those two audiences: The anime enthusiasts and the casuals.
Overall Kubo and the Two Strings is pretty good. Its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I believe that it’s weaknesses prevent it from being a great movie, but it doesn’t stop it from being a good one. It was well worth my time to see the style of the animation alone, let alone the high bar it aims to achieve. ***1/2