You can keep your DCs, your Marvels, your Star Wars and Treks, Kubo and the Two Strings has been the film I have been anticipating the most this year. Now, I’m a big fan of the aforementioned franchises (despite DC appearing to do everything in their power to self-destruct) so you know I’m serious when I write a statement like that.
From the makers of what should now be considered animation classics in Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth film in Laika Studios’ catalogue of greats. The animation power-houses of Pixar and Studio Ghibli would be proud to have these beautiful feature films on their roster of movies as Laika are yet to put a foot wrong. All three of their previous films have been well received by cinema-goers and critics alike, and have always made more money than what they cost to make at the box office. They combine lovingly handmade stop-motion with seamless CGI that astounds its audience, but at the centre of all this is a story that knows no less love as the skilled writers make you laugh, cry, scare you silly and excite you to the point of stupendous delirium.
As you can tell, I’m a bit of a fan…
My top and bottom three films of the year have had a bit of a shake up since the blogs I wrote in June. Not only has this obliterated the opposition in my top three of 2016 but has forced me to re-evaluate my list of favourite films of all time.
This tells the story of Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young Japanese boy who cares for his sick mother in a cave on top of a mountain. By day he entertains the local villagers by telling heroic stories with his origami figurines by animating them with the music he plays on his magical shamisen. Under strict orders from his mother, Kubo must return to the cave before nightfall as his aunts (Rooney Mara) and grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), will steal his one remaining eye so that he can join them in the spirit world. When he is caught out after dark by his aunts, his mother gives her life to save Kubo and gives him wings to fly to safety, but not before she tells him to find his late father’s magical armour to protect him from his evil relatives. When he is woken by a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) he finds himself in a heavy blizzard and learns that his mother’s last act was to bring Monkey to life from a wooden charm to help him find the armour.
There is no poetry in my words to adequately express how beautiful this film is. It is perfect from start to finish. The story is well told and impeccably paced. The stop-motion and CG animation blend together flawlessly and you forget that you are watching animation, which is a credit to the masterful skills of the animators and how engrossing this tale is. It has the right amount of humour, twists-and-turns and is full to the brim with emotion. I am not ashamed to say that I burst into tears of joy at the very end and that was a result of the effect this film had on my heartstrings and also at the beauty of what I had just witnessed. A hat-tip to the action scenes also, as they are so well choreographed that most live-action films could learn a thing or two from what Laika has accomplished. The voice-acting is also superb and matches the characters look and motives with stunning aplomb, and I don’t think I have ever seen such a perfect blend of character, actor, movement and design as I have with Charlize Theron’s Monkey. Rooney Mara as the evil sisters has also been perfectly cast as her expressive tones sends a cold shiver down your spine, if the design of the characters didn’t do that already!
The only point I would like to make, and this is by no means a criticism in the slightest, is that I don’t believe it is suitable for young children. It is rated PG, but it can be tense and some scenes can be quite scary. It is wonderful to see an animated feature that is not afraid to show a little darkness and I hope that the animation heavy-hitters of the world take note.
Kubo and the Two Strings is the only film I have seen at the pictures that I wanted to watch again straight after. As soon as it finished I was filled with such happiness but at the same time was distraught as I knew that I would have to wait for the Blu-ray to be released before I see this masterpiece again. I was going to give this 10/10 but I wouldn’t insult this film by giving it a score as its magnificence cannot be measured on any scale.