Directed by Travis Knight
Starring Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey

“If you must blink, then do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see, no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away, if you loose your attention, even for an instant, our hero will surely perish.”

A young storyteller, Kubo, has his world plunged into chaos when the past comes back to haunt him. With his hometown destroyed by two ghostly sisters, he sets out on an epic journey.  Now with the help of an animated monkey charm (Charlize Theron), a samurai cursed with the body of a beetle (Matthew McConaughey), as well as his own growing magic, Kubo must begin a quest to seek his father’s magical armour. With it he hopes to defeat the celestial Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), who also happens to be his grandfather, before he can pluck out Kubo’s other eye.

The world created by the animation studio at Laika Entertainment (The Corpse Bride, Coraline) is utterly stunning. Using traditional stop motion techniques combined with CG gives a real sense of physicality to the characters. When the camera pulls back to place these in the context of the wider world, the effect is utterly jaw-dropping. It is nothing short of sheer sorcery. Add to this the richly realised Japanese setting of the film, and the fantasy elements drawn from that mythos, and Kubo gets good mileage from its distinctive oriental style and painstakingly crafted look.

The script and dialogue also feed into this story-book epic, as Kubo’s storytelling reoccurs often during the narrative (linking into the larger themes of the film) re-iterating the feel that this is a legendary tale. Art Parkinson (GoT‘s Rickon “I only run in straight lines” Stark) does a wonderful job as Kubo, balancing the seriousness of the story with child like wonder and a sense of theatrical drama.  Matthew McConaughey drifts a little too far into Robin William’s impersonation as Beetle, but manages to pull it back from the brink. It is Charlize “I too only run/drive in straight lines” Theron that really binds this together, as the no nonsense guardian Monkey. She is as tough as nails, but also the gentle incarnation of a mothers love.

All of which is not to say that Kubo is flawless. The pacing is a little off, it stretches a lot in trying to connect its overarching message about story-telling to the rest of the narrative, and it is hard to argue that Kubo actually learns anything from his journey rather than just embracing his destiny. However the film nails its final emotional beats, bringing everything to a satisfactory and tearful conclusion. Taken as a whole Kubo and the Two Strings is an achingly beautiful piece, dipping the audience into a richly animated world full of wonder. From the opening tale to Regina Spektor’s sweet clear cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, this is a film that will haunt your imagination.

A visual treat that will also tug soundly at the heartstrings.


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