Monday, August 22, 2016

[Review] Kubo and the Two Strings

LAIKA Entertainment has built quite a reputation with their signature stop-motion style and significantly darker animated features like Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. And now, the bold and mystical Kubo and the Two Strings valiantly continues that impressive streak.

The journey revolves around our title character Kubo (Art Parkinson), who spends most of his time telling stories with a shamisen and taking care of his ailing mother. The young boy's life dramatically shifts when a twin pair of malevolent, cloaked-in-all-black spirits are awakened with a vendetta. Along with the help of a charmed Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a Beetle warrior (Matthew McConaughey), Kubo sets out on a dangerous quest in search of his late father's magical armor.

After a relatively subdued beginning, the film warps into some thrillingly fearsome sequences. When the evil twins first attack, it's the stuff that nightmares are made of. There's also an eerie underwater scene where Kubo is helplessly surrounded by bottom-dwelling cyclops creatures. A sword retrieval mission in an ancient temple occupied by a gigantic skeleton is one of the pinnacles, playing out like an Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings scenario. But there's an abundance of beauty to balance out the menacing darkness, too. The visuals boast a series of gorgeously framed imagery, filled with stunningly unique production design: Candle-lit tributes to the fallen floating down a stream between mountains, a flourishing romp of energetic origami figures, and a tall ship made of leaves sailing in a mirrored sea and sky that looks like something from Life of Pi. And that's only during the first half!

McConaughey's Beetle character is a huge source of comic relief. The guy is a scream. In fact, the film itself is much funnier than what the trailers hinted at. As expected, the narrative also conveys some poignant notes that deal with the loss of family and holding onto memories. It all culminates during an intense and scary climax that recalls the themes of Coraline and ParaNorman in which a young child must confront a destructive supernatural opposition. The protagonist's true power is driven by heart and courage, and this is greatly uplifted with a glorious and chilling musical score.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a wonderfully told tale about the importance of wonderfully told tales. It's creepy, humorous, exquisitely dreamy, and highly emotional. It's my favorite animated film of 2016 so far.

* 9/10 *

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  1. I heard that it is wonderful. Your review tempts me even more to get out and see it.

  2. It's my favorite animated film of the year, too. I'm now worried about the Oscar nominations, though. If this and Zootopia are nominated for Animated Feature, then it will be some stiff competition.

    1. Nice!

      And yeah, the competition will definitely be stiff.

    2. Nice!

      And yeah, the competition will definitely be stiff.