It’s a weird thing these days going into a film where I haven’t seen it all hyped to death. I’d seen trailers for Kubo and the Two Strings but I really didn’t know what it was about. I didn’t go in knowing what i09 thought of it and it wasn’t blasted all over Imagur. There just wasn’t much opinion to sort through beforehand, so I felt a little unprepared to actually see the film. It was like because I was going in blind and all my other senses were heightened. That made the whole thing that much better. What a wonderful film – I’m going to gush this whole review, fair warning.
I know Laika, the animation company that gave us Boxtrolls, Coraline and Paranorman. That was the one thing I did know going in. I love Laika so much, everything they do is beautiful. And, no exaggeration, every single frame in this movie was gorgeous. I can say that with confidence because every single frame was painstakingly animated. The amount of work that must have gone into this film is staggering and it shows. Film is a visual medium first (especially during the summer months) and they’ve got the visuals covered and then some. I don’t know what it was, but I saw this film in 3D and for once, the 3D seemed really effective.
I really want the makers of, say, Independence Day or Jason Bourne or Star Trek Beyond to have to see this film over and over again for a few days while strapped to chairs with their eyes taped open like on Clockwork Orange. THIS is how it’s done. The way you increase the impact of your action is not by bigger explosions, louder noises or faster speeds. It’s contrast, not volume; simplicity, not chaos. Admittedly Kubo gets this from the Japanese aesthetic here, so that means that things are a bit pared down. But it works so well, there are moments of silence and stillness and so where there IS action, I’m completely in the moment. Plus there’s actually so many strange and wonderful things to see, Kubo and the Two Strings is a refreshing change to the uniformity that comes with so many adventure films these days.
The voice acting is good too. I didn’t know who was in this film before I checked but the actress playing Monkey was amazing. Turns out it was Charlize Theron. Is there anything she can’t do? I liked Rooney Mara as The Sisters; they were so menacing with just a bit of otherworldly crazy. Ralph Fiennes and Matthew McConaughey were great too as Moon King and Beetle, respectively. I admit I wasn’t paying as much attention to the actors because I kept getting distracted by the characters and that’s a very good sign.
In terms of story and plot, Kubo and the Two Strings might have been a little too spare. Nothing was there that didn’t get used more than once, thematically. Things wrapped themselves up in a way that was a little too pat. While the climax of the film was emotionally satisfying, I felt like I was looking for….something else; some other resolution. But that’s a vague thing. Overall Kubo and the Two Strings played very well with how much information they gave verses how much they kept hidden and they did answer all the questions (to a point) by the end. Plus it’s funny, I laughed a little (amusing but not side-splitting) throughout the whole thing.
So is Kubo and the Two Strings worth watching? Yes, absolutely, this is up for my Movie of the Year. Take the family. While it’s a little scary in places, those moments pass quickly (and without psychological scarring). Also there were moments where the kids in the audience had no idea what was going on, but it eventually made sense to them. I couldn’t give details but the overall sense of wonder, so many things there I haven’t seen before, it’s such a treat. Do yourself a favor and go.