What is it?
Based on the Original story by Shannon Tindle, Kubo and the Two Strings is a 3D stop-motion film created by Laika, the same company that made Coraline (2009), ParaNorman (2012), and The Boxtrolls (2014).
Oh, where to begin. Watching this movie, I could feel the love the creators must have had for it. The entire movie was graphically stunning. From the sets to the characters, color pallets to the animation, everything seemed to have been considered for the final feature.
The movie’s sets, such as the oceans, at times felt so fluid and alive that they felt like they could pass as computer generated (CG). After the movie, it occurred to me that that these sets were all real, tangible pieces of individual artwork that were created and used to tell a larger story. Even though this is ‘typical’ of a stop-motion animation, it makes the whole movie (and medium) that much more amazing to think about.
Another cool thing I noticed, was that since the movie is set in a more traditional Japan, I was very happy about the color pallet that Laika used. Just as you wouldn’t expect to see neon colors in a western, the colors of this movie were more earthy, autumn colors. I felt it really helped immerse me in the story as a whole and helped me to get lost in the world they created.
As strange as it may seem, I have to say that one of the most mesmerizing parts of the movie was how Monkey’s fur moved. In general, all of the animation was phenomenal, but for some reason, I found her character movements to be incredible to watch.
It’s so rare these days to find an original story, and although feelings of belonging and loss with a quest for a 3-part object aren’t exactly new, the way the story was presented didn’t feel like anything I’ve seen, at least not anything I’ve seen recently. I also wanted to make a shout out to the main character being a young boy with a disability. Aside from How to Train Your Dragon’s Hiccup, there really aren’t any characters from children’s shows/movies that have a physical disability (although almost all of them are of slight stature or physically unimpressive in some way).
One of the main reasons I went to see this movie (aside from my excitement that it was a new stop-motion film) was when I found out that there was an exhibit for it in the Japanese American Art Museum. Lately, Japanese culture has been a bit of a fad here in America, but growing up half-Japanese, I’ve always taken a special interest. I was, however, impressed with how they created a story that was inspired by eastern culture, without making it feel forced or overly westernized, but still appealing to a western audience. What I mean by this is a lot of stories created here in the US about eastern culture have a westerner (usually America) come in and show an eastern country (some mash up between China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan – all which have their own distinct cultures) their ways in order to win some victory, in order to appeal more to a western audience. I am quite pleased to say that was not the case here, and the themes, ideas and stories were closer to human emotion than specific cultures or knowledge.
Even though it felt a bit gimmicky, I really liked how they implemented origami into the movie. Although I was happily surprised to hear George Takei’s (famous for playing Sulu in Star Trek) voice in the movie, one of my favorite quotes was said by Monkey, voiced by Charlize Theron, when she saw origami made by Kubo. She said something along the lines of “That’s not real origami, there had to be scissors involved.” Although I feel like it was a reference to how the origami characters had to have been made in order for the animators to articulate them, it reminded me of what my mother said to me when I was a child and learning origami, unsure how the paper would stay without glue and scissors.
The only nitpick I can think of (aside from the origami being a bit gimmicky) was the very beginning. In the introduction scene, I was taken out of the movie for a minute, wondering how one of the main character could have possibly survived being washed up onto the shore (as a baby). I was a bit disappointed that this was glazed over and never mentioned again, but about 15 minutes into the movie, I had forgotten about it completely, and was immersed into the world. It wasn’t until I started writing this review that I once again wondered about this introduction scene.
Overall, I’d give the movie a 10/10 star review. Although it does target a seemingly niche audience, many who see this film could easily mistake it for CG graphics or even a CG/Stop-Motion hybrid. Although this movie feels like it was created for children 7-14, I would extend the recommendation to anyone over the age of 7, as some parts of it do get a bit dark and there is some cartoon violence. I’d say this movie ranks up there with it’s CG competitors (Pixar and Dreamworks) and is a highly enjoyable film for the whole family (or date night).
After Credits Feature?
Personally, I always stay through the credits of a movie I like, I feel it’s respectful to those who worked on it. That being said, during the credits, there is a time-lapse showing the Laika team animating one of the massive characters in the movie. It’s pretty astounding to watch and it plays relatively early on in the credits.
What did you think of the movie? Please leave your comments below!