You will no doubt know at least one film from the Laika studio. Whether that’s the recent Boxtrolls or ParaNorman or perhaps their biggest hit to date, Coraline. Well, Kubo and the Two Strings represents their latest outing and is the first to be directed by CEO of Laika, Travis Knight.
The plot of Kubo and the Two Strings can be summed up succinctly: A young boy, the titular Kubo, heads on a quest to find three magical pieces of armour that will protect him from his evil Grandfather and equally evil aunties (although calling them aunts is a little weird so his mother’s sisters sounds better). He is joined on this quest by a talking monkey and a talking beetle/human hybrid with very little memory.
This brief plot description does not do the story justice however, not by a long shot. In fact, it doesn’t do the film justice. Kubo and the Two Strings is a magical, wonderful fairy tale for the modern age. The writers Chris Butler (ParaNorman) and Marc Haimes (Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word) from a story by Shannon Tindle (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) have done an amazing job of weaving many smaller stories into the main plot.
Back stories, and some of the smaller stories, are told wonderfully with the narration brought to life with Kubo on his Shamisen and origami folding itself to the story. The animation is simply stunning, you can see the guys and gals at Laika have put a lot of love into the film. It is apparently the longest stop motion animation film at one hour 41 minutes (beating Coraline by one minute) and has the tallest stop-motion puppet ever built at 16 feet tall.
There are comedy moments that had us all laughing out loud, a very funny old woman from Kubo’s village at the start, but there is a lot of heart to this movie. Ultimately a young boy loses his parents and has to make his own way in life and the bravery and how we see Kubo grow up as the film progresses is wonderful.
It also has its scary moments too. The sisters, voiced by Ronney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Her), have a fantastic evilness to them, matched by the Grandfather, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, all of whom believe they are doing the best by Kubo by taking his eyes…
Art Parkinson (best known as Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones) voices Kubo with Charlize Theron as the monkey and Matthew McConaughey as the beetle thing. All of them do a wonderful job and it’s a credit that we were surprised when the names came up at the end. There’s also a nice little voice role for George Takei, see if you can spot his trademark “Oh myyy”.
What Laika have produced here is a stunningly beautiful, brilliantly told movie that will take you through a range of emotions but ultimately leave you in awe at its masterfulness. It looks stunning, the story telling is amazing, it has to be a dead cert at the Oscars…so it will probably lose!