REVIEW — “Kubo and the Two Strings” (Second Opinion)
Laika has been the little guy on the animation scene for quite a while. They’ve been producing nothing but solid work since 2009’s “Coraline,” but for some reason this is a studio that just isn’t clicking with audiences in the same way that Pixar and DreamWorks are. This is much more of a Studio Ghibli-esque studio; a lack of commercial value and none will ever cross a billion dollars, but will definitely withstand the test of time and become classics in their own rights. “Kubo and the Two Strings” falls directly into that category, and I can say without hesitation that this is their best film to date.
The story begins with the titular character, Kubo, living in a cave near a small village, with his traumatized mother who is slowly losing her memory. Day by day, Kubo goes to the small village and tells the villagers stories of his late father, Hanzo, a warrior who sacrificed himself for Kubo and his remaining eye. These stories are all that Kubo has of not only his father, but his entire past. It’s what he clings onto as he continues to discover who he is, and what he’s meant to do. Not much later, his village is attacked and his mother is seemingly lost. He wakes up in a heavy snow, with a talking Monkey (Charlize Theron) telling him that they have to move.
From there forward, we have our general adventure. We meet Matthew McConaughey’s Beetle along the way, who has also lost his memory and believes himself to be an apprentice to the late Hanzo. Kubo’s goal is to find armor and a particular sword, in order to defeat his Grandfather/The Moon King, who wants to take Kubo’s remaining eye. Throughout this journey you get about what you’d expect; monsters, traps, seas, and lots of action. The animation for all of these landscapes and creatures is nothing short of mind blowing, and is one of the greatest cinematic accomplishments of 2016. Not only from a story perspective, but even just strictly visual this has to be one of the most mind blowing animated features I’ve seen in my life. (Stay for the credits and you’ll see a cool behind the scenes of the making of a particularly great scene!)
Aside from all of the incredible imagery and set pieces that this film has to offer, the best thing about it is easily it’s heart and message. I won’t spoil a lot of the metaphors and twists that the film has, but it’s genuinely sincere and incredibly touching to see a family film that deals with such broad themes such as life, love, death, and how our parent’s influence our lives even after they’re gone. They’ll always live inside of us, and they help shape us into who we are, and what we’re destined to become. It truly feels as if it’s coming before its time; the rare family film that pushes boundaries and is painfully true, heart-wrenching, and near perfect. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and I have a hard time believing Laika will be able to top it any time soon. 4.5/5.
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