Kubo and the Two Strings
Directed by Travis Knight.
Written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler.
Story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes.
Starting: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey.
Production Company: Laika
Kubo is a boy in Ancient Japan, who spends his days going out to the nearby village and creates stories through origami, which he moves through the music his shamisen plays. He then returns to his home in a cave, where his ill mother waits for him. He must always return before sunset, as his grandfather, the Moon King, and his daughters, Sisters, will be able to locate him, and will try to take his remaining eye, as his other one was taken from him as a baby. But one day he is late, and as such, his mother must use the last reminder of her magic in order to save him. When he awakes, he is surrounded by a monkey whose name is Monkey. Alongside Monkey, he encounters Beetle, a beetle-human hybrid, and together they go on a search for armor that belonged to Kubo’s father, the thing that will aid him in defeating his grandfather.
Kubo has become a critically acclaimed film in the weeks after its release, praised by critics and constant movie goers for the magnificent animation, beautiful score, and heart-wrenching moments. I have to agree with these appraisals, aside from some casting choices, some lacking aspects in the plot, and some editing, it is a story that ought to be watched by all that love animation of all forms.
What makes this film timeless and what some have called “a masterpiece”) is its ability to offer something for all audiences, whether one is a child or an adult. It is not as gritty as Coraline, or Corpse Bride, although the Sisters look very much like they came from one of those films, but much more family oriented than ParaNorman, and with much better development. Therefore, it provides the scariness and love usually made for children movies, that fill them with hope and aspiration; yet it carries a darkness underneath, everything from memories being able to change, to how family can betray us. I have yet to see Zootopia, but I was told it carries the same format, but the discussion centers instead on social issues.
Perhaps the best thing, aside form the wonderful animation, was how important the role of parents is. Oftentimes, in novels, TV series, and film, parental guidance is missing. There is no actual description of why they are not present, nor is it given much thought, except to point out that this has affected the main character, often in a negative light, and occasionally has a story of them going on a search for that parental figure. Little is it ever examined how parents, no matter if present or not, still affect us and shape us. In Kubo’s case, it came from a positive and negative side. We learn of his father and his deeds, and how he draws inspiration from them to do what he loves. Then we are transferred to his mother and her effects, as her past is haunting them both. But it is always clear that he was loved, and the stories told to him, as well as his mother’s demeanor, affected his personality.
My main complaint comes from the anticlimactic ending. If you expect a big revelation or developed end to the story, you will most likely not get it. Throughout the entire tale we are drawn to the mystery of the villain, and we hope that in the end, all of Kubo’s hard work pays off. None of this was shown to me in the story, and I felt cheated. After all of the hard work, the climax culminates in a disappointing blob. Now, this seems to be the one aspect mostly based on perspective, as most people did not seem to have an issue with it at all, hence, some might love the ending and others might hate it. I won’t tell anyone to base their entire experience on the last couple minutes.
Can companies, for the love of everything that is good in this world, cast Asian actors for Asian roles? The mainly white actors did a good job, but the doors for Asian actors must be open for them to be able to portray themselves, rather than having their narrative be told trough the eyes of others that do not share their experiences (even if this was a fantastical journey in which ethnicity does not play a part).
It is a film that will be enjoyable to everyone willing to give animation a try. For anyone that loves good character development, an interesting plot, darkness, and beautiful scenery. It is one of the best movies out this year.