Kubo and the Two Strings: Japanese Folklore Meets Modern Storytelling in Stunning Stop-Motion Film
Brought to the screen by the same folk behind stop-motion hits such as Coraline, The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings has proven to be one of the studio’s most complex and sophisticated efforts to date and, while its seemingly dark and twisted premise may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying its sheer visual beauty and supreme storytelling power
The story is set on Kubo (Game of Throne’s Art Parkinson); a gifted twelve-year-old boy who spends most of his days entertaining the local villagers by spinning tales of a hero named Hanzo, accompanied by origami figures controlled by his magical guitar. When he’s not doing that, he’s taking care of his mentally-ill mother, Kameyo (Vaccaro), whose main concern in life is to protect her son from her villainous sisters (both voiced by Mara) and equally vengeful father, the Moon King (Fiennes).
Even though he only has one-eye – his other was stolen by his vicious grandfather a long time ago – Kubo is relatively content with his life, but dreams of one day leaving his village to pursue grander adventures.
One day, Kubo finds himself confronted by his villainous aunts who are set on taking Kubo over to the dark side and handing him over to the Moon King. With no other choice but to flee, Kubo, accompanied by his protectors, Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey), sets on a journey to locate a magical suit which will give him the power needed to defeat the Moon King.
Unconventional, breathtaking and definitely one of the most gorgeously animated features you are to come across this year, Kubo and the Two Strings is something the critics like to refer to as ‘the whole package’. Well, almost anyway.
Gifted with a rich premise, stunning visuals and a group of intensely likable lead characters, the amount of creativity and work that went into bringing the story to life is evident throughout. Expertly blending classic Japanese folklore with modern-day storytelling, Knight – in his first feature – also manages to pack his carefully-built world with plenty of colour and enough magic to last you a lifetime.
The voice-acting – as well as the character’s deeply expressive and animated nature – is equally satisfying, with the young Art Parkinson offering an endearing performance as Kubo. However, it’s McConaughey and Theron that come out on top as the goofy Beetle and the soulful Monkey respectively whilst Mara and Fiennes are pleasing as the story’s villains.
If there is a fault to be found that would be the movie’s slightly long running time, but besides that, Kubo and the Two Strings is a close-to-flawless movie experience that could well be heading for some unlikely Oscar glory.