Laika is a film studio in Oregon that focuses on somewhat of a lost art form. They do stop motion animation, in the vein of Ray Harryhausen who was known for classics like the Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts films of the 1950s and 60s. When you see a movie that they create, you may assume that it’s computer-generated animation (like most movies these days) but it will absolutely blow your mind when you realize that these are physical models that are being recorded one frame at a time. With all this effort, does the end product manage to impress?
We meet a young boy named Kubo (voiced by Game of Thrones’ Rickon Stark, Art Parkinson) who is being raised by his mother in a small village, on the run from his evil grandfather. During the day, Kubo travels into the village and wows people with his storytelling, accompanied by his ability to control paper with the strum of a guitar. However, things turn for the worse when his grandfathers’ minions find him and send him on an adventure, where his only help is from a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) and a samurai cursed into the body of a beetle (Matthew McConaughey).
Kubo and the Two Strings is a masterpiece. I don’t use that word lightly.
Let’s start at a technical level. This movie is gorgeous and vivid and full of color and all of that is made even more impressive when you consider the stop motion techniques they had to use to make this happen. The rippling waves of water, the ornate origami figures that Kubo can bring to life, and the massive monsters he has to often face. They all look stunning.
In terms of design, this movie is unrivaled. The cities and the landscapes all look fully fleshed out and detailed. The characters all have little details that make them stand out. This movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, managing to walk a fine line between style and substance. The movie I’d likely compare it to most would be something like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, another movie that managed to blend style, action, and adventure in a perfect combination.
Another thing that unites these two movies is music. The music in Kubo is vastly important, as it’s his guitar that allows him to fight back against these massive odds. The first time he begins to play and tells an adventure story to the villagers, my jaw dropped. The music is enchanting and perfect and manages to become a core pillar of this film.
While the story is a fairly traditional adventure story, it makes a few decisions that shocked me with how bold and nontraditional they were. It feels very familiar, but in the best way possible. The movie is about storytelling and essentially writing the perfect ending to a story, so the finale is especially poignant.
I’m five paragraphs in and still talking about stuff that I absolutely loved about this movie. I can’t dismiss the voice talent here. Carrying the entire thing is Art Parkinson, familiar to some of you as the youngest brother Rickon in Game of Thrones. He’s complemented perfectly by both Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, who both deliver absolutely astounding and deep performances.
What doesn’t work?
I really can’t think of much. You need to see this.
We need to reward good behavior. This is an original movie (in an era of reboots and sequels) and it’s done in an art style that is incredibly unique. Please go see this. It’s great for all ages, as adults will find it very touching but kids will love it as well. This is a masterpiece, with beautiful animation, great voice talent, and fantastic action.
Go see this. Now.