KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
Directed By: Travis Knight
Story: Shannon Tindle & Marc Haimes
Screenplay By: Marc Haimes & Christ Butler
Premiered On: August 19, 2016
Produced By: Laika
Distribution By: Focus Features
… There are few films, few stories, where I find myself at a complete and utter loss. It is not that I have no words with which to speak, or write as the case is, but rather… that I find myself with far too many. There are some tales that, no matter how original they appear in concept always inevitably fall to the stereotypical tropes and themes of what makes a story. Stories that follow the monomyth to such a finite degree that one can map out everything that is to occur long before it actually happens.
This film is not one of those stories.
True, there are some instances where seasoned readers or viewers of mythical tales of magic and fantasy can allude to some revelations that occur in the film itself, but I assure you that these assumptions do not prepare you for the story that unfolds in every literal sense of the word.
However… contrary to past reviews I shall not speak of the plot of this film in any details that would otherwise not be known by seeing the trailers save for one instance. I do this not because I wish to abstain from any unnecessary spoilers but because for all that I am as a writer, I am also one whom firmly believes in giving credit where credit is due and the only feasible way of doing that is to see this film for yourselves.
Produced by Laika, a film studio famous for many other wonderful stop motion animated films such as The Corpse Bride, ParaNorman, and Coraline, I had no doubt in my mind that Kubo and the Two Strings would astound me with its animation.
To my regret, I find that I had perhaps underestimated this film and now find such words as “incredible” and “inspiring” to be far too lacking in proper conviction. Say what you will of computer generated imagery and the ever traditional styling of pen and ink, there is a degree of dedication in stop motion animation that those other forms can never hope to attain and this film puts itself whole leagues above others of its ilk.
I am by no means an expert in origami as my own attempts at it in my younger days proved, but even so there is an undeniable amount of realism to the craft in this film. True, not every fold and crease is put upon display, when you see Kubo’s creations put to motion you don’t think of them as being impossible to create. Difficult to goodness knows how many degrees but nonetheless, very realistic and artful pieces of origami.
One thing that had me particularly curious was the choice of Monkey, or rather, a actual monkey to safeguard and protect Kubo on his quest. While I am not as intimately familiar with Japanese lore and mythologies as I am with others, I did not know of just how important a role monkeys, particular the Japanese macaque.
Monkeys are often noted as being mediators between the mortal and immortal realms with one god in particular, Sarutahiko Ōkami, is acknowledged as the God of Crossroads between the two realms and had even served as a guide to the child of Amaterasu-ōmikami, the goddess of the sun and one of the most powerful deities in Japan.
This makes it even more notable as the armaments that Kubo has to find to face and confront the Moon King all bear a certain solar motif to their design, complete with golden resplendence upon completion.
An interesting bit of trivia to be sure but what really intrigued me the most was the film’s primary antagonist, that being the Moon King who, in the final confrontation with Kubo, assumes a truly monstrous form. This, alongside a few other elements, was one of the instances I had mentioned that I knew was coming and was still surprised when it occurred not because of the transformation itself but the actual form that the Moon King, an admitted immortal and god, took.
Now, I know what you are all thinking. A god, particularly one whose dominion is that of the Moon itself, would take so lowly a form as that of an insect? No. No, that is so far from the case it may have shot right past the Moon and out into the stars.
In Japanese mythology, centipedes are to the valiant samurai what dragons are to chivalrous knights and are not just merely an insect of gargantuan size and strength. No, there are nigh godly in their own right and even the likes of dragons, whom are as close to gods as any mortal creature can become, fear their mortal and far more minute sized cousins, and rightly so.
Overall, I give Kubo and the Two Strings… ten out of five stars. It is a tale that is worth telling again and again with appropriate amounts of suspense, action, comedy, and yes even a dash of bittersweet, but then is that not what most endings of any story, even happy ones, usually are?