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Kubo & The Two Strings – Review


Release Date: 19 August 2016 [USA]
Director: Travis Knight
Writer: Marc Haimes - Chris Butler [Screenplay]
Cast: Charlize Theron - Art Parkinson - Matthew McConaughey



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Posted September 12, 2016 by

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Kubo & The Two Strings Review:

Kubo & The Two Strings opened by challenging a skeptical me with the daring lines, ‘if you have to blink, do it now’; my eyes were watering unbearably as the credits rolled and that wasn’t just because it forced me to keep them open.

The challenge of this staring contest with the screen succeeds in two different ways over the ninety minutes. The first was the immediate attention drawn to our visual stimuli. It’s easy to underappreciate what’s going on onscreen during a film, something Kubo hopes to avoid by not just drawing attention to it, but delivering a beautiful production with Laika’s signature flawless stop motion animation. Someone might question what I could possibly produce if I only resulted in a practical output of three seconds a day, but Laika could confidently answer ‘3 seconds of cinematic beauty’; it takes a long time to shoot stop motion, but it flows so fluently that any apparent frame rate fluctuations are a rarity; it’s a perfect blend of looking real while simultaneously magnifying beauty with animated textures and colours.

The second is, like Kubo’s magical, musical tales, the fluency and allure in execution of the story. Though the plot itself is less than revolutionary, a simple ‘find this, this and that’ flick to stop the big bad, writers Marc Haimes and Chris Butler deliver it with such breezy pacing and stylish foreshadowing it’s like they’ve picked up the ‘Screenplay Cookbook’ and followed the recipe to a tee. Each character is strong in their own right. Mcconaughey’s Beetle is surprisingly hilarious with the Alright Alright Alright delivering his lines with expert comedy timing. Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron put in good shifts as yet more strong female characters in Hollywood and Art Parkinson brings a charm and lovability to the titular character. How many films struggle to create characters that the audience can care about and Laika have created several made out of paper is a big statement for the future of animation.

Kubo’s weaknesses are only weaknesses when considered against greats. It’s a film that certainly focuses on its visuals so Travis Knight’s direction doesn’t stick out as anything more than serviceable to the overall product. The tasks that face Kubo and the gang are designed to move the plot along rather than give it any oomph and a lot of the ideas communicated might fly right over kids’ head. ‘Do not fidget’ says Kubo in his opening monologue; tell that to the four year old watching a Shinto-inspired ritual to resurrect the spirits of the dead.

But it is ultimately Kubo’s ideas that make it a special film. Anthony Burgess’ character Alex DeLarge famously says in Kubrick’s a Clockwork Orange, It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.’ Indeed, cinema is a companion for many of us to reflect the real world, its beauties and its problems. Kubo is a tale about humanity and the depth of its imperfections. “For every horrible thing here” says Kubo, “there’s something else much, much better.” It’s not only a reassuring hand on the shoulder to anyone suffering but also, conforming to its opening order of don’t blink, a real eye opener to delicacy of everything around us, perfectly captured in the charming stop motion visuals and sets. It’s an emotional ride, bravely melancholic for a film that will undoubtedly attract the youngsters, but those parents who turn up to appease their kids will soon put down their phones when they realize there’s a lot more going on here than in the Teletubbies.

The film then is a reminder of why many of us love the movies. After a disappointing 2016, both in terms of cinema and of the wider world as a whole, there’s still hope out there. For every terrible thing like Suicide Squad, there is apparently, with Kubo and the Two Strings, something much, much better.


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Written By:


Kieran Rae
Freelance Contributor

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