Mar 8, 2017

[Movies] Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

I really wanted to be crazy in love with Kubo and the Two Strings when I first saw the featurette videos spreading across Facebook. I'm quite the sucker for good stop motion animation movies. But the animation in itself is but a part of the equation that makes for a great movie. You a good story to carry you the rest of the way.

Don't get me wrong - Kubo is a pretty good movie. But a the same time I'm not entirely sure if it's a truly great one. Yes the animation is beautiful and dazzling at times and there's a simplicity to the core story that can be considered to be elegant. All these are great elements of the movie to be certain.

At the same time it also didn't feel all that new - or maybe I've read too many fantasy books to the point that the story didn't feel all that original. I'm sure that sense of familiarity is because of tapping into myth and legends to some degree. Maybe it's something else entirely.

So I liked it but I didn't love it and that sort of bothers me.

Synopsis: Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop motion animation fantasy movie directed by Travis Knight. The screenplay was written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler and the movie won the BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects.

Our story centers around the titular boy Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young one-eyed boy in ancient Japan. Kubo is able to tell amazing stories that he brings to life with his magical ability to manipulate paper into various origami figures. The first story we see in the movie is his story of a warrior named Hanzo. The man turns out to be his father, or at least what he knows of his father based on the stories of his mother (Charlize Theron).

She had repeatedly warned Kubo not to stay outside after dark for she fears that her sisters and his grandfather the Moon King will come back to take his other eye. But of course one thing leads to another and Kubo finds himself out after dark with the Sisters hot on his trail. How he survives this and finds a way to stop them. And his best bet is to find his father's magical armor, although he has no idea where to begin.

What I Loved: I think anyone who watches this movie has to agree that the stop motion animation is of a completely different level from what we've seen in other movies. It's not beautiful to the point of realism but it's art in itself that does not try to appear as anything else. Laika has really outdone themselves with this movie and I can see how they were nominated for so many awards.

I can't get over the fight on the boat. That was amazing.

The movie does play out like an extended fable of sorts, complete with talking animals. And in that sense the somewhat simple structure of the story. And while I will also critique the story to some extent later on, that does not mean that there is absolutely no value in its story. And the tale does work out for the most part, at least when you focus on its major points.

What Could Have Been Better: It's hard to articulate the challenges I found in the movie. Maybe it's something along the lines of how the story may have been Asian in presentation and setting and yet still felt American on terms of pacing and how the story was told. The movie had all the right marks and signs and such but then when you put it all together it was like a grand orchestral piece with one or two instruments clearly out of tune.

Even for a children's story, it also felt very predictable. The Monkey literally had the same voice as the mom and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) looked a heck of a lot like Kubo's origami construct representing his father Hanzo in his stories to the public. So they really set up that reveal not to be a reveal at all. And bits like that just felt like it could have been handled better.

TL;DR: Kubo and the Two Strings is still a beautiful movie and it's certainly worth seeing because of the quality of the animation alone. And maybe my concerns about the storytelling are more my own, but the story definitely  has value. Thus the movie gets a good 3.5 beautiful origami creations out of a possible 5.

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