Kubo and The Two Strings Review - Spectacular, An Epic Masterpiece

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Kubo and the Two Strings, from Laika Entertainment and Focus Features, present an ancient tale of epic proportions as a boy and his mother flee from her sinister family who desire to crush the magic that empowers them with greatness.

Directed by Travis Knight, Kubo and The Two Strings, stars the voice talent of Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rooney Mara, Brenda Vaccaro. The screenplay was written by Chris Butler and Marc Haimes adapted from the story by MArc Haimes and Shannon Tindle.

Kubo and The Two Strings begins with a heroic escape. In terror a woman is fleeing, trying to reach a safe shore she has taken to the sea, evil speeds after her with the gale force winds building a billowing, crushing, tide wave.

With only a beaten banjo and a bear tooth bone pick, she raises her hand and with authority hits the strings. A light beam bursts from the two strings separating the waves and her weakened wooden raft is tossed ashore. From a covered bundle the sounds of a baby crying.

The woman, voiced by Charlize Theron, crawls to the bundle and uncovers the baby.

Kubo and the Two Strings fast forwards as Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, wakes and cooks breakfast for himself and his mother who is weak. The two watch the sun rise from the cave dwelling where they can see throughout the valley and beyond the horizon as she, ever watchful, knows the enemy that drove them to the cave, will return.

Today, she sends Kubo off the village where he tells magical stories as the villagers gather. He is also learns from Kameyo, voiced by Brenda Vaccaro, soon it will be Festival of Lights and a time for the villagers to call upon their lost loved ones, pray for comfort and light the lamps which will guide the love one’s home.

Kubo, as always, must return to his home and the protection of his mother before nightfall. While he has been warmed, this night as the villagers call on their loved ones, he sets up his light and calls upon his dad hoping also.

As the sun sets the valley is covered with a blanket of darkness. Kubo looks around as the chill of evil envelops him. Suddenly he sprints, running through the forest as tendrils of evil, smoke filled hatred follow him, he screams for his mother who suddenly appears.

The sisters, voiced by Rooney Mara, laugh at her in her weak state. She was once the fiercest of warriors. Now, apparently love lost and hatred have taken its toll, they think.

The clash of sister against sister as one protects her son and one seeks to kill him creates a cataclysmic battle. With the last of her power she transfers her power into her son and told to fly away to find the empowered magic armor worn her his father.  When the storm passes and he wakes, he is in the far lands with only Monkey, also voiced by Charlize Theron, to keep him safe.

What follows as he searches to find the armor of his father, is nothing short of brilliant. As he beings his quest, with only the long haired monkey to accompany him, his safety is paramount and her main objective is to protect him.

Soon they make the acquaintance of Beetle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, another who has also been banished and transformed. Part of his enslavement is the loss of position, awkwardness and needy with a sense of humor.

The trio encounter various challenges of greater intensity and magnitude as the quest moves closer to completion. Conquering the incremental tests require victory over an impressive battle scene.  The battle scenes each equally impressive are created to increase in significance, impact and implication.

And finally, there were three lonely, lost, souls on a quest of discovery, understanding, growth, and reunion working to find their way home.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kubo and The Two Strings. The animation is crisp and sharp with explosive colors sequences and as it is in 3D the scenes pop off the screen.

Laika animation usually utilizes the Stop Motion form or style of animation. Kubo and The Two Strings is a combination of stop motion, CGI animation and 3D printing to create the spectacular sequences that fill the screen and capture the attention.

It is masterful endeavor and magnificent in scope. The epic scenes, tidal waves, storms, underwater, monsters, all very distinctive and impressive.

Technically, building the monsters and even the simple sequences, the intricacies of the molds of which each expression requires a new mold is meticulously crafted and stunningly accurate. I don’t think there was one lull or misstep. Each sequence was perfection.

The story is unique and offers both an intriguing refreshing fable, and also a cultural experience as ancient customs are presented with authenticity. The dialogue is genuine and children will be carried into the heart of the journey.

I did wonder should the voice talent delivery should be more reflective of ancient culture. I suppose that critique is influenced from other creative decisions it is expected that Asian culture reflect the wisdom and slow to speak.

An extraordinary film, Kubo and The Two Strings is dramatic and eye catching! Expect it to be shortlisted come award season.

Kubo and The Two Strings opens August 19, 2016 everywhere. Check local listings. 

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