Stellar artistry. So this is about a boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson). He has already lost one eye back when he was an infant, but his grandfather is on mission to get his other. Kubo most locate pieces of a suit of armor to stand a chance of not going completely blind. Now this is the new stop motion feature from Laika Entertainment, and they have the stop motion animation game on lockdown. Seriously, the process of stop motion is so immensely tedious and time consuming that I cannot even begin to comprehend the man-hours that went into this. They’ve got something really good with Kubo, and while it’s a fairly simple story being told, all of the artistry that went into this is nothing short of breathtaking.
This isn’t Tim Burton and Henry Selick creating the tiny, intricate town of Halloween Town, they are actually going out and creating full scale models.
The story is not overly intricate, but not every tale has to be. It’s very straightforward and will likely be familiar if you have seen more than a half-dozen fantasy movies, or even heard your share of bedtime stories, for that matter. It lays everything out for you in the opening ten minutes with Kubo’s storytelling to the townsfolk, and it then proceeds to show you that story happen to Kubo. One of the coolest effects in this is Kubo’s special ability: he has this shamisen (an instrument that is similar to a guitar), and when he plays it, he can make paper do whatever he wants. It leads to some jaw dropping visuals, and I quite frankly do not understand how exactly they got this looking as tight and as seamless as they did. Just like in The Boxtrolls, you don’t fully appreciate the film until you get to the end credits where they give you just a small taste of the animators at work, and you see them put together a 10 second scene at 100x speed.
It’s something to behold.
I honestly don’t know how kids are going to respond to this, as there are a number of unexpected horror elements to it; there’s a scene pretty early on with “the sisters”, and it is something that is straight out of a modern effective horror thriller, which could potentially give children nightmares. There is so much style, great music, and attention to detail, it’s hard not to love it, at the very least from an appreciation standpoint. I would love to see a “making of” documentary on this, it really is that well crafted. The animation is the star, and Laika has outdone themselves.
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) ****
– Critic for Hire