Laika Animation’s cinematic track record thus far has been one that has yet to disappoint, starting with Coraline (2009), then Paranorman (2012) and the sublime The Boxtrolls (2014). However, with their newest undertaking, Kubo and The Two Strings, the studio team have embarked on their most ambitious project yet. Taking influence from Greek mythology and Japanese legends, as well as cinematic works like Clash Of The Titans and the films of Akira Kurosawa, this imaginative new adventure is a true stop-motion animated marvel and perhaps the best film you will see all year.
The film centres on young, eye path wearing boy, Kubo (Art Parkinson), who lives in a coastal cave caring for his mentally ailing mother by night and by day tells stories in a nearby village (using his magic to bring these stories to life with origami) to make money. However one night the dark forces that led to great loss for Kubo and his mother in the past are back to finish the job, and this takes Kubo on an epic quest, alongside Monkey (Charlize Theron) and an amnesiac samurai warrior turned giant Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), to discover his own power and vanquish these evil foes.
Rich in subtext and like a tapestry brought to life; Kubo and The Two Strings is a work of art with so many layers to it. The plot tackles many serious issues, the most prominent of which is the power of cherished memories even in the face of great loss but despite going to dark places the film is an absolute joy throughout. This is a story filled with hope and celebration and loaded with laughter and bliss, as well as poignant twists and emotional heft. Marc Haimes and Chris Butler’s screenplay is a masterful balancing of tone, which ensures this film is a real achievement that ought to appeal to all ages.
Boasting boundless innovation and imagination, this is a dream of a movie that features some of the most sensational stop-motion animation ever crafted. The love and care that went into painstakingly bringing this world to life, is evident in every frame of the film (see a post-credits scene that shows just how much work went into one key set-piece) and a beautiful score by Dario Marianelli makes for a perfect accompaniment, in a film that has you sat in enthralled appreciation throughout. Travis Knight’s movie really is unpredictable, sweet and just spellbinding in its visual, audible and written power.
Speaking of which, one of the integral aspects that keeps you captivated is a host of illuminating characters, with a host of superb vocal performances by a big name cast. Kubo (lovably voiced by Parkinson) is the film’s core and as an audience we are with him every step of the way, as are his eclectic accomplices in Theron’s maternal and cleverly written role as Monkey and McConaughey’s hilarious turn as Beetle. Then there are the film’s frightening villains in Raiden The Moon King (brilliantly played by Ralph Fiennes) and his truly terrifying daughters (both voiced chillingly by Rooney Mara).
All in all, Kubo and The Two Strings is practically faultless and utterly magical viewing. This is a movie that deserves to be discovered by a huge audience and if there is any justice it will propel Laika to be deservedly mentioned in the same breath as Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Kubo and The Two Strings is what cinema should be, an enjoyable adventure that carries you along, offering something truly enchanting and powerful to get lost in. A masterpiece.
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