When a film has taken as long as this one to make, you understandably expect great things. With a stellar voice cast, and an excellent trailer, does 'Kubo and the Two Strings' meet our high expectations?
Laika, the studio behind 'Coraline' and 'Paranorman' brings us another epic adventure for a young hero. Kubo (Art Parkinson, ‘Dracula Untold’), a capable and charming Japanese boy cares for his ailing mother and performs for coins in the local village*. His stories and origami imaginings are the highlight of the villagers’ days, but Kubo never finishes his performances - he must be home before dark. The Moon King, the grandfather who stole Kubo’s left eye, will find him in the dark.
Inevitably, one evening he stays out too late, and his mother’s sisters find him - eerily voiced by Rooney Mara ('The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo') and so scary that children in the cinema were asking if she was gone yet. Kubo’s Aunts want to take him to his Grandfather (Ralph Fiennes), to lose his other eye and become one of the family. In the ensuing tussle, Kubo’s mother uses the last of her magic to spirit him away and bring his tiny wooden Monkey charm to life. To defeat his Grandfather, Kubo must find his father’s armour with the assistance of Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), dodging his evil Aunts and other dangers along the way.
The plot contains just enough complication to keep older children entertained, while remaining simple enough that younger kids can follow the basics. The one tiny quibble I have is that the plot is mildly formulaic and predictable. The voice acting from all is superb, especially from Theron; but what really makes this film special is that it is so clearly a labour of love. Stop-motion animation takes a really long time, and the sheer enormity of the detail that went into this production is mind-blowing. Monkey’s white fur ripples realistically with every movement, while Beetle’s extra arms could be anywhere at any one time. Every facial expression, particularly from Monkey, is so communicative and detailed that it garners laughs all on its own. When you consider that each movement is deliberate, each tiny change onscreen is the result of the animator moving a clay figure by hand, you can begin to understand firstly why these films take so long, and secondly, why they are so good. When you put that much time and effort into a project, you want to ensure the quality is first rate.
What really makes this film special is that it is so clearly a labour of love.
The end result is a delightful, exciting, and detailed story that will entertain young and old, and looks absolutely amazing. My expectations were certainly met, and I happily recommend you see it.
* (there’s a little treat here for ‘Star Trek’ fans – Ohhh Myyyy…)