When it comes to animated feature films, most of the time anything that doesn’t have the names Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks all over the posters and trailers doesn’t get noticed that much by the general public and therefore is seen by very few. ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is evidence enough that there are many amazing animated films out there that won’t be recognised nearly as much as they should be because many people don’t want to leave the ‘safety’ typically associated with a big name like Disney animated films. This is an action-adventure that is by far the best animated film of the year combining great voice talent with stunning stop-motion animation, an emotional and thrilling story, and has plenty in it both kids and adults can most definitely enjoy. It takes all of the elements of animated films that you love, combines them, and executes them with near perfection. The film follows Kubo along with Monkey and Beetle who go off in search of some mystical armour they must use to vanquish the evil spirits that have been awakened.
You will fall in love with this film, the characters, and their relationships which drive this film’s plot forward, more-so than you will with Nemo, Marlon, Dory and other popular animation relationships. The story being told is one of memory, love, humour, fear, courage, strength and encapsulates almost every emotion imaginable in this one place, emitting them through the characters, scenery, and music that all play a large part in crafting this magnificent film. Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a fantastic protagonist and such a strong character that you instantly feel for and connect with within minutes of the film starting. His relationship and interactions with Beetle, Monkey, his Mother, and the briefly featured side characters that make up his village were all established with perfection to the point where you gain a connection to every one of these characters and feel joy, sadness, and fear for all of them no matter how small. Even the way the side characters in the village that are very briefly featured interact around Kubo and in the background makes you believe that this is real and you aren’t watching a fictional animation.
And the story that you are taken on through this fictional representation of Japan is amazing as there is nothing generic or familiar about it. Every step the film makes you feel like you are in uncharted territory as if you have no idea where it is going to go and it surprises you constantly and doesn’t hold back. There are moments of levity and humour, moments of darkness and fear, moments of action and excitement, and the way it is all integrated into this one adventure, this one character’s journey of discovery is simply flawless.
The stop motion animation used by studio LAIKA in this film is just stunning, the background scenery, the character movements and actions, even the facial expressions and intricate details have been so well crafted that the figurines come to life even without a voice attached to them. It all creates a beautiful visual style that i 100% prefer to see over the also beautiful computer animation style. It is a technique that plays into the story and the overall tone of the film in a way that no other animation style could emulate. It adds a sense of realism to the film and the characters where it is so crisp and clear that everything begins to look just 100% real. But there is no going past noting the amazing voice performances of the characters that are so integral to the plot and the emotion being expressed in the film. Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, and Matthew McConaughey headline this film as the trio fighting off the evil forces and they do an amazing job at bringing so much life and personality to these characters allowing you to understand them and connect with them in ways you wouldn’t be able to if they weren’t involved.
So in the end ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is an animated film that deserves much more attention than it has been getting as it is the best animated film you will see this year for both kids and adults. It is almost a certainty for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as nothing else comes close to what this managed to achieve in terms of story, characters, and animation.