“Kubo and the Two Strings” is an extraordinarily impressive stop-motion film with a story full of humor, epic battles and emotion. The Aug. 19 release is not a film that should be overlooked.
Stop-motion is a style of animation where an actual crafted model or puppet is moved and photographed frame by frame in order to create the illusion of movement. This is a very tedious and difficult process, which makes the level of detail and the intensity of the action scenes in this movie all the more impressive.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” takes place in ancient Japan and follows a boy named Kubo who lives in a cave atop a mountain with his sick mother whom he must care for. When magical foes from his mother’s past find him, he is forced to flee to safety and to the care of an intelligent, talking female baboon called Monkey and, shortly after, a goofy half-insect, half-man creature called Beetle. The trio must go on a journey to find a way to defeat their enemies while struggling to stay one step ahead of them.
What is the most immediately striking aspect of the film is the design and animation. The setting is absolutely beautiful with deep, saturated colors and extravagant sets depicting a bustling village marketplace, a snowy plain, a dark cave and many other settings. From the moment the film begins, the world feels real and exciting. Many of the sets were actually hand-crafted models, giving the film an authentic feeling that can’t be reached with CGI. I found myself excited with each new scene to see what setting they would be showing next.
What is possibly even more impressive than the setting is the animation of the actual characters themselves. With stop-motion animation, many times films are limited to what they can accomplish when it comes to action because of the amount of work and level of difficulty it is to animate models in this way. “Kubo and the Two Strings,” however, shattered these limitations.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” can certainly be classified as a fantasy action movie as it has many intense and extensive fight scenes. What stands out about these scenes is how much weight and energy was behind each attack or landing. The filmmakers managed to create physics and action that felt impactful despite using still puppets that were only moving one frame at a time.
In addition to its stunning visuals, “Kubo and the Two Strings” also has a fresh and interesting story. The story was creative and surprisingly funny as it took the cliché destined hero going on a journey to stop evil story and added many little twists on it, making fun of it in a way. The interactions between the trio of characters were charming and their witty banter is sure to make adults laugh along with the kids that the movie was technically made for.
The only slight negative I have for the film is that the villains felt a little bland. While they were visually great and the fight scenes with them felt climactic and thrilling, their dialogue and motivations were a little lacking, but that could have been what the filmmakers were going for with their subtle mock of fantasy story tropes.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” is an immensely charming and visually impressive experience that is hard not to fall in love with. Between this movie, “Zootopia” and “Finding Dory,” 2016 is beginning to look like the year of high-quality animated films, and I am certainly not complaining.