Saturday, 17 September 2016
#60 KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
Starring the vocal talents of Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei and Matthew McConaughey. Written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. Directed by Travis Knight.
$60 million budget. Running time 102 minutes.
Set in ancient Japan, the story sees Kubo (Art Parkinson) the one eyed grandson of the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), hiding with his emotionally damaged and physically scared mother (Charlize Theron) in a cave to avoid the deadly attentions of his two evil aunts (Rooney Mara) who want to steal his other eye as a gift for their father, who took Kubo's other eye when he was just a baby. Kubo spends his days entertaining the inhabitants of the nearby fishing village with an extra-ordinary puppet shows featuring origami creations magically manipulated by the tune of Kubo's three stringed lute. The tale he weaves is one without an end, describing the never-ending battle between a samurai warrior and a monstrous dragon. During the night, Kubo tends to his traumatised mother and hiding from the ever searching glare of the moon.
However one night, Kubo who longs to learn more about his father - Hanzo, stays out too long in a hope to talk to his long-dead father and is seen by the Moon King who sends his two daughters after him. Kubo's mother gives up her life, using the last of her own magical powers to save him and sends Kubo off on a quest to find his father's magical armour. Along the way, Kubo is aided by a powerful magical monkey and a dim-witted but heroic beetle who team up to find the three items of armour that will protect Kubo from his evil Grandfather, leading to a showdown that is touching and visually staggering.
This isn't your usual CGI animated movie, this is model animation of the most breath-taking kind created by the animation studio Laika who were also responsible for equally visually beautiful Boxtrolls, Para-Norman and Coraline. It gives the film a wonderfully unique feel that is never less than astonishing.
From an artistic point of view this is a simply fantastic movie, one of the most beautiful I've seen in years, the skill of the animators and artists is peerless and elevates this movie into a different class. If this doesn't win an Oscar next year for Best Animation then I'm a Dutchman's Aunt.
Sadly, the story doesn't quite match the visuals, the quest it's young, one-eyed hero is sent off ends up being an extremely easy one to achieve and doesn't really offer that much of challenge, while the plot feels ill-defined and there's a sense that something is missing from the story. However the relationships between the main characters and the bizarre family dynamic that exists at the core of this film is refreshingly unique and fascinating.
One of the most visually arresting films I've seen in a long time, this was an immensely enjoyable film which only loses one point because the story felt a little flat.
My kids and I loved this, as did the audience of mixed aged kids who seemed genuinely captivated by what they saw. A superb visual experience that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Go and see it if only to see just how extraordinary model animation can be. In a word, breath-taking.