Kubo and the Two Strings Review


Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey and George Takei

Laika is easily one of the very best studios working in animation today. They’re right up there with Pixar, Disney and Studio Ghibli (please come back soon). Laika always offer strange and wonderful movies. Coraline, ParaNorman and more recently The Boxtrolls have all been splendid, however, Kubo and the Two Strings might just be their best attempt yet.

Set in ancient Japan Kubo and the Two Strings follows the tale of a young boy called Kubo. He and his mother live on top of a high mountain, and every day Kubo goes down to the local village to delight the townsfolk with his incredible stories about the quest of a samurai warrior called Hanzo (who also happens to be the name of his deceased father). He tells these stories with the help of his magical shamisen (a bit like a japanese take on a guitar) and some flying and self-folding origami paper. The one thing he knows he cannot do is stay out after dark, but things take a turn when he’s inevitably caught outside after nightfall and his mother’s sisters come looking for him.

Kubo with his magical shamisen

Kubo with his magical shamisen

If you must blink, do it now.

Kubo and the Two Strings is everything you could possibly ask for from an animated movie and more. Firstly, it’s gorgeous. You forget whilst watching this movie that it’s all stop-motion animation. It looks that good. The set design is painstakingly crafted and Laika has managed to use light and dark very effectively effectively. A lot of this movie takes place at night, yet there’s so much colour on show: neon greens, bright blues, greens and reds, dark purples… It’s a feast for the eyes.

Like most of Laika’s previous films, Kubo and the Two Strings goes over some dark themes. You might want to think twice before bringing your child to see this movie, because there are some rather distressing scenes, especially the ones involving Kubo’s spooky aunties. However, it’s also a film that children should watch because it has an important theme, which is learning how to cope with grief.

There are some comparisons to be made with Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away. It really is that good in my eyes. Not only do the two films deal with the supernatural, like many of Laika’s films, but Kubo himself is shares many similarities with Spirited Away’s Chihiro Ogino, in the sense that they are both forced to be much older than their years and are thrown into impossibly difficult situations.

Don't get in the way of Bettle's arrow

Don’t get in the way of Bettle’s arrow

I have a question. If I’m Beetle and you’re Monkey, why isn’t he called Boy?

During most of his quest, Kubo is accompanied by Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey). The dynamic between the three of them is very touching and results in some moments of real joy. The bickering between Monkey and Beetle is especially amusing. The only problem I had with the movie was that there wasn’t enough of them, however, from the moment the three of them are together, you believe in their unique relationship.

Laika has pulled off yet another winner with Kubo and the Two Strings. Much like their previous films, Laika has successfully managed to tell a very dark tale, whilst making it accessible for children and adults alike. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, I loved the story and I loved the emotional journey it took me on. In short, I loved everything about Kubo and the Two Strings and in my mind it’s Laika’s very best film to date.

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