Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Like most animated pictures these days, there is more depth to the story than what is on the surface. Kubo and the Two Strings is no exception. There is the overarching story, typically aimed at children and designed to keep the story steadily engaging, as well as the subtext and lessons that are absorbed at the same time.  Being able to weave these elements together is an art. Considering how many growing minds, as well as parents and adults, watch these animated features, it makes sense for filmmakers to take the time to make them as layered as possible. Thus, causing future filmmakers to keep pushing the boundaries in terms of story depth.

In this story, Kubo is challenging his elders to consider paradigm changes that were initiated by his parents.  The pushback and resistance from those elders and the persistence from Kubo is a great message to expose children too. Societal views are always evolving and the only way to ease the constant transition is to be compassionate and forgiving. It is a good lesson, and portrayed in an compelling way in this film.

Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest project from LAIKA.  This visually stunning mix between CGI and stop motion creates resplendent images throughout the film.  At times it is hard to believe that the picture is comprised of stop motion at all. The editing done to blend the digital and physical elements together is just so seamless.  The techniques used allowed them to create some incredible textures.  

The story of a young boy with the gift to shape origami with his Shamisen seems like an adaptation of Japanese lore, although I was unable to locate one.  At first I thought that his instrument was an Erhu, not a Shamisen, since the Erhu has 2 strings opposed to the three stringed Shamisen.  It was not until after I started writing this that I realized the titular strings are actually a reference to the mementos acquired from his parents. 

Kubo and the Two Strings is an astounding vision into the future of animated features and storytelling. Considering the time and labor that goes into making films like these, I am sure it will be a decade before we see another.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Directed by: Travis Knight

Cinematography: Frank Passingham

Screenplay by: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler

Score by: Dario Marianelli

Starring: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Runtime: 1h 41m

Genre: Animation, Adventure

Distributed by: Focus Features


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