This weekend, a new animated film premiered known as Kubo and the Two Strings. The film is from Laika, who has produced quality stop-motion films in the past such as Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. This film is something that is very special, and it has something that everyone should see. This is our formal review of Kubo and the Two Strings, and the Top Ten Reasons why the film will pass the test of time.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a wonderful film that I will recommend highly. It uses stop-and-go animation on an unprecedented level, creating an original story for its audiences. Unfortunately, it isn't doing so well in the theaters so far in its first week, but I believe that this film will pass the test of time.
1. Why Isn't This Film a Hit?
This film debuted as number four on the Box Office this week, making only 12 million of its 60 million dollar budget. The number one film was Suicide Squad, and Kubo was just ahead of Ben-Hur (debuting at number 5). The issue is that Kubo is unique this summer, as this is a film that is not a sequel or connected to an old franchise like a comic book or TV series. This is pretty sad, as audiences really need to be seeing something new, and Kubo is very new. There have been several animated films such as The Iron Giant and The Prince of Egypt that were not well-received at their initial release, but the audiences that bought the movie and grew up with it consider them classics.
2. Disney Would Not Make This Film (Major Spoiler Ahead).
This film is animated, and the last stop-motion film Disney made was Frankenweenie. Laika made this particular one, and this film isn't too family friendly. Granted, I took my 12-year-old to it, but I could hear a couple in the theater whisper: "this isn't a kids' movie". No, it is not, because it is more intelligent than that.
The film begins with a mother saving her child from a wave on the ocean, and then shows the child Kubo growing up and having a big quest. This part feels very Disney in its set-up, especially as Kubo meets an ensemble cast on the way, and his two companions Beetle and Monkey, each have a unique sense of humor. By the end of the film, the two companions are killed off. Yes, this happens, and it isn't too traumatic.
3. This Will Give You "The Feels"
Even though Disney and Pixar has had their animated films made to give their audiences "the feels", such as Inside Out and Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings has its own case. Not only is there intense drama with characters dying, but there are moments of sincere sadness. At the beginning of the film is a scene where Kubo feeds his mother, who is mentally damaged, and it is quite beautiful.
4. It Does Not Follow Traditional Rules of Filmmaking.
As I was watching Kubo and the Two Strings, I saw that the plot was slightly complicated. The opening starts with a sequence that doesn't have a "three weeks earlier" or other flashback, as it expects you to reconstruct the story based on what we are told rather than shown. Still, this film does a great job of showing it story as well. It really feels like Kubo and the Two Strings would be an anime, as it has the complicated storyline and clear Asian influence.
5. This Film is Rife for Fan Theories.
This film has some kind of holes in it. For example, the Moon King is an interesting villain, but it is not clear what his motives are. I can't tell if this is bad writing or whether or not the film really makes the villain this complicated. It seems he wants Kubo's eye, but for what? The Moon King wants to be dead, and apparently wants Kubo to join him. I had a hard time understanding this, and it could be that I don't understand the culture.
6. Origami Animation
The difficult with animation is showing something that we haven't seen before. In the case of Kubo and the Two Strings, it uses "origami animation". When Kubo plays his special instrument, it makes paper come to life, and it folds up and plays out a story. I would not mind at all if Laika creates a film devoted to this origami animation, and I would get in line to see it.
7. Complexity of Stop Motion Animation.
Speaking of animation, I have written before about how the animation is very complex. The post credit sequence showed a huge skeleton that is used in the film, and how painstaking it is to make films like this. I honestly hope that Laika can make enough money to stay in business, as they are just as good storytellers as Pixar.
8. The Issue of "Whitewashing"
I'll go ahead and mention this, but for a film with primary Asian characters, most of the main characters are white. Kubo is voiced by Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey plays Beetle, Charlize Theron is Monkey, and Ralph Fiennes is the Moon King villain. The film does have George Takei (who delivers his catchphrase of "Oh My") and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, but they are only extras at best. Considering the controversy of whitewashing, I'm surprised that I haven't heard anything about this particular film.
9. Sequel Potential
As far as any sequel potential is concerned, I have to say that Kubo and the Two Strings has almost no set-up for a sequel. In fact, the film is about the finality of death, and how it is time to end a story. Even if this film was as big as Frozen or Zootopia, a sequel would seem extraneous no matter what story they went with.
10. Next Film by Laika
Laika studios next feature will be an adaptation of Wildwood, and the book series takes place in Portland Oregon, the same place where Laika Studios is located. There is no release date for this film as yet, but it will probably take another few years, like two.