2016 was a banner year at the box office for animated films. Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, and Sing were all among the top ten highest grossing films in the United States. One film that got overlooked was Kubo and the Two Strings, which is a shame since it is an absolute delight.
Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of a young boy (voiced by Games of Thrones Art Parkinson—if that name doesn’t ring a bell it’s because he played the oft missing Rickon Stark) who lives with his mother in a cave outside of a small village. Kubo is not an ordinary child; he possesses special powers that allow him to create origami figures that come to life. He uses this power to entertain the village people with extravagant tales of a great samurai who needs to find three pieces of a mystical suit of armor in order to defeat the evil Moon King. We quickly learn that these are more than just mere stories, and Kubo is forced to set out and find the pieces of the armor himself. Along the way he gets the help of his monkey charm turned real life companion (Charlize Theron) and a samurai cursed to live his life as a beetle (Matthew McConaughey).
Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous work of animation. Seriously, just look at this.
While most animated features from major studios looks good these days, few convey a sense of style like Kubo does. From the art direction to the character design to the vibrant use of color, Laika Entertainment (Coraline, the Box Trolls) took their normally excellent stop motion techniques and dialed it up to eleven. However good it looks in still shots, it looks a thousand times better in motion. Visually, Kubo is truly a work of art.
Narratively, the story is fairly standard fare, which is elevated by being filled with magic, fantastic locales and memorable characters. It’s a world that you want to spend time in, the vast locales truly make you wonder what our heroes will come across next. The only other recent animated film that I got that same feeling from was Zootopia. Pretty good company to keep if you ask me. While the message may not be as poignant, Kubo hits most of the right notes and delivers a meaningful, if not wholly original, story. Kubo and the Two Strings is about the journey however, not the destination. And it’s definitely a journey worth taking.