Kubo and the Two Strings Review


By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Why is it that we see so few animated fantasy adventures these days? You would think films like these would capture the imagination of kids and adults alike, especially adult kids. Yet, we have animated films like Zootopia and Finding Dory, both of which were great films. Maybe films like the aforementioned are what audiences want these days? But when an animated film comes along, bringing with it magic, monsters, heroism, and a quest, it’s hard not to get a little excited. Director Travis Knight is able to blend these elements together wonderfully in the latest animated adventure film, Kubo and the Two Strings.

We begin with a young woman, with a one-eyed baby in tow, happening on an island after a difficult sea voyage. Flash forward, and the one eyed baby has grown into a young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson). He takes care of his mother, and makes a little living telling stories with the use of magic to the people in the local village. Soon, however, his past comes back to haunt him when the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), who happens to be Kubo’s grandfather, sends his two aunts (Rooney Mara) to reclaim the boy and remove his last eye. Kubo needs to escape, and with the help of an animated monkey talisman (Charlize Theron), a human/beetle hybrid samurai (Matthew McConaughey), and led by an paper origami samurai representing his father, he will journey to find the three items needed to make a stand against the Moon King and save the world.


One of the first things you’ll notice about Kubo and the Two Strings is that the animation is different. You’re watching a stop motion style of animation, opposed to the traditional CGI animated films we’re used to seeing these days. This adds a different dimension to the visual narrative and really fits, making the magic feel more realistic for the story, especially when it comes to the origami creations Kubo is able to make. The action sequences also feel fresh and alive, and there are enough of these sequences to keep both older and young entertained. There is exposition in the film, but never an information dump, which cause some films to get that “dragging” feeling. In terms of tone, this film is nothing like the Finding Dory or Zootopia type of film. This incorporates humor from time to time, but looks at more serious situations, feeling much more, at times, like The Lion King with younger characters having to deal with death and sadness as a reality. This isn’t your typical animated film, and it stands out because of that.


This story is told through the narrative of Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, better known to many as Rickon Stark from Game of Thrones. Parkinson brings a liveliness to the character and, despite facing so many adult situations, is still able to demonstrate his youthfulness and have those “I’m still a kid” moments. We root for Kubo because of the difficult situations he has to face, because the love he displays for his mother, and because he’s forced to take on adult responsibilities at such a young age. We also love the heart Kubo has and the want to do good in the world, which is something I feel our world needs so much of in today’s times. Charlize Theron is wonderful as Monkey, taking on a motherly role. She’s the sole protector of Kubo early into his quest, but is also dealing with her own personal complications. Theron is able to bring a complexity to the character, showing the levels that a parent must go through at times with young children. McConaughey plays the samurai beetle man who has forgotten his past, but is very skilled, and knows he was trained by Kubo’s father so he vows to protect Kubo through the journey. McConaughey doesn’t necessarily have many levels early on, being more the warrior and comedic relief, but is able to spread his emotional wings later on as more is revealed. Ralph Fiennes is Ralph Fiennes, great in his bad guy role, and reminiscent of an animated, and maybe sliiiightly less evil, Voldemort.

Kubo and the Two Strings lacked the marketing push that animated films from Disney and Dreamworks receive, and the box-office returns will reflect that as well. However, this is equal to, or better, than the other animated films that have been released this year, and deserves to have its story seen. There are some elements that can be predicted as the story goes along, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from the narrative as it’s a joy to watch. The narrative is epic, keeps you entertained, is packed with emotion, truths, and realities that we can take and apply to our daily lives. Kubo and the Two Strings may not receive the financial credit it deserves, but it is a magical film in every sense of the word.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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