When "Kubo and the Two Strings" began, I realized I was in for a treat. The fourth film made by Laika Entertainment, the studio that also released the dark and twisted "Coraline", charms and delights in this story that feels like an old Japanese tale that has been passed down years and years through generations of children. However, this story isn't anything you've heard before, it's original. Entirely original that it pays off. Well, for the most part. But, I'll get to that when I get to that.
The film opens up with seven chilling words, "If you must blink, do it now." The story tells of a boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson). He lives with his mother outside a village where he performs tales about his late great father Hanzo on his magic shamisen using origami which comes to life and moves to the music. However, he cannot stay out past sundown as he is hiding from the boy's grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), who has stolen one of his eyes and is looking for his other. One day, though, Kubo forgets about his mother's warning to stay out, and his found by his two very disturbing and creepy aunts (Rooney Mara). Using the last of her magic, Kubo's mother uses the last of her magic to get the boy away to safety while also using his snow monkey charm to come to life and protect him from the evil aunts. So, Kubo and Monkey (Charlize Theron) along with a beetle (Matthew McConaughey) set out to find the missing pieces of Hanzo's magic armor and to stop the evil Moon King and his two daughters.
The film is the debut film of the CEO of the company Travis Knight and I'm amazed by what he did for his first big project. The animation is gorgeous. When it needs to look beautiful, it looks beautiful and when it needs to look dark, it looks dark. It's a visual marvel, probably one of the best looking stop motion movies I have ever seen in my life. I also really liked the characters. I really like the relationship that Kubo has with the monkey which I feel is genuine. The two aunts are probably some of the creepiest villains I have seen in an animated movie in a long, long time. They both wear these disturbing masks in which you can't see their face at all and Mara's creepy voice seals the deal. However, I did have a hard time getting into McConaughey's character as the beetle. He's trying to be the comic relief of the story, but I just couldn't get into his performance because the story felt serious and adult and didn't need comic relief. It was a little tough. And now, let's get to the story, which is really incredible. I enjoyed the chilling nature of the tale and really loved the fight scenes that happen with the two aunts and the monkey. However, what holds the movie from being perfect is the last third. I'll try my best not to give anything away because this was a major problem. While the first two-thirds are incredible and I really enjoyed watching them, after a certain plot twist happens when the crew needs to find one of the pieces of armor, the film slowly started to slip away. The editing got very odd as the scenes just quickly moved on and they didn't stop to let the audience breathe the atmosphere in the movie. I wasn't a very big fan of Fiennes' character either. While I thought his backstory was understandable, I just didn't him finding creepy or disturbing as the two aunts which was strange considering he's played many villains before in the past like Lord Voldemort. Also, the film didn't give us an ending, it just stopped. I don't know if that was the intent or not, but it just made me feel empty. It was a major disappointment for me.
However, I still found "Kubo and the Two Strings" incredible. The animation, the characters, and the first two-thirds of the story are probably enough to keep me coming back. It's a real marvel. While I sadly fear, that film might become underrated in a few years, I hope that many people see this incredible film sometime in their life. It's really something to enjoy. If you haven't seen it, definitely check it out. You won't be disappointed.