I can’t tell you how happy I am after watching Laika’s latest offering- Kubo and the Two Strings. It is without an iota of doubt, one of the best films of 2016. It is also the directorial debut of Travis Knight, the CEO of Laika Animation Studios, which is known for producing some of the best stop-motion animated movies in recent times. They are here to continue what Tim Burton was doing. Their debut project Coraline was an amazing piece of art. I never thought animated movies could go dark but that film proved me wrong. It is the darkest animated movie I have ever seen; a brilliant adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same title. That film was highly praised by the critics and loved by the moviegoers. Of course, the mainstream audience didn’t like it much but it was brilliant. Since then, Laika has come a far way. They made ParaNorman and The Box Trolls which was nominated for an Academy award in best animated film category. Despite having difficulties in turning their movies into profits, Laika is still around and making films. This is good because there are very few people who still work with stop-motion. It’s very tough to make a stop motion film as it requires patience and hard-work. Most of the studios do not bother about it as they have CGI to do their job. As a result, stop-motion is almost non-existent.
Laika is different though. With Kubo and the Two Strings, they are trying to tell you that the art of stop-motion is not dead and they are the flag bearers when it comes to making such films. This film sets the bar for stop motion even higher. It feels like a CG animated film. So much hardwork has gone into making this film. Imagine working for four years on a single project and producing two seconds of footage every day. I can’t do that even in my dreams. So, let’s stop with the gibberish and talk about the film now.
Kubo and the Two Strings Review
First of all, I would say that this film is more suitable for adults (like most of Laika’s films) than children. Children may get scared because some of the parts are very dark and scary. In fact, I got scared during many scenes. The film begins with the following lines.
“If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned. If you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish”
The opening lines are enough to give you a hint of what’s coming. It sets the dark tone of the film. As if these lines were not enough to chill you to the bones, the film starts with a night sky, a full moon, thunderstorms, heavy rains and a tumultuous sea. In the midst of all this, we see a woman on a boat trying to cross the sea and take her infant to safety. She uses the magic to defeat the waves but gets hit on the head by a rock. She is swept off to the sand and we get to see a glimpse of the infant (Kubo).
Fast forward a few years and we see that Kubo has grown up and takes care of his mother who is not well. He lives in a village and earns the bread by performing with his magical origamis and instrument. One day, he accidentally summons two spirits from the past. These spirits are of his aunts from his mother’s side. Now, I must warn you that these twisted sisters are the scariest part of the film. When an animated film is able to scare you, you know the animator has done a great job. To defeat the spirits, Kubo must find three things. The rest of the film is about that. But there is much more than just that.
Kubo and the Two Strings works on many levels. It does lose some of the charm in the third act but the bucolic setting and dazzling animation make up for it. Honestly, I would have given it a solid 10 but the third act is a bit, lets just say – underwhelming. Overall, Kubo and the two strings is one of the best movies of the year. I seriously wish this film takes home the Best Animated Picture Oscar. It has got a great story, good voice acting and eye-popping animation. But I know, Zootopia will give it a very tough competition. No matter which film wins, I just hope Laika keeps doing what they do best- keep making such awesome flicks.