movies: kubo and the two strings

kubo and the two strings - the quest begins
If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see...

The opening line of narration to Kubo and the Two Strings isn't just empty words, this is a movie you don't want to look away from for a second.

I'm completely and totally, madly, head-over-heels in love with Laika, the production company behind not just Kubo, but also The Boxtrolls, Paranorman and Coraline.

And this is their biggest and most ambitious movie thus far.

Essentially Kubo is a Japanese action adventure movie made with 3D printed, stop motion animation puppets.

Which shouldn't work, but as with everything Laika put their collective hands and minds to, the heart of the story of Kubo makes everything else not exactly inconsequential, but the spectacle always serves the story. And makes for some amazing moments.

I'll be honest I didn't even know this movie existed until about a month ago, and I tried not to see too much about it before the fact, wanting to go in pretty much cold (beyond knowing, as the poster shows, there was a boy, a samurai beetle and a monkey). And I'm glad I didn't know anything, so I'll be staying as far away from story as I can for most of this review.

Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first. This movie is absolutely stunning... from the first shot to the last, it's an amazing feast for the eyes (and the characters of The Sisters... I want collectible versions of them!). If I was going to quibble at all it would be to say that when the faces are viewed close up, you can see that they're 3D printed, there's a slight softness and graininess to some of the details... particularly evident in the lines on Beetle's face.

But I would much rather they use the 3D printing and be able to create epic numbers of expressions and props and the like than the opposite. And eventually the technology will catch up with what they're doing and the faces will be flawless.

There was also something about the animation that reminded me of old-school stop motion in a way their previous movies haven't... but again, not in a negative way.

What I will say about the story is that at it's heart it's about family... and about both taking control of your own story and knowing the power that stories possess. And that even stories with a happy ending can be sad (or vice versa, I'm not completely sure which it is).

I know that there's at least some authentic Japanese mythology thrown into the mix, and it feels like it all could be... but the majority of the story is actually a creation of Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes, and they've done a fantastic job.

Continuing the Laika/Game of Thrones cross over started in Boxtrolls, Kubo is voiced by Art Parkinson (who plays the youngest of the Starks in GoT), with Charlize Theron as Monkey and Matthew McConaughey as Beetle.

It's a beautiful movie though... sad, peaceful, frenetic, original and thoroughly watchable.

yani's rating: 5 paper samurai out of 5

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