Blu-ray Review: Kubo and the Two Strings
By John Corrado
★★★½ (out of 4)
“If you must blink, do it now.” These are the first lines of voiceover heard during the gripping prologue of Kubo and the Two Strings, and they apply perfectly to the film. You simply don’t want to blink during this visually stunning stop motion adventure, which keeps wowing us with its grand scale set pieces and masterful animation.
Kubo (Art Parkinson) is an adolescent who only has one eye and lives with his mother (Charlize Theron) in a cave, venturing into the town during the day to tell stories in the square, but not allowed out past sundown.
When Kubo does stay out late one night, he ends up being chased by his undead aunts known as the Sisters (Rooney Mara), a pair of malevolent ghosts who seek to do him harm. Kubo ends up taken on a quest accompanied by a monkey (Charlize Theron) and a beetle warrior (Matthew McConaughey), to find a magical suit of armour worn by his father that has the power to protect him. But they face multiple dangers on their journey, coming face to face with various monsters, and confronting a tortured family history.
The fourth film from Oregon-based animation house Laika, following their trio of Oscar-nominated films Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings is another thematically mature and visually stunning stop motion film from the studio. The first film directed by Travis Knight, the current company president who oversaw their other features, the film is brought to life through their signature brand of meticulously detailed handcrafted animation, with stylized puppets being moved one frame at a time on beautifully designed sets.
Kubo’s ability to craft origami that springs to life with his magical guitar provides some of the most visually appealing moments, with swirling sheets of paper folding themselves into small creatures that can do battle, which he uses to tell stories in the town’s square early in the film. A striking sequence partway through that unfolds both on a boat and underwater, brilliantly cutting back and forth between them, is not only genuinely thrilling but also masterly pulled off on a technical level.
Featuring some truly breathtaking animated sequences, and an emotionally resonant story steeped in Japanese folklore that is rich with themes of embracing life and accepting death, Kubo and the Two Strings is a visual marvel. Watch through the end credits for Regina Spektor’s haunting cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and a brief peak behind the curtain at the filmmaking process.
The Blu-ray also includes commentary with Travis Knight, the six-part “making of” featurette Kubo’s Journey, as well as the two additional featurettes Corners of the Earth and The Myth of Kubo.
Kubo and the Two Strings is an eOne Films release. It’s 101 minutes and rated PG.