Ages 11 and under
Travis Knight takes the director’s chair under the same studio that created other stop-motion spectacles such as Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Except this one stands out far greater than the others, as Kubo and the Two Strings uses a classical story to make a tribute to the art of storytelling, in the form of Japanese clay puppets and the old forgotten art of origami.
Never before has a story about a one-eyed lonely boy feeding his spiritually lost mother felt so captivating for a contemporary audience. This little restless wanderer takes his journey toward self-worth to a much greater level, as he treats us to a story told within a story with his origami figures, the strings of these puppets controlled by the strings of his musical instrument. Just one sound of the strum, and the paper folds itself to tell of a Moon King who takes a samurai and his family. But young Kubo is not satisfied with his life, as he longs to find his lost father, who he’s been told was once a mighty warrior.
All other strides taken by the animators to generate this moving picture are worth the attention of all worldwide art academies. These artists know how to fluidly combine the techniques of stop-motion animation and computer generated imagery in a way that services the artistry rather than the technicality. I am now officially won over upon the concept of combining CGI with Claymation, as everything in the frame of this feature flows and blends together seamlessly, making it impossible to tell what is CGI and what is practical. Kubo is a remarkable feat for 3D viewing.
The moments of spectacle in the near-two-hour run time include a moonlit ocean wave split in half, a big scary skeleton with glowing eyes, a large underwater sea creature with a circular mouth, a swordfight with a monster from the afterlife, and two frightening looking ladies who appear merged from V for Vendetta and the twins from The Shining.
With such a love toward the history of storytelling, it’s a shame that the story itself needed some fine tuning here and there, particularly in the second act.
After some serious drama, Kubo winds up in some other world coated in snow, a monkey there to greet him. Here is where Kubo begins to feel tonally different from how it was marketed.
The next hour contains an excess of humor that for the most part falls flat. The conflict is there between the boy and the authoritative monkey, but by jokes that suggest a genre not previously established. To make it worse, Kubo and the monkey later meet with a beetle who has no memory of his past life. Almost all of his dialogue contains jokes that would get on anybody’s nerves like the class clown you had in fourth grade. The voices of these two mentors to the boy are voiced by Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, neither of which are that terribly fitting with their parts. But Theron does actually have her moment as she gets to tell a story to Kubo in the classical warm tone as told through memory. I’d also like to add that there is a plot twist involving these two figures, but it’s one of those twists you could have easily guessed.
This film’s theme supports the belief of Buddhism, which includes reincarnation and praying to ancestors. If you, like me, are of a Christian or other religious belief, it might be offensive to you. But on the plus side, strong bonds in the feature are made between mother and son, offering children an important moral on the importance of storytelling from generation to generation.
I always enjoy a good stop-motion film now and then; it’s such a shame there isn’t nearly enough of them being made nowadays. I think innovative forms of animation such as this one add significantly more meaning and artistry to storytelling, much more impactful than the computer animation we’ve gotten way too used to. Now look, I still enjoy CGI as much as the next guy, but I also enjoy a little variety.
This story about stories reveals to us why we go to movies: the stories told reveal our true selves, including which ones appeal to us and which ones we choose to tell. Stories, especially in movie format, live on past our own lives through constant retellings.
From what I can tell, many of us seem to be worried about the way our own lives will live on past our deaths. We want so desperately to make a significant impression on the world that we do whatever it takes to make the most out of the little time we have here. This could mean making ourselves known to everyone around us with our wealth and achievements.
Trying to tell the best stories with our lives seems nearly unobtainable, especially when we consider what will happen to us after we die. So many world religions offer a completely different idea of what lies on the other side: Do we become reincarnated? Is there a purgatory? Do we go to Heaven in account of our good deeds done on earth? Many people get so concerned about what’s on the other side that they seek after the most their 80 or so years spend alive.
It can be especially worrisome for somebody with Autism, wondering whether they will successfully make the most of this life.
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The parents may be a bit more concerned about this than the kids, but it’s no secret that the world habitually does not favor as much the eternal impact of an autistic child as the impact of a non-autistic child.
I have certainly felt this way countless times, especially while in high school. For the greater part of these three years, I wasn’t sure if I was really genuinely the best at something like the others were, or if my lack of healthy friendships meant that I was going to be lost among the pack. Now, I hope you don’t mind me sharing my religious views that helped give me hope. If you do not wish to read, please feel free to scroll past the next paragraph.
I grew up in a Christian home, going to church every Sunday. Right from a young age I was taught that Jesus was the way and the truth and the life, and that we are all sinners in need of repentance. There is nothing that we can do to earn God’s forgiveness of our sins, which is why he sent his son to die for us, so that we may approach him, confessing ourselves as sinners, and receiving God’s unconditional grace. Then and only then do we have hope of what our purpose in life is, and have affirmation that this life is not all that we have. Past our deaths is a reward far greater than we could ever dream of: an eternity spent with our creator in Heaven, free of sin, free of sickness, free of hatred, and free to worship Him.
It took me some time to understand how to find my purpose in living, and how my story can live on past my own death. What I discovered through my religion is that everybody has purpose. Everybody has a story worth telling. You don’t need to be a former drug addict or a great leader to have a memorable story to tell. Your story could be just about how you show love to your family.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to follow my religious beliefs, I am not trying to forcefully convert anybody here. All I am saying is that there are simple things that you can do to remember that you have a purpose in the world. Just like what Kubo and the Two Strings teaches, our stories will live on with retelling after retelling, which majorly happens through our loved ones.
- Tell a story to all your loved ones. By this, I mean tell them about a time you were younger and had to do something really difficult. It may seem like nothing to you, but from the perspective of those hearing the story, they’ll want to tell everyone. Just trust me on this.
- If you have autism or know somebody with autism who is down on feeling of use in the world, find ways to get involved in the community.
- Try going to church. Just once. It may be absolutely embarrassing and humiliating for you to step within the doors of a church, but it will be worth it, no matter how it turns out.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Focus Features. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS - Official Trailer 3 [HD] - In Theaters August 19. Digital image. YouTube, 28 Apr 2016. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9tDqmOPmto>.
Kubo the Movie. Focus Features. Web. <https://www.kubothemovie.com/>.
Robinson, Tasha. Inside Laika studios, where stop-motion animation goes high tech. The Verge. Vox Media, 18 Aug 2016. Web. <http://www.theverge.com/2016/8/18/12500814/laika-studios-behind-the-scenes-kubo-and-the-two-strings-video>.