Big Screen: Kubo and the Two Strings

September 7th 2016


Kubo and the Two Strings is more than just another spunky kids film. It’s a visually stunning, brilliantly written exercise in the art of storytelling, and probably the best animated film that I’ve seen in years.

As soon as the voice of Kubo rings out in the opening scene of Kubo and the Two Strings, the film’s protagonist taunts the audience with a request: “If you must blink, do it now.” It’s an epic tone, fitting for the supremely and deservedly confident film.

When we meet Kubo, we discover that he’s gifted with a unique ability. He can manipulate paper into shapes by playing his two-string guitar. I know that ‘magic origami’ sounds like the worst superpower ever, but trust me, it’s actually pretty sweet.

After tragedy strikes, Kubo has to set off from his village to defeat his villainous Grandfather – the Moon King – helped only by an anthropomorphic monkey & a talking beetle.


At face value, the story is a classic hero’s tale: Kubo has to obtain three weapons of legend, and learn to use the magic origami to best the Moon King. Yet it’s done masterfully well. The film borrows from Japanese & Chinese folklore to develop a world that feels rich and exciting, just as Star Wars borrowed from Kurosawa samurai films to develop their own mythology.

And much like The Force, we’re never given an explanation for Kubo’s magical ability. It just exists. And by accepting that, we take one step further into the wonderful story the filmmakers want to tell. Coupled with some bittersweet moments – and a surprisingly adept comedic performance from Matthew McConaughey – Kubo and the Two Strings makes you feel like a kid again.

On top of that, it’s spectacularly beautiful, made all the more impressive by the fact it’s entirely stop-motion animated. Laika, the animation studio behind the film, is the James Cameron of the stop-motion world: refining the craft like no one else in the game. Combining 3D printing, traditional clay modelling and real human hair to give the models their authentic look, Kubo is Laika’s Avatar. It looks damn good.

The thing that makes this film so great, though? There isn’t a single department that drops the ball. The story and animation teams have worked together to seamlessly bring this clay universe to life. Kubo and the Two Strings is a timeless film that reminds us that we’re free to choose our own stories and, most importantly, to reinvent them.


Read more from James Ross

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