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So on Saturday afternoon I finally got to see Kubo and the Two Strings and wow! Oh.my.gosh. This film is AMAZING!! It deserves every ounce of praise that it is getting and is easily the best film I have seen this year, period. I can’t sing the praises of the stop-motion animation enough, this film takes the genre to an entirely different level. In fact, the stop-motion was so fluid that for 90% of the film, I forgot that this was stop-motion entirely (there are a handful of moments where you can see the tell-tale signs that the figures are being manipulated, but I’m not really complaining).
As for the story, oh wow, talk about a roller coaster ride! This story had more than it’s fair share of highs and lows. The film stars Art Parkinson as Kubo, Charlize Theron as Monkey (Kubo’s protector), and Matthew McConaughey as Beetle, a strange warrior-beetle…thing. The film has a heavy emphasis on dealing with loss, the power of memories and the meaning of family. The main villain of this film is the mysterious Moon King, an otherworldly figure that is after Kubo for the most dastardly of reasons (and when the full reason is explained, I gasped in horror). To try and stop the Moon King, Kubo embarks on a journey to find a legendary suit of armor and a sword that is said to be powerful enough to defeat him.
But we don’t meet the Moon King until well into the film; first we meet two of his daughters (and I don’t believe they have any specific name) and they are, by far, two of the scariest characters I’ve seen in a long time. In fact…
The Moon King’s daughters remind me very much of V from V for Vendetta because they both wear these smiling masks (that make them look really creepy) and they wear long black cloaks with wide-brimmed black hats. Every time I saw them, I had the nagging sensation that they looked familiar, but it wasn’t until I got home that I made the connection. I’m not saying it’s bad that they resemble V, just pointing out the similarity.
Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) are hilarious, especially when they’re interacting with each other. And of course, Kubo himself is the best character in the film; he cares for his mother, he takes on this massive quest and…. *minor spoiler* he learns to use magic.
Traditional Japanese music is front and center in this film and that is something that I love! A lot of the music is generated in-story by the shamisen that belongs to Kubo and his mother. A shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument that has three strings and is played with a plectrum (think of a really large guitar pick). As a film music scholar, I’m so pleased to see a film with non-orchestral music, as that is a rare thing these days.
A Japanese noblewoman with a shamisen
In conclusion, Kubo and the Two Strings is an amazing film (I keep saying that but it’s true!) that everyone should go see. After the less than stellar sequels, prequels and remakes offered this summer, Kubo and the Two Strings is a breath of fresh air. 🙂
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