There’s a split-second moment early in Kubo and the Two Strings, the young protagonist is scooping up pages from the ground – one takes a couple of attempts (like when you try and pick up a coin). It’s a fleeting detail, sure, but one of many that illustrates how far animation has come, and how every little notion can be portrayed. We know the excellence of the genre, but to be reminded at times is a glorious thing.
Magical Kubo, who had his eye stolen as a baby (an event we don’t see, the concept is shocking enough), enraptures us and the villagers, we all enjoy his spirited origami displays via his shamisen strings. The story is of course deeper than that, of amazing stories of old, the power of family sacrifices and respect, current life journeys with an overly-cautious monkey, and a samurai beetle, for instance. In its execution the movie speaks of story-telling itself, giving Kubo the opportunity to embrace his reality, memories, the future, and all. Like the majestic, vivid tone of the visuals, Kubo and the Two Strings tells it’s tale in an open, warm way, immersing itself in fluid, vibrant adventure and humanity.
Director Travis Knight and his ballsy, bravura bunch of film-makers, including a deliciously gripping, moving, smartly funny screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, have crafted a real gem here. What is also a blessing is the voice work. Recognisable as they are, the characters envelope the likes of Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, and Matthew McConaughey, without them being a distraction. Dario Marianelli’s score, beyond the strings of the title, is a magnetic accompaniment too, floats through the picture as beautifully as the colorful, textured squares of Kubo’s paper or the sun-coated landscapes.