By Cassidy Delahunty, executive entertainment editor
Before I express my opinion, I have to be completely honest; I have absolutely no clue why I haven’t already read hundreds of glowingly positive reviews for Kubo and the Two Strings, because it was one of the most well-written, beautifully animated and heart-wrenching movies I’ve ever seen.
At the very beginning of the movie, before you even know anything about the plot or the characters, the feel of the movie has a sense of urgency and excitement. The detailed expressions on each and every one of the characters make you feel for them before you even know who they are or why they feel the way they do.
The movie starts with a dramatic wide shot of a person on a small boat in the middle of the ocean during a storm. While this shot itself is definitely nothing new, the voice over seeming to come from a young boy, commanding you to pay attention, warning you that the fate of the hero is in your hands, that forgetting a single detail could throw the hero into peril, sets the scene for the whole movie. Whether it be the intricate plot, the beautiful, whimsical, and detailed animation, or the beyond creepy villains, this movie leaves you on the edge of your seat, not daring to miss a single element.
As for the characters, Kubo, a young boy with only one eye and a skill for magic, immediately made me fall in love with him. He is brave, smart, kind, thoughtful, talented, and optimistic, but he is also very real. He gets angry, he becomes bitter, he is scared and confused and a child through and through.
Unlike many young protagonists in recent movies, he is not somehow immune to the whims of childhood. He is not always brave, he is not always independent, and in the end all he really wants is to please his dying mother and his dead father, despite how little they are able to listen to him. He is not an adult in a child’s body, which is something that can be hard to find in a movie selection filled with dystopian worlds where teenagers act just like adults and children act just like teenagers.
Alongside Kubo is his loving mother. While it is clear from the start that she at some point risked her life to save Kubo, her past is mysterious, and she can do little to fix that problem. She is unable to act for herself during the day, only moving when Kubo guides her and only eating when Kubo feeds her.
She cannot speak and she cannot remember except for a few hours after sundown when she tells Kubo fantastical stories about his father. The mystery and magic surrounding her only serves to pull the audience further into the story, despite the fact that we know little to nothing about her.
However, not all the characters in this movie are as wonderful and kind as Kubo and his mother. Kubo’s aunts, his mother’s sisters, are darkly clothed, porcelain pale being with lips the color of dried blood who can speak without moving their mouths and hover just a few inches above the ground to further contribute to the puppet-like feel they give off as they whisper in high, sickly sweet voices as they try to convince Kubo to hand over his one remaining eye. The appearance of the sisters in the movie immediately signals that Kubo and the Two Strings is not a light-hearted kids movie. It is a dark, intricate story with villains that could have come right out of your scariest dream.
However, the two sisters are only the beginning of the magic and mystic of this movie. Without giving away anything, monsters and a force of nature known as magic are nowhere near the only villains this movie has to offer.
Even if the plot of this movie had been terrible, Kubo and the Two Strings would have kept me in my seat for the animation alone. While still retaining a unique style, this movie manages to make the same object look both real and whimsical in a single shot. Every aspect of Kubo and the Two Strings was brilliant, well thought out, and very obviously made with a lot of care and attention, something that feels unique in a culture where a fifth Ice Age movie actually exists.
I’m almost afraid to know how long this movie took to make because I can’t imagine such a quality production coming out of anything less than an entire lifetime of work.