General Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Hello, Spongey here.

There have been a number of animation studios to compete with the big dogs that are Disney and Dreamworks. They give us some nice variety and have made for themselves, and have made tons of money.

But…honestly, I don’t think any of the mainstream ones have quite matched them in quality. It’s not that I’m expecting them to reach Toy Story 3 levels or anything but the likes of Blue Sky and Illumation tend to make films that are…fine.

They have their own style, but they have their problems that keep them from being better, which I have gone over before. However, there is one studio that I think does great work more often than not, and could be a mighty force…if they made more money.

That would be Lakia. So far they have really impressed me, not only with how they keep stop motion alive, but with how different and awesome their films have mostly been. Coraline was surprisingly creepy and original, more so than most horror films these days.

Paranorman managed to get pretty deep for a movie of it’s kind, and it did the whole “gay character in a family product” before it was cool to do. The Boxtrolls wasn’t quite as good, but it was still fun, with the stop motion being as impressive as ever.

Stop Motion might my favorite of the three main mediums, if only because I never see it done badly and it’s way harder to do for obvious reasons, making it more respectable, even if the product is flawed. I don’t think I’ve personally bad a full stop motion film, and yes I know Hell and Back exists, but can you think of any more genuinely bad ones aside from that?

But that aside, Lakia really succeeds with the writing most of the time. It sucks that they aren’t quite mainstream, thus not making nearly as much money as the other studios. The latest mediocre Ice Age Sequels always rakes in the dough but Paranorman mostly just made a modest profit.

Anyway, if their films keep that same quality, then we can finally have our great Non-Disney animation studio. All this is why I was pumped for this film. When the first trailer hit, I was all over it.

It was interesting that they were branching out and basically doing a Japanese style epic. A bit of an odd choice but the trailers showed that they would bring the same awesome-ness to this one.

Especially with the animation, but I wanna focus on the more important aspects. Everything about this looked cool, and that’s why it was my anticipated animated feature of 2016. Yes, more than Kung Fu Panda 3 and the like.

I didn’t have some of the reservations I did for the others. This just looked like it would at least be pretty good. Now, I was worried that it could turn out like some films that look complex and epic, and just ends up being too simple or cliché. Like …well, Epic. Even though I still like it, mostly.

But I trust the studio enough. And I got pretty excited when the reviews came in, as this currently has a 94 on RT. Okay, I did recently learn that the 90’s aren’t as safe of a bet as they used to be, but that’s higher than all the other Lakia films so far!

Now, some reviews did so the story is a bit empty, but tons have said it’s as complex as their previous works, with tons of praise going toward it. And hey, 94 is still awesome. The other interesting thing about the film is that it’s directed by Travis Knight, the CEO of Lakia and former rapper.

Not making that up.

This is his directorial debut. Yeah, a bit weird he waited this long but this is quite cool. Of our two writers, one did nothing and the other was on Paranorman. That alone makes up for the other guy.

So, after all the hype, will this live up to their previous awesome works, or will it be another semi disappointment? Time to find out.

This, is Kubo and the Two Strings

ANIMATION:

Regardless of how you feel, everyone will say this element stands out the most, and for good reason. Stop Motion is already respectable, and Lakia can really make it strong, and this has to be their best work in that regard.

The puppets a bit more realistic than before, and have unique designs. Their moments are really fluid and never feel like jittery like in other stop motion products. Honestly, I sometimes they were stop motion, they moved so well.

But even when I remembered they were, it’s not bad because their stop motion charm makes them better. The general style is really cool and like their previous films, they add in extra details to make the visuals pop.

Especially when Kubo breaks out his guitar. They do some really dazzling things with that, even fit in some origami in there. The stop motion is blended in with the minor CG elements too. Yeah, some people may take issue with stop motion films using more CG, but it’s mostly a tool with stop motion creating the most important elements.

Lakia is great at blending them and this is no exception. The animation works on all levels, from the character moments to the big set pieces. There’s a skeleton in this that must have taken a long time to make, and he looks awesome.

There’s no real fault in the animation, as everything is detailed and fluid, with some effects that create some truly dazzling visuals. This studio really pushes the boundaries of what stop motion can do, and this film really shows that with all of what it does.

So yeah, the animation is very strong here.

WRITNG:

In Ancient Japan, an eyepatch-wearing young boy named Kubo cares for his sick mother in a village. A spirit from the past turns Kubo’s life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo. In order to survive, Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor once sought by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.

When it comes to the writing of a film, I judge it in a different than most would. A lot of people seem to focus on the story itself, or by unique the main elements are. Depending on the film. I’ll judge the writing on various levels.

But a lot of the time, a film will use a typical strutuce, or cliché elements in order to do something even great. Finding Dory for example used the struruce of the it’s predorocser, to get itself to a well told story about Dory, with neat themes along the well.

In other words, I focus on how the story is told rather than the basic plot on paper. If the story is told in a very safe way like with say Rachet and Clank, then that will be the problem more than anything else.

As you can guess, that ties into the film. The story may not stand out at first, but the actual writing manages to be pretty solid and leads to some great things. In essence, the film is about stories.

Kubo tells stories to the villagers, and the film is structured a bit like a classic hero’s journey story. The stories being told here become important to the characters, and lead to the greater development.

A lot is in the details, some of which I can’t spoil here. Stuff like what the spirit from the past and why the characters do what they do are well done and quite interesting in execution. I like how the sick-ness Mom has involves her sometimes forgetting things. I don’t know, stories where the kid has to take care of the their parent hook me in, because there’s already a great tragedy there.

The little details really make the writing strong in places, and the story is told in an interesting way. With all that said, some parts can feel under cooked. The typical structure may bother others, and some elements still end being slightly cliché.

Some parts can feel rushed to, like when Kubo is thrust into the adventure the way he is, and of course the ending could have dragged on a bit more even if is mostly satisfying. A lot of these details aren’t too important to me, but they may be to some.

There are reviews that say it can be a bit typical in the story department. I will freely admit the story isn’t as immediately compelling like other films, but I wouldn’t call the story itself “weak’. If it has a charm in how it is, because it is told like the kind of classic story Kubo tells here.

And as I said, the details make the writing itself solid. Maybe it’s not as multi layered and deep as something Paranorman but it’s still as good as their previous works, if you really look into the interesting details.

As I said, some of them are spoilers, so I can’t go too into them here. I can say certain elements are well done when fully revealed. Sorry, I can’t go into a ton of detail, but the film focuses mostly one big theme with some details, so I can’t go as crazy like with last weeks film.

Overall, the writing does have familiar elements, but the it’s told makes it quite interesting with how the details come together. It also does a few refreshing things I won’t spoil. I’ll just say I was reminded of How to Train Your Dragon 2 and leave it at that

While it has small issues, the script is overall pretty well done.

ENJOYMENT:

Yep, this is back. Here, it’s my like The Little Prince with the enjoyment coming from personal investment. This stuff is solid on page, but the way it’s executed on the screen makes it really engaging.

Like the other Lakia films, this film really respects it’s audiences and is able to do small and sweet moments. There’s a real atmosphere to the film that makes it as good as it is. There’s so much heart here, and like Little Prince, it made some bits really interesting to me personally.

No tears this time, but there were certainly some very heartfelt moments that made me feel, which is almost as good. On a writing level, everything checks out but it’s my personal that makes me like as much as I do.

And it’s not just the heart. The action is really exciting, some of the best you’ll see in stop motion, and there’s even some good humor with the character interactions that made the slow bits worthwhile.

The script is well written, but with it’s full execution, I was totally engaged due to how charming, epic and sweet the whole thing can be, especially when everything comes together in the end.

To me, I didn’t get bored or annoyed once, even with the weaker elements. Personally, I was engaged and entertained all the way through, and even touched a few times. It’s not a big feels fest like Inside Out or anything, you won’t cry or anything, I’m just saying it’s quite…nice.

So even if the story isn’t always great, at least the execution kept me engaged all the way through.

CHARACTERS:

This is another film with a limited cast, but it mostly manages to use them better than I expected. Our main character Kubo, seems kind of bland but the writing helps him solid. What he goes through is engaging, and you feel his connection to the other characters.

He’s not hugely complex, but the execution does make him solid enough, and he’s even amusing when interacting with the others.

Next is his mother. She’s arguably the most interesting character, as the film’s best elements come from her. I already mention her sick-ness, but she becomes more interesting when you find out her backstory and her whole deal plays out.

There’s also a certain twist I won’t spoil here that adds to her as well. Then comes Kubo’s compains on his quest, starting with a Monkey named…Monkey, voiced Charlize Theron. She’s the snarky one, which helps make her enjoyable.

Her dedicated to helping Kubo is admirable and fleshes her out quite nicely. There’s also a twist with her that really adds to her too. She’s the most entertaining, to be certain.

Then we have Beattle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey. He’s the dumb one, but only because he doesn’t remember anything. He’s not as interesting but his nature makes him funny, especially when he interacts with money. So he’s fine by mine.

Then there is the villain, voiced by Ralph Fiennes. I can’t say anything here because of spoilers, but I can say how he works for me. He’s…okay. Mostly due to his motivation. Like everyone says, it’s a bit murky once you actually think about it.

It almost makes sense but it could have been explained better. What do they with him in the end is kind of nice, if a bit weird.

Frankly, I think Mom’s Sisters, voiced by Rooney Mara are better villains. They are pretty dang creepy and have a presence to them that makes them threatening. So they are cool.

And yeah, that’s it. There are some villagers, but there is just there. There’s one voiced by Geroge Takei who says “Oh My” at one point because he’s obligated to say that every time he appears.

Seriously, it’s especially lame here because it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film,’s humor. It git better in Free Birds!

While the cast is limited, a lot is done with them that makes the character entertaining, and quite compelling by the end of it. They’re cool.

Final Thoughts:

Minor elements of Kubo and the Two Strings may make it underwhelming to some, especially compared to Lakia’s other works, but for me, the film is incredibly engaging from start to finish.

The animation is outstanding, the characters are enjoyable, and the writing manages to stand out with certain details that make it very interesting. Add in a lot of heart and you have something I greatly enjoyable.

Now, on an objective level I consider it to be very good, with how it flesh out certain things and all that. But man does the personal enjoyment add a lot. I had a blast with this one and really got into it.

And really, the weak elements aren’t too bad. They are just minor quibbles more than actual problems, because the heart and good elements stand out that much. The problems with Zootopia bothered me more, really.

So even if some elements may not be hugely complex, what they do with it is great in the end.

If you like classic epics like this, you’ll get a kick out of this, along with fans of Laki’s other works. If you need a more original concept, then perhaps you could maybe to rent it depending on how this all sounds to you.

Either way, I’d recommend it most people because it’s that enjoyable in the end. The strong animation and heart alone should give people something to like. Good to see more strong animation, after a couple of average ones.

I’d put this roughly on par with Zootopia, although a few re-watches might make one better. We’ll see. Either way, Kubo and the Two Strings comes highly recommend. At worst, you’ll find it average, and that’s not too bad.

So yeah, I liked it.

Writing: B+

Animation: A

Enjoyment: A-

Characters: B+

OVERALL: B+ (Subject to change)

Ah, that was so good. Sorry I rushed it sometimes, there isn’t as much to say in terms of small details and such. As usual, I hope I got my point out there. The animated film should be…The Wild Life.

Not really sure about it, or if it’ll even come here, I got the trailer a few times and the poster is in the theater, but the same went for 9 Lives and they didn’t’ get it. Since it’s animated, I will have to see if it plays in my town at all.

But if something happens, next will be Storks, which should be fine. Which may also be the next reviews period, since there’s nothing live action that interests me until Tim Burton’s X-Men, I mean Perrigreene’s Home for Peculiar Children.

But my mind could change. So yeah, not too much else to say.

See ya.

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About Spongey444

I'm 20 and I'm a slightly below average man who can barely spell. I mostly spend my time watching TV and movies, hence why i ended doing a blog all about those things. I tend to have weird tastes, but I like think I'm just fair on things.
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