Laika entertainment has been a forerunner in the animation industry for over a decade now but they have particularly outdone themselves with their newest feature, Kubo and the Two Strings. The film follows Kubo (Art Parkinson) on the run from his god-like grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), while he follows in his father’s footsteps and searches for a magical set of armour that will allow him to defeat his heinous foe.
The themes of family and memories run at the very heart of this production with a particular emphasis on late family members. This can usually be a daunting task for a family film to portray, requiring delicacy so as to remain enjoyable for kids while also being laid out intelligently for the message to be well received. The film manages to do both poignantly and delivers a heart-felt story which will stick with adults and children alike for months after leaving the theatre.
The narrative is an original story inspired by Japanese tales of samurai however there is a point made throughout that contrasts the traditional notion of a warrior and indeed our own modern day images of a hero. Kubo in particular is a character who has already lost a great deal by the start of the film and would generally be seen to become another grizzled anti-hero. Yet the film presents a different picture where our hero looks away from fighting, usually while his allies are in the midst of battle. This message portraying a hero as someone who will listen to anger and teach a better path rather than lashing out at the world is profoundly humanitarian and will hopefully stick with adults as much as it will children.
Sadly, however, as much as the messages are intelligently delivered the actual plot is not so well presented. That is not to say the film is unenjoyable, however it is very formulaic and not in the least surprising. The film starts and ends strong but the middle feels like something out of a video game with the characters going through the story level by level. Luckily this is made up for by the startlingly beautiful animation which will be a happy distraction for anyone losing interest and ensures that Kubo and the Two Strings has something for everyone.
Image: Michael Gill; Wikimedia Commons