Kubo and the Two Strings – Movie Review

Unique. Gorgeous. Ambitious. Flawed.
Kubo and the Moon
I don’t see movies in the theatre often. My life is exceptionally busy. But Kubo was one of the handful of movies that I made it a point to get out and see (and support). Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes was quite high and I’d heard a lot of good about the film, so I was super stoked to see it.

Given the hype did I leave the theatre with as much enthusiasm? Yes…and No…but mainly Yes.

coraline-mainparanorman

Full disclose. I loved Coraline and liked Paranorman, two films from the same studio (Laika). They made Boxtrolls as well, but I was never interested in that one. I had high hopes for Kubo. It’s probably too early to rate them, but I think I’d rate Coraline over Kubo…with Paranorman coming in 3rd and Boxtrolls not in the running because I haven’t seen it.

Kubo and Moon King

What worked:

  1. There is much in Kubo to love. In a year of sequels, prequels, reboots, and superhero movies, I just love it when something comes out that is completely off track. Kubo has a creative story that takes its cues not from what is current, but from what is eternal.
  2. It’s themes are deep. When characters in a “kids movie” ask each other their views about what happens to a person when they die, we’ve reached the level of storytelling where the writers treat their audience with respect. I love it.
    Kubo and fam
  3. Character development was superb, with one small falter. From the get-go you are on Kubo’s side and really empathize with him. The connection was easy to feel.
  4. The world they created was immersive and a blast to be in.
  5. The technical artistry in this movie is staggering. The movie is so gorgeous. It was amazing to see in the end credits the work they had done on one of the creatures in the movie. Very cool inclusion at the end that is a nice sneak peak into how it was made.
  6. The comedy relief was executed very well and actually reminded me of how well humor had been pulled off in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It wasn’t just there to be there, it was casual, funny, and peppered in just when the story needed it.

So, I’ve been praising the movie a lot. So what is the flaw?

The villains and the theme.

Kubo aunt

The antagonist’s motivation is not well communicated and when he shows up for the final battle, he wasn’t interesting and I couldn’t connect with him at all.

I think that damaged the theme as well. In the final confrontation Kubo basically screams the moral of the story at him, but it didn’t resonate. The drama up to that point felt so real and earned, but when it came to a head with the antagonist, it didn’t connect.

My final thoughts are that I love this movie, but wish it didn’t hiccup in the end. The first two acts of the story were so great and immersive. I loved the characters and themes building, but like Kubo himself failing to give a great ending, the story seemed to rush its final battle in a fairly generic way.

One last thought about the ending – when it reveals how the story was named…perfection!

If you’re interested, check out the trailer:

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