From the acclaimed animation studio LAIKA (Coraline) comes an epic original action adventure like you have never seen before! Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) mesmerizes the people of a local fishing village, with his magical gift for spinning wild tales with origami. When he accidentally summons an evil spirit seeking vengeance, Kubo is forced to go on a quest to solve the mystery of his fallen samurai father and his mystical weaponry, as well as discover his own magical powers. Featuring the voices of Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS is a magical event that will mesmerize children and adults alike.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, stop-motion animation studio Laika's newest movie 'Kubo and the Two Strings' is a masterpiece. From its staggeringly gorgeous animation to its imagination-fueled dream story this film holds nothing back. It's a brazen journey into a magical world of love, friendship, family, and sacrifice.
Much like Hayao Miyazaki's films, 'Kubo' challenges younger viewers by confronting them with authentic emotions and heartfelt storytelling. It's not a simple, breezy story about a kid on an adventure. No, this is a movie that treats its younger audience with respect. That allows them the room to feel and grow with its title character. It provides a framework for them to contemplate weighty issues like death, acceptance, fear, and faith without getting too dour in the process.
Young Kubo (Art Parkinson) exists in a magical world. Taking a page from the Miyazaki playbook, the Laika team (helmed by director Travis Knight) never feel the need to explain the magic or its rules, or why magic exists, or why people aren't all that surprised to see magic in the first place. Thank goodness for this. It means that the film never has to find itself bogged down in tedious exposition, and can instead focus on its compelling fairytale story and arresting visuals.
There's just something about stop-motion animation that provides a surrealism that straight CG animation lacks. There's a life to it. A living substance to the characters, their expressions, the backdrops, the intricately created sets, everything. It's tactile.
Kubo is a one-eyed musician who spends his time in a local town telling stories with origami. That's how the movie begins. With Kubo strumming his guitar as his origami paper enchantingly folds itself in mid-air. A samurai pops into existence and as Kubo plays the paper warrior dispatches a myriad of paper enemies: dragons, giant spiders, and angry chickens just to name a few.
The beauty of this scene is astounding. The way it dives right into its own universe without apology or explanation is a sublime exercise in complete immersion of an audience. We don't understand the logistics of Kubo's world, we're just glad we get to visit this once.
There's a story about how Kubo's grandfather, the evil Moon King, stole his eye. His mother is the Moon King's daughter and is trying to protect Kubo from becoming like her father. There's a quest Kubo must embark on if he wants to be able to defeat his grandfather once and for all. And yet, all of this is secondary.
It isn't about why Kubo has to do anything. It's about the journey it takes for him to get there. It's about the spectacular visuals and the trueness of the message. It's about a young boy truly understanding himself, discovering what he's capable of, and proving it to the universe.
Laika's films have all focused on young protagonists. They're all strong, layered characters who, again, resemble the young heroes and heroines of Miyazaki's famous anime. The reverence paid to childhood has become a Laika trademark.
As a family film, 'Kubo' excels. Not just because it's fun to look at (oh, boy it really is!), but because it doesn't dumb itself down for kids. It gives them some mental meat to chew on. It presents them with issues to problem solve. It treats them respectfully like the young, developing human beings they are.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc release. It comes with a 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD copy. There's also a Digital Copy code included inside a standard keepcase and slipcover.
As you might expect, Universal's 1080p transfer of 'Kubo and the Two Strings' is demo-worthy in every aspect. It is full of detail, color, and life. The presentation captures the intricate details of the extraordinary puppets used for the movie.
The first thing you may notice about this presentation is how cinematic it looks. While the detail is crisp and exact, the film still has a very filmic look to it. Everything down to the smallest detail is visible here. The detail here is exquisite. This is an important aspect of the presentation. If it was blurry or soft at all then the immense amount of work that went into each of these puppets and the hand-made landscapes would be utterly lost. Thankfully, that's not the case.
Color is bold and vibrant. The wide range of color present is just a wonder to behold. Black areas are perfectly defined. No banding exists anywhere. What's even more amazing is that there isn't any aliasing either. There are a couple scenes where fields of what appears to be wheat are waving in the background. These scenes, with so many skinny plants gently waving could be a hotbed for aliasing. Not here though. Lines are clean, never blending; clarity never wavering. This is certainly a release that you'll want to use to show off your high-def setup.
'Kubo' features a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that produces a varied amount of depth and ambient sound for the presentation. I must say, however, that I was expecting to be blown away by this mix. It's strong and capable, but lacks the oomph to put it into the 5-star echelon.
Up front dialogue is presented neatly. Not an ounce of spoken word is lost. There are also some great transitional effects up front too. Like when Kubo's magical origami birds flutter from one side of the frame to the other, the sound moves seamlessly with them.
Surround sound is where the film lacks punch. The rear channels provide some good ambient sound, but it never feels totally immersive. It sounds a little too light. As for the low-end frequencies they're adequate, but not overtly impressive. When Kubo and company fight the huge skeleton one might expect house-rumbling bass. Here the bass is present, but it doesn't feel like it's trying for a demo-worthy experience.
Now don't get me wrong. This isn't a bad mix by any means. It's full of richness and clarity. It's just that it might not be a disc you use to show off your sound system.
Audio Commentary – A commentary is provided by Director Travis Knight. Knight's commentary feels like it's scripted, because he's able to intricately explain details about the what you're seeing. He discusses the animation process, anecdotes behind decisions of details included in the film, and so on. It's a very interesting, detailed commentary, but it does get a little dry simply because it is scripted (or feels that way).
Kubo's Journey (HD, 29 min.) – This is a collection of featurettes with a Play All option. There are six featurettes in all. "Introduction by Director/Producer Traivs Knight" is just that, a very brief explanation of the movie and mentioning the enormous undertaking it was to make. "Japenese Inspiration" is a brief featurette about the movie's Japanese influences and its samuari roots. "Mythological Monsters" is a great look at the different puppeterring and engineering techniques that went into making the three main monsters in the movie. Watching them create and puppet the giant skeleton is awesome. "Braving the Elements" talks about the challenges in making realistic water in stop-motion and how they achieved it. Watching them blend practical effects with CGI is quite amazing. "The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music" shows how the score of the film was created. "Epilogue" again presents Knight as he discusses that Laika loves to challenge themselves with stop-motion animation.
Corners of the Earth (HD, 3 min.) – A short featurette that covers most of the same ground that is shown in "Kubo's Journey." More of a promotional look at the challenges of making an epic movie like this and all the sets they had to physically create.
The Myth of Kubo (HD, 2 min.) – Another promotional trailer-type look at making the movie. Some interviews are reused here that we already heard in "Kubo's Journey."
'Kubo and the Two Strings' is a special movie. One of my favorite of 2016. Its animation is incredible. Its story infinitely relatable. The video presentation here is perfection. The audio is a little underwhelming, but nevertheless very capable. This release comes highly recommended.