By William Glenn (Columbia, SC, USA)

 

Laika Studios is one of the best animation studios producing films right now, their consistent attention to detail, quality of execution, and fluidity of vision is what makes them stand out. Coraline is one of the best, animated films of all time, as it’s folklore and simplistic story are shown through a beautifully tense and atmospheric approach. Paranorman and Boxtrolls, albeit substantially more tame and childish, fall into this same category. With their newest addition to their catalog, Kubo and the Two Strings, they add yet another impressive animation film to their overwhelming successful filmography, despite it being their most flawed film to date.

On a technical level, this is their best film and it is absolutely gorgeous it is one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen. The director, Travis Knight, creates one of the most visually appealing films I’ve ever seen. The visuals alone put this film above most live-action films I have seen this year, the animation is fluid and I constantly forgot that this was stop motion film.

The only issue I have seen is when Kubo is told in his dream to “follow the setting sun” in order to find the helmet when he wakes up and leads his group into the rising sun. Then the shadows indicate the light is behind them, then in front again. This being the only technical issue I saw it is still amazing. The film also does fantastic performances from the various voice-actors, including Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, and Art Parkinson, overall.

The weakest issues with this film fall into the story because the people who wrote this script assumed that the story of this film could be made easy to follow and basic simply because it is a “kids movie”. This is not the standard of studios like Laika and Pixar and Disney Animation Studios because they have been consistently raising the bar on how to tell truly amazing stories. Kids films should be treated as every other type of film they can have emotions, character arcs, and morality evaluations.

The problem with Kubo isn’t the animation or the music but with the story, it was a basic Hero’s Quest story but with some issues. Kubo is flawless and not in a good way he has no flaws, he is told what his quest must be and through that quest he changes nothing about himself there is no character change because there was nothing to change at the beginning, and this becomes a major issue while you watch the rest of the film.

We are never shown that Kubo is a hero we are told that he is, we are also told that the villain is the villain, rather than shown. Everything in the film is spelled out for us or blatantly told to for some reason, it’s a basic storytelling element but it comes off as demeaning ruins an otherwise gorgeous film. It does nothing for the film but makes it seem lazy which is disappointing because obviously, Laika is not. They are some of best animators working in the industry and it shows, they spent 3 years making this movie and it was ruined for me through weak storytelling.

Rating: 3/5

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