Starring: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Brenda Vaccaro, George Takei
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
3D stop motion epic fantasy animation directed by Travis Knight. Set in ancient Japan, Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) follows a young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson), who devotedly cares for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village and ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kamekichi (Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father. With the help of his shamisen, a magical musical instrument, Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Rooney Mara) to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny.
Our Favorite Quotes:
Kubo: If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned, if you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish.
Kubo: His name is Kubo. His grandfather stole something from him. And that really is the least of it.
Kubo: Mother, what was Father like?
Sariatu: Oh. This one is easy. Hanzo was a mighty warrior, skilled with sword and bow.
Kubo: No, what was he really like? When he wasn’t fighting, when he was with us.
Sariatu: He was just like you.
Kubo: Like me?
Sariatu: Yes. Strong, and clever, and funny, and, oh, so handsome.
Kubo: Ugh. Mother.
Sariatu: Come on! Never forget how much he loved you, Kubo. He died protecting us.
Kubo: Did the Moon King…
Sariatu: Your grandfather.
Kubo: Did Grandfather and your sisters really kill my father? It can’t be true, can it? They’re family.
Sariatu: No, they are monsters. Grandfather and my sisters stole your eye, Kubo. They must never find you again. Never! You must always stay hidden from the night sky, or they will find you and they’ll take you away from me. Promise me you will never let this happen. Promise me, Kubo!
Sariatu: [Kubo nods his head looking shocked] Don’t be sad, Kubo.
The Sisters: Little boy. What happened to your eye?
Kubo: Who are you? How do you know my name?
The Sisters: We are your family, Kubo. Your mother’s sisters. And we’ve been looking for you for so long. It’s so lovely to meet you, Kubo. Face-to-face. Come, Kubo. Come to your aunties. No reason to be afraid, Kubo. We just need your other eye. Your grandfather admires it so.
Monkey: Kubo. Kubo! Can you hear me, Kubo? I said your mother is gone. Your village is destroyed. Burned to the ground. We landed here in the Far Lands. Your enemies aren’t far behind. We must search for shelter before your grandfather comes. We need to go now. Come on, get up, let’s go. Once we’re inside, you might be tempted to complain about the odor. Keep in mind my sense of smell is ten times stronger than yours.
Monkey: You have questions, I can tell.
Monkey: You get three.
Kubo: I think I have more.
Monkey: Three, but first you’re going to eat.
Kubo: Why only three?
Monkey: Okay, that was your first question.
Kubo: What? I don’t understand what’s happening! Who are you?
Monkey: You don’t recognize me? All these years, you had to keep me in your pack. Well, now you know why.
Kubo: But you were a wooden charm. You were this big. I called that charm “Mr. Monkey”
Monkey: And if I were alive at that point, I might have found that insulting. Look, your mother used the last of her magic to save you and bring me to life. Here. Drink.
Kubo: [referring to the bowl of soup] It smells. Everything in here smells.
Monkey: Drink it.
Kubo: I don’t want it.
Monkey: I said drink it.
Kubo: You’re a mean monkey, aren’t you?
Monkey: Yes. Yes, I am. And that’s three. You’re out of questions now, so just listen. I’m here to protect you, Kubo. And that means you have to do as I say. So, if you don’t eat, you’ll be weak. If you’re weak, you’ll be slow. If you’re slow, you’ll die. It’s too hot! Drink.
Monkey: Okay, you better start taking this seriously, Kubo. This is real. This is not a story. Those things, your aunts, they never get hungry. They never sleep. They will find you! And if we’re not prepared, they’ll kill me and take your other eye.
Kubo: What are we going to do?
Monkey: We’re going to find the armor. It’s the only thing that can protect you.
Kubo: So it’s real. Really real.
Monkey: [referring to the strand of Kubo’s mother’s hair] Don’t worry. I’m not going to keep it.
Kubo: I pulled that from her head. I didn’t mean to.
Monkey: [Kubo gives the strand of hair to her and she braids it] Your mother was very powerful. She blessed your robes so that when the need was most, they would fly you away. She used the last of that power to bring me to life. This bracelet, her hair, it’s a memory. And memories are powerful things, Kubo. Never lose it.
Kubo: One more question?
Monkey: Last one.
Kubo: Do you know where it is? The armor?
Monkey: No. No, I don’t. Now, go to sleep.
Kubo: Goodnight, Monkey.
'If you have no memory, how can you be certain of anything?' - Monkey (Kubo and the Two Strings) Click To Tweet
Monkey: You’re growing stronger. You might not want to look quite so pleased about that. We grow stronger, the world grows more dangerous. Life has a funny way of keeping things balanced.
Kubo: Monkey, do you ever say anything encouraging?
Monkey: I encourage you not to die.
Kubo: [mockingly] “I encourage you not to die.”
Monkey: Mosquitoes. Annoying.
Kubo: Wasn’t me, I swear.
Monkey: Paper runs out, as does patience.
Kubo: I didn’t ask them to do that.
Monkey: The second time.
Kubo: I didn’t! At least, not exactly. I mean, I felt it, but…
Monkey: Magic is not meant to be easy. You need to learn control. Concentrate on what you’re doing, and always remember, don’t mess with the monkey. Tread carefully, Kubo. This isn’t one of your stories.
Kubo: How do you know? Maybe it is. And I’m the valiant hero and you’re the mean monkey.
Monkey: Heroes come and go. Any moment, something terrible could come out of nowhere and…
Beetle: [shows Kubo and Monkey a cloth with the crest on it] Have you seen this crest before?
Beetle: [Kubo shows him the same crest on the back of his robe] This is a miracle. You have our robes. You’re wearing our robes! Why are you wearing our robes?
Monkey: He doesn’t have to answer your questions. Anyway, who are you?
Beetle: Many years ago, I was cursed. Trapped in this cursed state. Cursed to wander the Far Lands. Cursed or curs-ed. No comrades, no master. Not even a name or a single memory of the noble warrior I once was.
Kubo: You used to be a man?
Beetle: No, not just any man. A samurai. I mean, I’m pretty certain. Look, I had the stuff. I mean, I’m either a samurai or a really bad hoarder. Either way, inside my thorax beats the heart of a warrior.
Monkey: If you have no memory, how can you be certain of anything?
Beetle: Because I get flashes. They come about from objects I find on my travels. Sometimes it’s a sound. Or a smell.
Monkey: [takes a quick sniff] You must get a lot of flashes.
Beetle: The memories, they fade, and all I’m left with is the sense that I was once part of something much greater.
Kubo: Monkey, can I tell him?
Monkey: I really don’t think that’s a good idea.
Kubo: He has a right.
Monkey: Absolutely not.
Kubo: But… I…
Monkey: No “buts”. No!
Beetle: What? Tell me what?
Kubo: Hanzo was my father.
Beetle: [picks up Kubo and spins him around for a moment] This is a miracle. I have found the son of my master.
Monkey: [as Beetle extends his hand to pick up Monkey] Don’t even.
Beetle: Whatever brings you to these lands, whatever your quest, it is now my quest, too. I will join you, and I will give my life for you, if necessary.
Kubo: Wow. You will?
Beetle: What? Do you think that’s possible? Look, kid, I mean, I know how these quests go. People die all the time. They drop like flies. That doesn’t matter, because I have a feeling this is my destiny.
Monkey: No, it isn’t! We can’t trust anything you say, because you can’t trust anything you say. We don’t know anything about you!
Kubo: Monkey, you said it yourself. Our quest is a difficult one. A samurai, even a cursed one with no memory, that looks like a bug, could be helpful.
Beetle: Yes, I am certain I could be helpful. Indispensable.
Monkey: In what way?
Monkey: [as Beetle shoots an arrow into the wall opposite] Firing an arrow into a wall is hardly what I’d call…
Monkey: [as Beetle shoots more arrows quickly all landing in the same spot] Impressive.
Beetle: Oh, look at that. Literally, the first time I’ve ever done it. Just tell me of our quest, and I will quickly demonstrate my numerous indispensabilities.
Kubo: Well, that’s kind of a long story.
Beetle: You’ve got my attention. I promise I won’t even blink. I actually don’t think I even can blink. Do I have eyelids?
Monkey: [he opens his eyes wide] Fine. Walk and talk. Hanzo has found a path.
Beetle: So, you used to be a toy monkey.
Monkey: Kubo, I really don’t see how this part is important to our story.
Kubo: I kept her in my pocket. She was only like this big.
Monkey: Okay, Kubo, that’s enough.
Kubo: Tiny. And she was called “Mr. Monkey”.
Monkey: I wasn’t a toy. I was a charm.
Beetle: Of course you were.
Monkey: [as they come across the entrance of a cave] Don’t touch anything.
Beetle: [as he touches one of the skull’s stone teeth, it comes off in his hand, quickly points to Kubo] He did it.
'Memories are powerful things. Never lose it.' - Monkey (Kubo and the Two Strings) Click To Tweet
Kubo: [Beetle struggles to get off the floor as he’s landed on his Beetle shield] Do you need a little help?
Beetle: [rocks backwards and forwards to try to get up, finally he sighs and gives up] No, no, no! Yes.
Beetle: Stealth is my middle name.
Monkey: You don’t even have a first name.
Beetle: [takes out the sword from the giant skeletal hand] Don’t worry, I got this. The mighty Beetle is victorious!
Beetle: [suddenly the giant bones rise an forms into a giant skeleton] I don’t got this! I don’t got this! I don’t got this!
Monkey: [takes the sword from Beetle] Oh, for crying out loud! I invoke the sword unbreakable!
Monkey: [strikes the giant skeleton with the sword and the sword breaks] It broke.
Beetle: So, does it just mean the handle, or…
Beetle: [quietly to Kubo] I’m a little disappointed with this magic sword.
Monkey: It’s not the right sword, you idiot!
[the giant skeleton roars as it goes to attack them]
Beetle: What’s the matter, Kubo? You act like you’ve never had a meal sitting between a monkey and a beetle before.
Kubo: I’ve never had a meal sitting between anyone before.
Monkey: Come on, eat. You need energy. And this is much better than whale soup.
Beetle: Kubo, question. Before you started on your heroic quest, what were you like?
Kubo: Well, I looked after my mother mostly. And I told stories about mighty warriors seeking revenge with battles, and monsters, and magic. I was pretty good at telling them, not so good at ending them. Sometimes I would tell my mother stories about little things. Like skimming rocks across the river or catching fireflies in the mulberry fields And when I told those stories, I could see her eyes were mostly clear. I could tell she saw me. Really saw me. I could see her, too. Her real self. Her spirit trying to fight its way out. It was beautiful.
Beetle: You know something, Kubo? Back when you just told stories, before you went on this great adventure, you were still very much a hero.
Kubo: [referring to Beetle] Monkey, I think he’s in trouble! We should help him.
Monkey: Kubo, your aunts are still out there. I’m sorry, but we have to head for shore.
[Kubo jumps into the water and Monkey looks distraught]
The Sisters: Look at this. I come fishing and all I reel in is a stinking ape. How pathetic that this filthy creature is all that’s left of my sister’s magic.
Kubo: This filthy creature will tear you apart!
Beetle: Let me guess. You have questions.
Beetle: I’ll start. First question. If I’m Beetle and you’re Monkey, why isn’t he called “Boy”?
Kubo: Tell us your story, then we can sleep. Please?
Monkey: Okay. Perhaps you can help me. The night I met your father…
Monkey: My sisters and I went to the Temple of Bones to kill Hanzo.
Kubo: [Monkey prompts Kubo to play his instrument to help her tell her story] Oh, right.
Monkey: At the bidding of the Moon King, my sisters and I had come down from the night sky and killed many noble warriors. Your grandfather told us that any man who found the magical armor would grow too powerful and be a threat to the heavens. That night, I arrived at the temple before my sisters. And there he was, the mighty Hanzo. “You have offended my father,” I told him. “Now you must die.”
Beetle: Yeah, that’s so you.
Kubo: Beetle. Shh!
Monkey: [continuing to tell her story] We fought. Hanzo was strong, but then he stopped. He looked into my eyes and uttered four simple words. These words changed everything.
Beetle: “I love you, Monkey”?
Monkey: “You are my quest,” he whispered. I had seen the wonders of the universe, but the warmth of his gaze as I looked into his eyes. That I had never known. It was his humanity I saw, and it was more powerful than anything in my cold realm. In recognizing his compassion, I recognized my own. I spared his life. He gave me mine. And then he gave me you. But your grandfather found us. His rage at my betrayal shook the heavens. Your father and his army gave their lives, allowing me to escape with you in my arms. His rage at my betrayal shook the heavens. Your father and his army gave their lives, allowing me to escape with you in my arms.
Kubo: Why does Grandfather hate me?
Monkey: Oh, Kubo. He doesn’t hate you. He wants to make you just like him. Blind to humanity, as I once was. Only then can you take your place beside him as part of his family. Cold and hard, and perfect.
Kubo: I’ll never be like him, never.
Monkey: [as Kubo embraces her] I know.
Moon King: [as the Moon Beast] You want to be human? Then share their weakness! Suffer their humiliation! Feel their pain! This is the end of your story. Now, take one last look with that lonely eye, one last look at this wretched place you call home.
Kubo: I’m not leaving. For every horrible thing down here, there’s something far more beautiful. My mother saw it. So did my father. I see it. Even with just one eye.
Moon King: Then I’ll just have to rip it out of your head again, won’t I?
Kubo: If you must blink, do it now.
Kubo: [strums the strings and it lights the lanterns on the water] I know why you want my eye. Because without it, I can’t look into the eyes of another and see their soul. Their love…
Moon King: Everything you loved is gone! Everything you knew has been taken from you!
Kubo: No. It’s in my memories. The most powerful kind of magic there is.
Kubo: [strums the strings again and summons the spirits from the lanterns] It makes us stronger than you’ll ever be. These are the memories of those we have loved and lost. And if we hold their stories deep in our hearts, then you will never take them away from us. And that really is the least of it.
'Concentrate on what is directly in front of you. Let everything else fall away.' - Monkey (Kubo and the Two Strings) Click To Tweet
Moon King: [after Kubo turns the Moon Beast into a mortal, who is revealed to be his grandfather] Where am I?
Kubo: Hello, Grandfather.
Moon King: Oh, hello. What happened to your eye?
Kubo: Don’t you remember?
Moon King: No. I’m sorry, young man. But I seem to have forgotten my story. Can you help me?
Kubo: Hello, Mother. Father. I know my stories can tend to get a little long, so I’ll keep this brief. I’m very grateful I’ve had the chance to meet you both, hear your wisdom, feel your kindness, even eat a meal sitting between you. This was a happy story, but it could still be a whole lot happier. I don’t know exactly what the rules are or how this works, but if there were any way to… You know, I still need you. So I can say this has been a happy story, or I could feel it. We could all feel it. Then we could end this story. Together.
Kubo: [standing by the lake with the spirit of his parents standing beside him,as he sets their lanterns afloat across the lake] The end.