I literally just came out of watching this movie so this is one of our freshest post ever. I have been rather selective with the commentaries I’ve made for you guys about movies that I have seen this year, and to be honest there haven’t many. I haven’t even been all that thrilled that I was writing about them. But today I am. I’ve gone a few times to the cinema this year, but it has been a while since I’ve seen an animated movie in the big screen which made me feel like this. Of course, I went to see Inside Out and I really enjoyed it and thought it was great. (I cried too, but less, and for different reasons). (Yeah, I get sentimental with these things, alright? Little Vikings cry too!). Anyway, this is probably more review like than any of my previous posts- but still, as little spoilers as possible:
-One of the first things you think when you watch Kubo – and this happens from the first minute of the film – is “Wow, this is truly beautiful”. And I mean that in the same way that when I sit in front of some of my favourite paintings I mean Beautiful: with mastery, care, precision, intent, feeling. Kubo is NOT just amazing technology designed to make things pretty – not what we re talking about. This IS Art. Following its Asian ambiance, storyline and plot devices, the artwork is in that sense just as Oriental. You know what I mean: these wonderfully beautiful Kung Fu movies or Chinese historical dramas, where the choreographies are just like seeing the most wonderful ballets, they colours are so sympathetic, and everything is just tasteful, effortless. Kubo is that, but with the most unlike stop motion – but still stop motion tech I’ve seen to date. Things look hand crafted, real, with true texture. It is a formidable visual experience. And musical too! The soundtrack is really good: they manage to mix tunes from the Far East with elements of Western orchestra. The mood is perfectly created with this hybrid of visual-musical Westernised Asian creation, or perhaps vice versa, I am still not 100% how to describe it. Just go watch it. Hear it!
-The pacing is fantastic: it actually feels longer than it is, but, in a good way. You know sometimes movies drag and you think you’ve been in the cinema for hours and you haven’t? Well, none of that. Because so much happens in the movie, and it happens with the right timing, it feels like you’ve got your value for money for like an over 2 hours movie, which in reality is not even that! (1h 47 mins I believe is the actual timing). But you get so absorbed, you could just stay there for three more sittings of the same. The casting was very fortunate, and the characters deeply complex. It is true magic fleshing out characters that are not really remembered by their name, just on the basis of the concept that they represent. This is the moment when you realise, this is really not a movie for little kids. This requires a bit more of a deeper understanding. And although it is a PG, there is some implied violence that despite it not being bloody, grousome or very graphic, it is nonetheless real. I mean, after all, this is a heroic movie, with a hero, and its monsters and villains to be defeated. Someone IS going to die. Epic quests come at a price. But every death is gracefully done, it is not cheesy. And every death is meaningful, appropriate.
-In fact, death is a very important concept within the narrative: it is something we all must overcome, but we all must remember too. Death is just another step in life. Death is not the end of one story – but the beginning of another. Death can be painful, sour, but it also can be something to bond over. These aspects are deeply ingrained in the plot, but not forcefully. Rather touchingly if you ask me. Stories and story telling is another central piece of this movie. That is what Kubo is: a story-teller. And the film is a story of many stories. And a story about the actual nature of tales, and how we use these to understand ourselves, those around us, the universe. Even death. Kubo and the Two Strings reminds you that next time your friends laugh at you for being the bard of the party, you ARE going to prove the wrong. And this takes us back to the music. Story and music, they make sometimes the best companionship. But there is one final stop here, in my discussion of concepts and ideas developed in this movie, which ties in with these previous ones. Memories. Remembering. There is a compelling message about holding on to the things you remember, to find your path, to guide your way. To remind you why you do the things to commit to. And in a very subtle way, the film hints as to the horrors and darkness that certain aspects of life such as trauma, illness or age that can impact our capability to remember things. It is not easy to digest. In fact, these are probably some of the darkest moments in the entire film, which perhaps will not be so noticeable for the younger ones, but any adult would (if paying attention) realise, this is something to be aware of. The movie also compels us to take care of those vulnerable people affected by these maladies, and to keep them together, with us, within our communities, with stories. Remembering the things they can’t. Not necessarily warping reality for them, but using these as ways to help them feel like they still have a place. Like they are still with us.
…These are the reasons why I cried…So masterfully subtle, present, stunning craft of meaningful ideas into one piece of film, who many would just regard as a “kids movie”. Well…think twice. In my session there were more attending adults than children…Tears aside, Kubo and the Two Strings is also a fun movie, and the humoristic lines are integrated just in the right places and for the right reasons. It is charming, it is tasteful. It is well written.
So please, child or not. Go see it. Immerse yourself in this deep visual adventure, full of magic, and fantasy, yet very real. I do wholeheartedly believe Kubo and the Two Strings should be in the list for the Oscars next year, and it deserves to win at least in some capacity.
And now, until the next one.