Kubo and the Two Strings
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, August 2016
This latest feature from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman is notable less for its story and more for the stop-motion animation that delivers an aesthetic which at once feels fresh and exciting, while also comfortingly old-fashioned. (I say this as someone who marvels at the technical wizardry of modern animation, remembering vividly gasping at the rendering of individual hairs in Final Fantasy and loving the sheer vibrancy of Zootopia, with not a clue as to how it all happens.)
So when our young hero, Kubo, sets the scene for his impending quest by narrating adventure stories to his fellow villagers, it is the spectacle of fluttering origami paper that captivates us – “so real it looks like paper!” I whisper, only to be told that’s because it is paper – and the ensuing beauty of each scene that marks it out from the raft of CGI-created movies churned out every year.
Less compelling, however, is Kubo’s tale, although it touches on issues of familial bonds, orphanhood and ancestral worship (albeit through characters beholden to American accents, including the great Brit, Ralph Fiennes). But the messages get lost among fight scenes festooned with autumn leaves and the shiniest armour you’ve ever seen in a cartoon (that’s because it probably is armour – I don’t know!).
Note: the censor’s rating wisely mentions violence and scary scenes, so consider your little person’s capacity for dark stories before taking them to experience exquisite technical skill and a charming glimpse of Japanese culture.