With Laika releasing their fifth film Missing Link this week, we’re taking a look at each of their previous films. Today we take a look at their fourth feature length film, Kubo and the Two Strings, the directorial debut of Travis Knight.
Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young one-eyed boy who lives in a cave on top of a hill with his mother (Charlize Theron). Every day he goes down to the village with a shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument) and pieces of paper that he uses to magically create epic origami stories. He tells of a warrior named Hanzo that must find three pieces of armor — an unbreakable sword, breastplate, and helmet — that he must use to defeat his arch nemesis, the Moon King. The story is more than just a legend, however; it’s his family history.
His mother tells him to always be home and inside before dark, lest her father, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and her sisters (Rooney Mara) find him and take his other eye. Sure enough, Kubo gets caught outside after dark, and he must flee for his life — alone. He encounters a living version of a monkey totem he kept, as well as a beetle/man who both assist Kubo on his journey to find the set of armor. He learns about bravery, memory, family, forgiveness, compassion, and love along the way.
Kubo and the Two Strings is not only a fantastic and entertaining story, it’s visually rich in color, texture, movement, and depth. Magic is a natural and accepted part of Kubo’s world, and the movie really makes the most of it. The way Kubo uses his shamisen to breathe life into the origami characters is entrancing, and the beautiful and terrifying characters he encounters on his quest are dreamlike in quality. It honestly feels like it could have been a Wes Anderson with how quirky and beautiful everything was.
It’s going to be really cool to see where Laika goes with their films from here. Everything they’ve put out thus far has been such high quality, it’s hard to imagine how much more they could improve on their worldbuilding and design techniques.
Kubo and the Two Strings is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital format.