After having has his eye stolen as a baby by his grandfather – The Moon King – Kubo and his ill mother live a humble life in hiding. Telling magical stories with the aid of his shamisen (a magical instrument), Kubo’s mother warns him to always be home by sundown but when he loses track of time one evening, night time comes and with it, the malevolent spirits of his Aunts. Fleeing for his life, Kubo discovers some allies who help him on his quest but with his grandfather determined to take his other eye, can Kubo find the strength within himself to defeat the powerful magic that wishes to consume him?
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) – Director: Travis Knight
Running Length: 101 mins
Starring: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey
Genre: Animated, Fantasy
Produced by stop-motion animation studio, Laika, who also brought us ‘Coraline‘ and ‘The Boxtrolls‘, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ follows a young Japanese boy whose magical powers animates paper into origami creatures and his unusual companions (a monkey, and a large beetle with a man’s face), aid him in his quest to find his dead father’s armour in order to defeat his evil grandfather. Having a genuine look and feel of Japanese animation and story telling, the care and love that has been poured into Kubo is obvious and is all the better for it.
Making a movie revolve around a particular country’s history, culture and folktales often doesn’t translate to wider audiences so this was a brave move. However the plot and characters have been carefully created to ensure that they are accessible and relevant to everyone watching. Each character is well-rounded, the story knows exactly where it is going, and, like many Japanese animations, it manages to be both mature and enjoyable for kids. Although much of the movie involves mysticism, the interactions between characters are very realistic, it doesn’t shy away from difficult times but still keeps its wide-eyed and child-like wonder.
This beautifully written tale has a strong message of the power of love, compassion and humanity running alongside the fantastical that stays true to itself throughout while never becoming twee or patronising. A story steeped in folklore, stunning animation and wonderful storytelling, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a movie to spark the imaginations of anyone who sees it.
IS ‘KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
A woman flees from danger in a small boat which gets capsized by a huge wave during a storm. She falls into the water and hits her head on a rock; a small amount of blood is seen floating in the water. Later in life, this injury has a profound effect on her, making her largely unresponsive to those around her, she is able to do basic tasks, such as eating and walking. Every now and then she comes round and behaves as normal but this soon passes, causing a loved one to feel crushed every time this happens.
Kubo is first seen as a baby with an eye patch and the narrated dialogue explains that his ‘grandfather took something from him’; he continues to wear an eyepatch when he is older. The theme of eyes being ‘taken’ runs throughout the movie, Kubo is told that his grandfather wants to take his other eye, leaving him blind.
At night, Kubo hears a ghostly, monotonous female voice and sees a dark, shadowy figure standing nearby, this woman splits in two and their faces are then seen which are mask-like with a fixed expression of hollow eyes and a creepy, slight smile. They begin to slowly but relentlessly approach Kubo, their pointed toes gliding over a stream. This scene is likely to be very scary for some kids.
When Kubo sets off on his quest, he is accompanied by a magical monkey. As they walk along, glimpses are seen of a creature following them in shadows. This then becomes evidently a huge insect which suddenly takes Kubo. The monkey races after them and sees the shadows of Kubo and the creature as it looms over him, seemingly to attack him.
A huge skeleton with bright, glowing eyes attacks Kubo and his friends, there are numerous close-ups of its skull which is quite scary. This scene lasts around five minutes and gets quite intense. Later in the movie, a character jumps into an ocean and swims deep down, a huge, unblinking eyeball moves towards them and gradually more start to surround them; as they fall further, a large mouth with rows of sharp teeth opens to engulf them.
One of Kubo’s magical origami creatures is captured, frozen by magic and suddenly, it’s ‘bones’ are broken – its head and limbs snap into unnatural positions, it is then crumpled like paper and tossed aside.
A character transforms into a huge, scaly eel which floats above the ground. When looking for someone in a forest, they creep slowly around the trees, laughing menacingly. This lasts for around thirty seconds and is in the middle of an intense fight scene so could be quite scary for younger kids.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ manages to balance so many complex elements, which in less expert hands could have easily made it a mediocre shadow of the glory it has achieved. The care and attention that has been poured into the film shines through, creating a beautiful, genuine story. Due to some scary moments, we feel this movie should be appropriate for most kids aged seven and over.
- Violence: 2/5
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (Kubo’s life with his mother is hard for him, he has to watch her go from lucid to forgetting important things to being totally unresponsive every day and it is clear from his expressions that this devastates him. However this is quite subtle and many kids are unlikely to understand how painful this is for him. More than one character is killed, and there are some points where the story becomes bleak)
- Fear Factor: 3/5
- Sexual Content: 0/5
- Bad Language: 1/5 (barely anything to note, however there are a couple of mild words of blasphemy and one character exclaims ‘oh, foot!’ which is clearly meant to be a child-friendly version of a much stronger word!)
- Dialogue: 2/5 (Kubo’s grandfather talks about wanting to take his eye, saying ‘I’ll rip it out of your head’)
- Other Notes: Deals with themes of the power of love, compassion, humanity, courage, loss, sacrifice, family, accepting those who are different, using your talents for good, the desire to change to be a better person and never giving up hope.
Words by Laura Record