HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Kubo and the Two Strings
HTS Overall Score:92
I originally was clued in to the existence of “Kubo and the Two Strings” when I saw the theatrical trailers early in 2016. I was intrigued by what looked like a fun movie, but I didn’t have time enough to see it during the theatrical run. However, the word of mouth was simply amazing, with every one of my friends gushing over it like “Kubo” was the second coming of film making. The cynic in me was overly worried of ANOTHER fad film that would just fade away, but the overly excitable film fan couldn’t put out of his mind how amazing the trailers looked. Now, finally available on Blu-ray I got the chance to view it for the first time and I have to say, the positive reviews were NOT lying. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a simply fabulous film and ranks as one of my absolute favorite movies of 2016. Directed by a first timer Travis Knight (who worked on other stop motion films like “Coraline”, “Paranorman” and “The Boxtrolls”), “Kubo” is visually a STUNNING film, but also one with an incredible story that is better told than most blockbusters.
Sadly “Kubo” didn’t do very well theatrically. Given a $60 million budget, the animated flick barely squeezed in $69 million worldwide (rule of thumb is that a film needs to make twice its stated budget in Gross sales to break even, sometimes 2.5x depending on the marketing budget), making it one of the most disappointing financial flops of the summer. While it may not have captured the audience’s wallets with all of the big blockbusters it was competing against, “Kubo” is one of the best movies of the year, almost rivaling Mel Gibson’s return to director’s chair once more with “Hacksaw Ridge” (my favorite 2016 film so far). Travis Knight and his writing crew captured the pure essence of mystical quest, steeped in Japanese lore, and made it into a dark kid’s film that dances a line between being adult and child like at the same time.
I can’t describe the plot of “Kubo and the Two Strings” without giving away SOME spoilers, but I will make sure to make them as superficial as possible. Years ago the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) sent his daughters to destroy a Samurai by the name of Hanso who had captured the heart of his eldest daughter. The thing is, his eldest had born a son to this samurai and had become a threat. This child, named Kubo (Art Parkinson) was whisked away by his mother who barely escaped with her life. Left bereft of most of her powers living as a mortal, she protected Kubo as much as possible. Until the night when Kubo makes the fatal mistake of going out into the moonlight, right into the gaze of the ever watching Moon King. Now the king and his two daughters have the location of the missing heir and will stop at nothing to destroy the boy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84906[/img]Using the last of her magical powers to protect Kubo, his mother imbues life into a small monkey charm belonging to the boy and instructs the monkey to take care of her son long enough for him to find the magical armor of his father’s. Armor that will allow him to protect himself from the insatiable Moon King. Trekking out across the land, Kubo, Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a beetle that has been infused with the power of an ancient samurai (Matthew McConaughey ) have to find the last pieces of the armor before the Moon King and his vicious daughters destroy the line of Hanso and his wife forever.
“Kubo” dances a delicate line between sweet child accessible animated film, and something much darker. At times it can be light and breezy, with sly jokes and humor perfectly aimed at the children’s audience. Other times it gets rather dark, with a bleak and terrifying adventure that borders on the edge of being adult. That’s not to say that children shouldn’t see it. In fact, as long as you’re not showing it to an easily frightened 6 year old (that’s of course up to the child as each and every one is different) there shouldn’t be a problem. It’s just that Travis Knight does an amazing job at making it a film that everyone of all ages can love and glean something from. There are themes of love, of the power of memories and how loss can fuel that power beyond your wildest imaginations. I was simply mesmerized by what I was seeing, not only visually but story wise as well, and had to watch “Kubo” multiple times in one day just to experience it again.
I do have a small problem with the very ending battle of the movie, but that is fairly minor. The childish element took over once more and while it is rather sweet, it feels ever so slightly awkward considering the seriousness of the last 15 minutes or so. In all honesty, it’s a blip on the radar but just enough to keep it from being a perfect movie for me (thus the 4.5/5 instead of 5/5. Especially since I don’t like to give out 5/5 ratings will nilly).
Everyone gives the movie their all. Young Art is perfect as the naïve but determined Kubo, and McConaughey is FANTASTIC as beetle. He gives the character an over the top bravado and “dumb” humor that makes him a blast to watch. Yet at the drop of a hat he can emote a sense of sincerity and seriousness that acts as a foil to his normally goofy exterior. The same goes for Charlize Theron. She’s simply magical as Monkey (he he, pun intended) and her gruff and tough exterior with a marshmallow center is touching. Honestly. “Kubo” is better acted with just voices than most movies do with live action.
Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84914[/img]“Kubo” comes to Blu-ray with a stunner of a Blu-ray transfer. I didn’t get to review the 3D disc at this time, but the film doesn’t look like it was given that obnoxious 3D pop out style effects that can make a 2D viewing look obnoxiously fake. The film is just magnificently detailed for a cgi stop motion film. The amount of detailing had my jaw hanging almost to the floor with reflections showing up on sword blades, the paper edges having nicks and cuts on it, as well as differing shades of the same color even! The masks on the moon sisters show damage from combat, as well as differing cracks and patterns that show up identically from scene to scene. Blacks are deep and inky, and show plenty of details even in the pitch black night. There’s some minor noise that crops up here and there, but the disc is almost banding free and I couldn’t detect any other major instances of artifacting. A simply superb transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=84922[/img]While the video for “Kubo and the Two Strings” was ALMOST perfect, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just the dog’s spots. The track is immersive, powerful, and COMPLETELY nuanced to the core. The dialog is crystal clear, with great reflections and imaging in the front soundstage with the myriad of effects and battles that happen. Not to mention the copious use of the surrounds with armor clanking, swords clattering on the floor and the swirling of the moon sisters as they flash through the air. LFE is restrained and clean, but also viciously ferocious at the same time, alternating between quiet and composed dialog driven scenes to intense battles between all sorts of monsters and poor Kubo. While I WAS a little disappointed at the lack of an Atmos or DTS:X track, the 5.1 lossless audio is nothing to sneeze at. It pretty much is the best you can get since “Kubo” was never recorded in an object oriented format to begin with.
• Feature Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Travis Knight
• Kubo's Journey: Introduction by Director/Producer Travis Knight
• Kubo's Journey: Japanese Inspiration
• Kubo's Journey: Mythological Monsters
• Kubo's Journey: Braving the Elements
• Kubo's Journey: The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music
• Kubo's Journey: Epilogue by Director/Producer Travis Knight
• Corners of the Earth
• The Myth of Kubo
“Kubo and the Two Strings” is a must watch whether you’re an adult or a child. My young nephews loved the movie and were simply awestruck by the gorgeous visuals, but I was simple floored at the incredibly in depth and intelligent story that went along with the window dressings. Every bit of the movie was vibrant and alive with emotion, plucking at your heart strings one moment, and the next being on the edge of your seat with excitement as fantastic martial arts fights unfolded on screen. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed Travis Knight’s directorial debut and even though it bombed in theaters, the film is already gain a cult audience from the incredible word of mouth. Audio and video are simply superb and I was rather impressed by the solid array of extras. MUST WATCH.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey
Directed by: Travis Knight
Written by: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 102 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Buy Kubo and the Two Strings On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Kubo and the Two Strings 3D On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
More about Mike