I remember getting a glimpse of this film with its first released trailer, and I wasn’t really interested. It seems my brain simply chose to block out the part where it says it’s a Laika Studios production… these guys have yet to make a bad picture.
I picked it up on blu-ray sight unseen, only because I reminded myself it was a Laika film, and when I settled in for it, I found myself completely wrapped up in the story, the production, and the stop-motion animation style.
Playing out beautifully, the tale is set in Japan, where we are introduced to Kubo (Art Parkinson) who is looking after his ailing Mother (Charlize Theron) and is being hidden from his evil grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and his two terrifying aunts, the Sisters (Rooney Mara). They are hunting him down, and want his eye (they removed the other one when he was a newborn).
Kubo spends his days as a magical storyteller in the nearby village, using his shamisen to bring origami figures to life and act out his tales.
But soon, the Sisters have found him, his mother sacrifices herself, using the last of her magic to protect him and send him on a quest to gather up the sword, helmet, and armor of a great samurai to put a stop to the Moon King, and Sisters, and to live free.
He is joined by a living charm, a monkey, and a giant Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), who is convinced he was once a samurai. The trio set out on and adventure that is a rite of passage as much as it is an adventure and it is filled with stunning set pieces, and top notch stop-motion animation.
And while I don’t think the casting should have been what it was, it’s a Japanese tale, use Japanese voice actors, George Takei, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa both lend their voices to the film in smaller roles, they could have led the film I do think that it is a very enjoyable film. And I can’t believe I have to remind myself of that every time I think about watching it.
I love the imagery at work in the film, the use of themes, and the monster design, they all feel like they are paying homage to Ray Harryhausen, in particular the giant skeleton and underwater eye monster – they feel very Harryhausen.
The level of detail in the character design, and the little moments they are imbued with by the animators to convey personality and life are jaw-dropping. Often when looking at any type of animated film, one doesn’t appreciate all the work that is needed to bring each moment to life on the screen.
Laika Studio films take their time, develop their stories and their characters and always deliver. I think I need to watch another one very soon!