First off, what a slump in the movies these past few weeks! I think there were 2 or 3 times I went to the mall to watch a movie, and ended up going home instead because there were nothing of interest (not even Ben-Hur). It has been quite a while since The Shallows and Suicide Squad (not that I was happy about that), and the only movie worth buying cinema tickets this week is Don’t Breathe. At least next week, we’ll have Pete’s Dragon and Tom Hanks’s Sully, which reminds me a lot about Denzel Washington’s Flight. All the same, it’s really good to have something to look forward to next week.
Speaking of upcoming movies, and to go back to topic, “Kubo and the Two Strings” seem to me a very interesting outing by Laika (Stop) Animation Studios. Currently enjoying a 96% Fresh rating in RottenTomatoes.com, it sure looks like it is the studios most critically acclaimed movie so far, even topping their catalog’s best, Coraline, which sits comfortably at 90%. Just to give you an idea of what it is about, click to play the theatrical trailer below:
“If you must blink, do it now…”
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it does seem that it could give Pixar’s Finding Dory a good run for its money come Oscars next year. Not that I didn’t like Dory, I did, but because it feels like Kubo could trump Dory in terms of story, execution, and maybe even in overall animation. Believe me, as a Pixar fan, these words tastes like spicy vinegar coming out of my mouth. I love Pixar, but if I’m going to be honest, some of their recent work has dipped in quality expected from a Pixar feature. Don’t get me wrong, they’re usually still better compared to other animated films from other studios, it’s just for me, as a fan, some of them are still less than the Pixar-quality I’ve gotten used to in their earlier movies.
So why do I think Kubo could have better chances at next year’s Oscars’ Best Animated Category? I love Pixar’s originality when it comes to their stories, but lately, they have been churning out more sequels rather than original ideas. If you look into their upcoming projects, most of it are going to be sequels as well. Their earlier movies always blow audiences away with high-concept stories and impeccable animation. Kubo might just bring in the much missed originality factor that audiences used to enjoy from Pixar movies. And while the trailers have shown some breathtaking animation from the movie, it also promises an all-new story that we have never seen before.
“If something seems like it can’t be done, that’s normally when we show an interest in it…”
Apart from this, it looks like there’s a lot of heart that was put in to the project. I know, I know, many animation studios do, but when I say heart, I mean the intent to make a brilliant masterpiece work in ways so painstakingly and patiently created just so we can enjoy this movie. Animation in itself is already a brutal, time-demanding task. But you know, Kubo creators probably thought, “it isn’t difficult enough so let’s make it stop-motion”. We do know however that it’s up Laika’s alley as they quite have the experience and the catalog to prove that they can do it, and very well too. Me? I just couldn’t imagine the amount of hard-work and patience to even produce a craft such as this.
The process of creating a 2-second scene had to be time-lapsed!
There has also been a significant research put into the production to ensure that it fits the magical Japanese setting that it is going for, not only in how the sets are made, but also in the process of conceptualizing character designs, their cultural relevance, and the clothes they wear in the movie. However, beyond concept, they also made sure that they actually make them functional for when they “animate” the objects and the puppets.
If all these isn’t quite enough to convince you, maybe the cast of Kubo and the Two Strings could. However, as Pixar has proven time and again, big names in the entertainment industry doesn’t always equate to successful story-telling when it comes to voice actors. In Kubo’s case though, it seems to be something that actually makes sense. Art Parkinson, who’s most distinguishable to us as Rickon Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, voices the movie’s main protagonist Kubo. Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey voice Monkey and Beetle respectively, while Ralph Fiennes does voice work for the Moonking, and Rooney Mara does The Sisters.
For me, the thing going for Kubo and the Two Strings is that it is fresh, original, and something we probably have never seen before. I think that animation studios have in their responsibility to awe audiences, not just with the visuals, but most importantly to connect with them via their story and characterizations. The fad seems to be to convolute the movie with as many characters as possible, but for me, that makes it harder for the audiences to connect to the story as it has to revolve too many characters, which may or may not be relatable to audiences. As far as Kubo is concerned, even in its trailers you can already distinguish the characters easily enough to know who will be central to the story. A great example that I could parallel Kubo to is Pixar’s UP. It only has a small number of characters so it is quite easy to identify with them even in just the first viewing. I think that is also what make’s Wall-E’s first half so successful because we’re only following two characters. However, the moment it goes into space and into the Axiom, it gets reduced to standard animation movies tropes.
I have a strong feeling Kubo is going to take over the animation categories in major entertainment awarding bodies in the coming year. That’s saying something as I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m saying it because I feel like I have developed a nose for animated films over the years, and I am able to predict whether it would be bad, average, good or great. I have never been wrong about Pixar yet. I’m quite confident about Laika’s offer this year though, and they probably have a winner by the looks of it in Kubo and the Two Strings.
If you would like to see more of the making of Kubo and the Two Strings, click the play the video below:
While American audiences are already enjoying the brilliance of this stop animation feature, Filipino audiences have to wait until October 12, 2016 before seeing this movie. To me that is a grueling month-and-a-half wait, especially these days when there are not many interesting movies available.
Are you excited about Kubo and the Two Strings? Holler at me at the comments section and let me know your thoughts.