My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching this film is that it is a shame that people will never give films like this a chance, especially compared to so many of these low-quality CGI films that are being put out, but are more commercialized. You get very involved and invested in the story, and there is a huge emphasis on storytelling as a part of the plot, since they always remind us that one story ends, and another one begins.
The only information I could find about the production of this film is that it was revealed to the public on December 2014, and that the film is Laika’s CEO named Travis Knight’s directional debut.
The film starts with a woman named Sariatu (Charlize Theron) is surfing the water with her newborn Kubo (Art Parkinson), but ends up injuring her eye and coasts along the shore. Years later, the boy creates origami, and aids after his ill mother in a cave of a mountain. He goes into the village to tell stories, with the illusion that his origami pieces are coming to life. We see some very intriguing, unique, and thrilling animation sequences. The bell to signal him home rings before his story ends, and everyone is begging him to complete the story. He returns to his mother sitting in the same spot, and she actually DOES speak.
She tells him a story that involves his father, and he asks her how his father was really like. Sariatu tells him that he is a clone of his father, and to never forget how much his father love shim. We learn that her father and sisters killed his father, and they took Kubo’s one eye. He is told to never go into the night sky, or else his aunts and grandfathers will take him away and steal his other eye.
He goes into the village the next day, and Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro) tells him about the festival, and how it is such a shame that he never stays after sunset. Apparently the festival involves creating a lamp to speak to someone who has departed. Sariatu freaks out after realizing her son is not home, and it is sunset, and it is at this moment, that her aunts approach him to snatch his other eye. He runs into the village, and the spirits roam through most of them. Sariatu is forced to leave her house to stop her sisters, but she sends her son off with her magic, before her sisters end up killing her.
He wakes up to see Monkey (Charlize Thereon) hovering over him, and she tells him that his mother used the last of her magic to bring her alive to guide him. Kubo is told that his aunts (Roooney Mara) never sleep, and if they do not move fast, they will kill her and take his other eye, but neither of them know where this so-called-armour is. He starts to have similar dreams like his mother, which involves origami pieces coming to life, but with him, his origami piece Hanzo comes to life.
In a cave called the “Hall of Bones”, that is where they find his father’s sword, and Beetle takes it out without even questioning if it is a trap. The monster is awoken and takes Monkey and Beetle, but Kubo manages to take a sword out of the monster’s head; disabling it. Monkey and Beetle have an “adult conversation” about what to do about how to get through the lake, and……… I am starting to lose interest. I do not know if it involves the story cliche of the two assistants arguing about the safety of the main character. While they were talking, he managed to somehow create a boat by playing a guitar.
After a bonding session, they decide to go in the lake of the Garden of Eyes to find some sort of breastplate while a storm takes place. His aunts compare Kubo to his father, and tell one another that they cannot let him find the rest of the armour, so they split apart. Thinking that Beetle is in danger, and because protagonists need to save every damn body in films, he jumps in the lake, and finds the breastplate. Monkey gets into a sword fight with one of the sisters, and we learn that she is mad that they lost their sister 11 years ago for falling in love with a man, and betraying their father.
I will say this; when the film divulges in history and culture, it really stands out, but when it goes into predictable storytelling and cliches, it does get me bored at times. Kubo receives a dream about knowing where the helmet is, so they all get up to fetch it. They make it to the palace, but one of the sisters capture them, and reveals that Beetle is in fact Honzo, and the family were around one another the entire time. A battle takes place, causing both the parents and the sister to be killed.
Kubo retrieves the helmet after realizing it is by the village, and he meets his grandfather (Ralph Fiennes), who wants his remaining eye so the kid can rejoin his family and be immortal. Kubo of course refuses, and the two go to battle. Because I simply hate recapping climax events, I will just, say that Kubo uses his mother’s hair, father’s strong, and his own hair for guitar strings, which shows that love conquers all. His grandfather becomes mortal, and seems to not have any memories, so everyone uses this as an opportunity for forgiveness, giving him a false identity. He ends up praying to his parents, and he has a reunion with tier spirits.
The characters are……. not the best, but it could have been a lot worse. More focus was put into the story and the message of heart and being a story.
Honestly, it seems like it is not even a stop motion film; I have never seen such beautiful stop motion in my entire life. It was even more intruiging because they infiltrated a lot of japanese art in the animation, which makes the stop motion get its own look. I was very stunned with how quick the motion was, and how detailed things got, but it is not in the same way that many other stop motion films are detailed. There is pretty much nothing wrong with the animation, though it may be too detailed for some people.
The music has some japanese elements, and other traditional Hollywood themes, so there is a decent enough mix. There are no songs, and the score is not very memorable, but it does the job right enough I guess.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on August 19th, 2016, it grossed $47.6 million domestically, and $19.9 million in other territories, with a worldwide gross of $67.5 million. It did beat its $60 million budget, but the overall gross is nowhere close to being impressive, but it is the normal for stop-motion features. It has made the least out of the Laika canon.
Critically, it was very well-received, with people liking the melancholy story, and the animation, claiming that it is a strong family film and another great Laika addition.
= 32.5/40 = 81%