Truth’s sharp sting elevates a story from simple traditional structure to profound catharsis in this, likely the last thing you would expect from a family film about a young boy who folds paper using magic.
Our titular origamist Kubo (Art Parkinson) embarks on a journey to retrieve a fabled suit of armour, with a monkey charm brought to life (Charlize Theron) and a samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey) along for company after he discovers his legendary lineage.
There you have it – the hero’s journey. A tale as old as time! Director Travis Knight’s invocations of the Buddha throughout the film are no accident, tied closely as they are into the story’s roots in Japanese culture.
Kubo And The Two Strings is breathtakingly beautiful, wowing in a chill-invoking way few recent family films have matched. Knight displays the finesse of Henry Selick (for whom he served under as lead animator on Coraline) while adding the weight of one versed in combat choreography. He captures the very same heady blend of excitement and danger conjured by the boss monsters in Legend Of Zelda, and though that may be a lighter reference point than Selick would choose, the trademark Laika darkness is present, especially when eyes are prized as treasures.
Early on, the film is wholly carried by this sense of wonder and purpose, and the scripting is solid but not as charming (or funny) as it could be. But when Marc Haimes and Chris Butler’s screenplay finds its feet, it plants them in warrior stance. The writers strike at the heart of the issue directly, pulling no punches; they are unashamedly confronting, but empathetic and – most importantly – astute.
Here is a family film brave enough to be honest about death. A film that puts a small boy in a suit of armour, hands him a sword, and then tells him there are better solutions. A film that takes a note from Studio Ghibli in showing that burying one’s adversary is not the only answer.
Kubo has many strings to its bow, but the two that define it are its intense evocation of family and its devotion to the power of story. Only in the passing of stories are we immortalised, and only by embracing our impermanence are we given joy and significance in our lives.
For a film about folding paper to carry such weight is compelling, refreshing and sorely needed. Kubo And The Two Strings is a gift to a new generation; one that gives them the legendary armour of truth, myth and family.
Kubo And The Two Strings opens in cinemas Thursday August 18.