Kubo And The Two Strings
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Kubo And The Two Strings

Most technologies that become an integral part of the cinematic arts inevitably have started out as a gimmick. Initially, they were not intended to be a serious element of the process of telling a story; the primary purpose is mere to elicit a sense of wonderment from the audience. From the hand cranked kinescope through the addition of sound and color, the neighborhood movie theater has been a showcase for the ever-advancing technology that drives filmmakers, providing them with exciting new ways to tell their stories. Recently, a movie came to my attention for review that combines several of the most significant technological advances filmmaking which was quite a bold move. Primarily, the movie is ‘Kubo and the Two Strings.' This film is mainly categorized as animation although the particular methodology used to create it the oldest needs to achieve special effects in the history of cinema, stop action photography. Use in many of the iconic science fiction movies of the fifties the tedious practice of making minuscule changes in figures, usually 24 per second of the finished movie, provided the illusion of motion requiring over 600,000 individual frames for just a single hour. With the addition of other storytelling methods encompassing the use of color and audio synergistically blended with one of the most recently reinvigorated techniques of providing the illusion of depth, and you have a movie representing a bold choice. With this number of variables in play, the filmmaker and producers have undertaken a significant risk. Disney/Pixar experienced a meteoric rise to a commanding position in the field of animation. They have been instrumental in redefining the entire genre to the point that the Academy of Motion Pictures decided to create a new major category for the Oscars, ‘Best Animated Motion Picture. Despite Pixar films dominating the honorarium the ensuing competitive spirit served to push animated films from primarily for children to one of the truest forms of family entertainment. The result was turning animated 3D movies into a billion dollar industry consisting of myriad lucrative marketing opportunities. The substantially increased attention on animated movies has sparked an audience driven demand for quality, stories that readily appeal to the children while simultaneously engaging the adults. This movie is the epitome of such an endeavor. It is a rare gem in true family entertainment.

At the very beginning of the story, the Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) admonishes the audience "If you must blink, do it now’, do not dismiss this statement as hyperbole often found in the prolog of the film. Take the advice to heart, and consider yourself warned that if you are unable to devote your full attention to the running time of this film do yourself a favor and watch something else. Many movies the manager full attention but this one goes a step further, it deserves. Even before any further consideration of this film I feel that it is prudent to mention one that it is an example of an artistic expression that you want to watch repeatedly. Not only would this be critical to understanding some of the subtleties of the plot but it is a requisite to properly appreciate the visual nuances infused into each frame of this film. As each frame of this movie inexorably shoot deeper into the story soon realize that you will not want to blink even missing that fraction of a second would be depriving yourself of a moment of magic. Many movies primarily targeted to children have to do with magic, even the very first animated feature the Walt Disney Studios released in 1937, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, magic was a crucial plot device necessary for the understanding and enjoyment of the story. Adults have been caught up in the novelty of an animated film back, but after so many years we have become jaded by the increasing expertise and realism that studio animators can help reduce. As you watch growing Kubo role from infancy to early childhood, I guarantee that you will find yourself mesmerized by the perfection of the character development. It is rare for even live-action films to present the story so cohesively craft and presented in such a stunning visual fashion.

The story takes place in ancient Japan with a one-eyed boy named Kubo lives in a cave high atop a mountain with his mother, Sariatu (voiced by Charlize Theron). The mother and son live in a cave Kubo do his best to care for his ill mother. Take those down to the build enthralls townsfolk with his stories. Google is a gifted storyteller who can magically animate his origami through magical music focus of the three strings of his shamisen. One of the main themes of stories and insurance a samurai named Hanzo (voiced by George Takei), was Kubo missing father. Google remains in the village, and so town’s bell announces the dusk. Google receives a stern admonition from his mother never to be outside after dark. If you should be caught outside at night the Sariatu Sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara) and his grandfather, the Moon King, descend upon him to steal his remaining eye. The basis f this story is an ancient Japanese myth. Even after so many centuries and its migration to our Western cultural vantage point, it remains able to entrance the modern viewer. For many this would be a drastic paradigm shift in how you perceive Japanese culture. The story rises above the typical influences of manga and anime as the mainstay of Japanese culture. It soars back in time to some of the earliest examples of Japanese folklore.

This observation was not intended to imply that these modern forms of animation have not where some impact on the presentation of the story. The director, Travis Knight, is making debut in this directorial capacity with this film. He has previously worked as an animator with such movies as ‘The Boxtrolls’ and space ‘ParaNorman,' but he is branching out with his work here. There are obvious influences of the great manga animators, Hayao Miyazaki, founder of what many consider to be the birthplace of modern Japanese animation, Studio Ghibli. One of the themes that help demonstrate this point is reliance on what the Japanese referred to as ‘Shadow Magic.' This covert for supernatural influences becomes critical for the character development of Kubo. Many films relate to the seminal work on the heroic journey is examined by the seminal scholastic works of Joseph Campbell. While many people have related his work to the mythologies of Rome, Greece, and even the far-ranging Vikings but this film proves that Prof. Campbell’s exclamation of this cultural aspect of storytelling is truly universal.

To attempt, even a superficial synopsis of this film is nearly impossible. While most of the areas of the narrative can be easily explained they fall far short of conveying to the reader the impact, this film will have on you. This is a complete sensory experience, particularly in its native 3-D format. So many films still rely on 3-D gimmicks the cylindrical objects have always thrust through the plane defined by the screen that the effects come across as exactly as they are, contrived. In this movie every frame is a work of art that captures a moment that when shown together weaves a magical world multiple layers of depth synergistically juxtaposed to a fully immersive soundtrack. By this movie, I thought it would be possible to accurately art form origami on the screen. The precise folding the paper creating objects so delicate beauty and wonder has always been something that could only be depicted in real life. The animators of this film have achieved what would previously be thought of as impossible moving you into a paper is folding all around you growing you into the middle of its creative process. As most of you think that the pinnacle wills 3-D the climactic battle scene exemplified moviemaking. We have watched as Avengers, Guardians, and Sorcerers about the forces of evil but he’s live-action, CGI-enhanced sequences help to the experience you will have in this film. The battles fought seemingly exist all around you the sights and sounded you encounter become as substantial as any aspect of reality.

I have noticed that in many 3-D animated features the focus of the eye is pulled to the characters, an understandable use of the frame. The achievement of this is in such a seamless fashion that you might not be consciously aware at first, but this story is told with an emphasis on the environment, setting a stage on which the characters unfold the story. There is such an amazingly robust selection of Vista placed around the characters that it is unrealistic not to accept them as an integral part of the story’s telling. Whether it a churning sea tossing a boat around like a fallen leaf of a snow covered wasteland with an arm of a once awe-inspiring statue protruding skyward, the background is always essential to your understanding of what propels the characters and your comprehensive experience enjoying the film.

bulletKubo's Journey: Introduction by Director/Producer Travis Knight
bulletKubo's Journey: Japanese Inspiration
bulletKubo's Journey: Mythological Monsters
bulletKubo's Journey: Braving the Elements
bulletKubo's Journey: The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music
bulletKubo's Journey: Epilogue by Director/Producer Travis Knight
bulletCorners of the Earth
bulletThe Myth of Kubo
bulletFeature Commentary with Director/Producer Travis Knight

Posted 12/023/2016

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