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|Kubo and the Two Strings|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Travis Knight|
|Music by||Dario Marianelli|
|Edited by||Christopher Murrie|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$77.5 million|
Kubo and the Two Strings is a 2016 American 3D stop-motion fantasy action-adventure film directed and co-produced by Travis Knight (in his directorial debut), and written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler. It stars the voices of Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey. It is Laika's fourth feature film produced. The film revolves around Kubo, who wields a magical shamisen and whose left eye was stolen in infancy. Accompanied by an anthropomorphic snow monkey and beetle, he must subdue his mother's corrupted Sisters and his power-hungry grandfather Raiden (The Moon King), who stole his left eye.
Kubo premiered at Melbourne International Film Festival and was released by Focus Features in the United States on August 19 to critical acclaim and has grossed $77 million worldwide against a budget of $60 million. The film won the BAFTA for Best Animated Film and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Visual Effects, becoming the second animated film ever to be nominated in the latter category following The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
In feudal Japan, young, 12-year-old eyepatched Kubo tends to his ill mother Sariatu in a mountain cave near a village. He earns their meager living by magically manipulating origami with music from his shamisen for the village folk and his mother, telling the tale of a samurai warrior named Hanzo, Kubo's missing father. Kubo is never able to finish his story as he doesn't know what happened to his father and his mother can't recall the end of the story due to her deteriorating mental state. Sariatu warns him not to stay out after dark as her Sisters (his aunts), Karasu and Washi, and his grandfather, the Moon King (who took his eye when he was a baby) will be able to find him and take his remaining eye.
One day, Kubo learns of the village's Bon festival allowing them to speak to deceased loved ones. Kubo attends but is angry that Hanzo does not appear from his lantern, and forgets to return home before sunset. Sariatu's Sisters quickly find him and attack, but Sariatu suddenly appears to protect Kubo. She uses her magic to send Kubo far away where they will never find him, telling him to find his father's armor. Kubo grabs a strand of Sariatu's hair before he is sent away.
Kubo wakes up in a distant land to find Monkey, his little wooden snow monkey charm, has come alive. Monkey tells him Sariatu is gone and the village destroyed, but they must find Hanzo's armor. With help of "Little Hanzo", an origami figure based on Kubo's father, they track down the armor. Along the way, they meet Beetle, an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a stag beetle/human hybrid but believes himself to have been Hanzo's apprentice. Meanwhile, the Sisters track down Kubo's trail.
Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle reclaim the "Sword Unbreakable" from an underground cave "Hall of Bones" guarded by a giant skeleton. They cross the Long Lake in a leaf boat to locate the "Breastplate Impenetrable" deep underwater. Kubo and Beetle swim down to retrieve it and encounter a sea monster, the "Garden of Eyes" who can entrance its victims with its many eyes by showing secrets. Kubo is caught in the creature's sight, but while entranced, comes to realize that Monkey is the reincarnated spirit of his mother. Beetle rescues the unconscious Kubo and obtains the Breastplate, but returning to the boat, they find that Monkey has been badly wounded fighting and defeating Karasu. Their boat has been badly damaged in the battle but restored by Kubo and Monkey's own magic.
They go to shore to recover, where Monkey explains that she and her Sisters had been ordered by the Moon King to kill Hanzo, but she instead fell in love with him, and the Moon King branded her an enemy. That night, Kubo dreams of meeting Raiden, a blind elderly man, who points him towards the "Helmet Invulnerable" in Hanzo's abandoned fortress. They travel there the next day, but realize too late it is a trap set by the Moon King and Washi. Washi reveals that Beetle is Hanzo, who they had cursed for taking Sariatu away from them. She kills Beetle, and Monkey sacrifices herself, allowing Kubo the time he needs to use his shamisen to defeat Washi, breaking two of the three strings on it. Little Hanzo provides insight that the Helmet is actually the bell at the village, and Kubo breaks the last string to quickly travel there.
At the village, Kubo meets Raiden, who is revealed as the Moon King. He offers to take Kubo's other eye as to make him immortal, but Kubo refuses. Raiden transforms into a giant Dunkleosteus-like dragon, the Moon Beast, and pursues Kubo and the remaining villagers into its cemetery. Kubo removes Hanzo's armor that has proven ineffective, and instead restrings his shamisen using his mother's hair, his father's bowstring, and his own hair. With the instrument, he is able to summon the spirits of the villagers' loved ones, who show the Moon Beast that memories are the strongest magic of all and can never be destroyed. Kubo and the spirits' magic protects themselves and the villagers from the Moon Beast, eventually stripping him of his powers and leaving him a mortal human without any memories. Spurred on by Kubo's stories, the villagers take compassion and tell Raiden he was a man of many positive traits, accepting him into the village. Kubo is able to speak to his parents' ghosts during the subsequent Bon ceremony, as they watch the deceased villagers' lanterns transform into golden herons and they fly to the spirit world into the sky.
Announced in December 2014, the project is the directoral debut of Laika's CEO Travis Knight. Knight was pitched the story by production designer Shannon Tindle as a "stop-motion samurai epic". Although the studio had never ventured into the genre before, Knight was enthusiastic about the project; owing partly his affinity towards both the "epic fantasy" genre as well as Japanese culture in general.
The art took inspiration from such Japanese mediums as ink wash painting and origami among others. A particular influence came from the ukiyo-e wood block style, with Laika intending to make the entire film "to look and feel as if it’s a moving woodblock print" Assistance came from 3D printing firm Stratasys who allowed Laika to use their newest technologies in exchange for feedback on them.
For the Skeleton monster the team created a giant 16-foot, 400-pound puppet, which Laika claims is the record holder for largest stop-motion puppet. The idea to make such a massive puppet was born out of a fear that individual smaller parts (meant to represent the larger monster) would not work well on screen interacting with the other puppets. The resulting puppet was built in two parts which were then attached together by magnets. For movement Laika had to design a robot to easily manipulate it. The team at one point purchased an industrial robot off of eBay but found that it would not work with their setup.
|Kubo and the Two Strings|
|Soundtrack album by Dario Marianelli|
|Released||August 5, 2016|
|Label||Warner Bros. Records|
|Laika film soundtrack chronology|
|Dario Marianelli chronology|
|1.||"The Impossible Waves"||2:37|
|2.||"Kubo Goes to Town"||1:25|
|5.||"Meet the Sisters!"||2:22|
|7.||"The Giant Skeleton"||3:30|
|8.||"The Leafy Galleon"||4:36|
|9.||"Above and Below"||3:59|
|10.||"The Galleon Restored"||1:06|
|14.||"Showdown with Grandfather"||7:04|
|16.||"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Regina Spektor)||5:23|
As of January 24, 2017[update], Kubo and the Two Strings has grossed $48 million in North America and $29.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $77.5 million, against a budget of $60 million.
In the United States, the film was released on August 19, 2016, alongside Ben-Hur and War Dogs, and was projected to gross $12–15 million from 3,260 theaters in its opening weekend. It made $515,000 from its Thursday night previews and $4.1 million on its first day. It went on to gross $12.6 million in its opening weekend, finishing 4th at the box office.
Kubo and the Two Strings received critical acclaim. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 97%, based on reviews from 193 critics, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Kubo and the Two Strings matches its incredible animation with an absorbing—and bravely melancholy—story that has something to offer audiences of all ages." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 84 out of 100, based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com awarded the film 3.5 stars out of 4, saying that "one of the most impressive elements of Kubo and the Two Strings—besides its dazzling stop-motion animation, its powerful performances and its transporting score—is the amount of credit it gives its audience, particularly its younger viewers." IGN's Samantha Ladwig gave the film 7.5/10, stating that the film is "Dark, twisted, and occasionally scary, but also with humor, love, and inspiration." Jesse Hassenger, of The A.V. Club, praised the film, saying that "no American animation studio is better-suited to dreamlike plotting than Laika, and the animation of Kubo is truly dazzling, mixing sophistication and handmade charm with inspired flow."
Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film 4/4 stars, stating that the film is "both extraordinarily original and extraordinarily complex, even for a grown-up movie masquerading as a kiddie cartoon (which it kind of is)." In The New York Times, Glenn Kenny said that "the movie's blend of stop-motion animation for the main action with computer-generated backgrounds is seamless, creating what is the most visually intoxicating of all Laika's movies." Peter Debruge of Variety wrote that ""Kubo" offers another ominous mission for a lucky young misfit, this one a dark, yet thrilling adventure quest that stands as the crowning achievement in Laika's already impressive oeuvre."
Jonathan Pile, member of the British film magazine Empire, wrote about the film: "Yet another success for stop-motion giants Laika … boasts big laughs and effective scares in a typically gorgeous animated tale."
Kubo and the Two Strings was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital media on November 22, 2016.