A lot of classic stories tell us that it’s not about how something looks, but rather what’s inside. Kubo and the Two Strings doesn’t take message this to heart.
First off, the animation looks great. In a day and age where CGI dominates the animated market, it’s nice to see some stop motion thrown in there. The movements flow very well and it helps that some of the environments look fantastic. Put simply, this movie is a visual treat, but as far as the story goes, it falls very flat.
On paper, it sounds simple enough. Kubo’s grandfather took one of his eyes and he wants the other one, so he and his mother go into hiding. His mum tells him not to stay out after dark, and when he (of course) does, his aunts try to attack him. Soon he’s joined by a monkey and a giant beetle, and they look for some armour to defeat his grandfather. Oh, and Kubo can play a guitar which makes paper turn into living origami, for some reason.
It’s not a bad concept, but it’s execution is incredibly poor. First issue, when the monkey and the beetle (fittingly named Monkey and Beetle) are first introduced, it’s incredibly rushed. The writers essentially go “these characters are in the movie now, deal with it” and Kubo just rolls with it, and the audience is expected to. Maybe some people did, I didn’t.
For the first half of the movie, I had plenty of questions. When it gets around to answering them, it genuinely annoyed me. The biggest question I had throughout the entire movie was “Why did Kubo’s grandfather take his eye?” The reason is supposed to be symbolic, but it doesn’t make any sense why the grandfather doesn’t just outright kill Kubo, and then it starts raising more questions like…well, that’ll be getting into spoiler territory.
Take another example, where it’s revealed that Monkey is actually [SPOILERS], it makes you wonder why she didn’t say anything sooner. Beetle asks, and the answer isn’t even a reason not to say anything, it’s a cheap cop out.
You probably assume I hate this movie, but I actually don’t. It’s visually enjoyable and the opening scenes in the village showed some promise, but once it gets into the meat of the adventure, I began to get confused and annoyed. I would’ve like it more if there weren’t so many bad excuses for character choices, but as it is, Zootropolis, a fantastic movie with a brilliantly told story, should’ve won the BAFTA for Best Animated Feature over this.