If you must blink, do it now.
These are the words that started the movie and I have to say, I honestly cannot remember if I blinked. I do remember doing my best to keep my eyes open so I didn’t miss a thing. From the first frame, I was instantly engrossed in this epic of a story, unlike anything I had ever seen. And yet today, I can say that thinking back, I still missed some key details that almost certainly require a second viewing.
Set in Ancient Japan, the film tells the tale of Kubo (Art Parkinson), a one-eyed boy who makes a living as a storyteller, bringing origami figures to life to enact the tales and exploits of his samurai father, Hanzo. Every night, he must return home to his mentally handicapped mother before the moon rises or else his mother and grandfather will find him and take his other eye. One night, however, he stays out too late and is forced to run away and find his father’s old armor, as it is the only thing that will protect him. He is accompanied on his quest by Monkey (Charlize Theron), a stoic and harsh wooden charm brought to life by his mother and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), an amnesiac samurai cursed to take the form of a beetle.
Right from the beginning the movie is not about a quest to find a father’s old armor. It’s about a young boy’s quest to discover who his parents are and about family and that is evident from the very first scene. A mother caught in a storm at sea, capsized and cracking her skull on a rock and crawling desperately to protect her crying baby is an image that I was not prepared to witness at the beginning of a kids movie. There are some very intense moments in this film that made me wonder if this movie should really be rated PG.
Then again, I’m not a kid anymore and I should remember that kids can handle quite a bit. I remember as a kid watching a chinese cartoon where a child slits his own throat in order to save his father’s kingdom from 4 dragons. As a kid, I didn’t understand that he was committing suicide. I understood that he was sacrificing himself to save the kingdom (by the way, the movie in question is called Prince Nezha’s Triumph Against Dragon King).
Movies have a unique way of transporting us to another world and Kubo and the Two Strings is no exception. It is a world steeped in Japanese fairy tale, mythology and folklore. It is rare to find an American movie that is based in a different country’s culture and it is also refreshing to find a movie that is so unique. The only complaint I have about the film would be the ending which seems more like the ending to an American fairy tale over an ending an Asian fairy tale would have.
Ultimately, the movie is about the journey and probably more about beginnings. It’s touching, its intense, its funny and its everything I ever wanted from a movie.