There's a short documentary by director Travis Knight prior to the screening of the film Kubo and the Two Strings. It covers the method of animation filming known as Stop Motion photography, which he states: "…has this sort of weird magical charm and energy that reminds us what it was like when we were kids."
That one sentence is a wonderful explanation of the movie. It is a tale, where in ancient Japan, a young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson), cares for his sick mother in a village, earning a living by telling stories to the town folk with the use of his shamisen (a three-string Japanese lute). The instrument causes paper to fly around folding itself into origami forms. He starts each story with the phrase: “If you must blink, do it now!” His mother states: “Always be home before dark.” One day, he arrives late and a spirit turns Kubo’s life upside down, creating havoc. In order to survive, Kubo must search for a magical suit once worn by his father, accompanied by his mystical friends, a paper Samurai Soldier, a beetle (Matthew McConaughey), and a monkey (Charlize Theron), in order to defeat a vengeful spirit.
Understanding the intense labor required for stop motion photography, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of this film. The countless number of hours it must've taken to generate all of the models, props, scenes, frame by frame, was just mesmerizing to watch. Unlike CGI, every object in the camera’s frame was manipulated millimeter by millimeter and shot in sequence, in order to achieve fluid motion to the film. The work is precise. It requires a computer-controlled camera in order to capture every detail for this amazing story.
While the story is simple, it has a deep philosophical meaning at its core. Kubo’s shamisen has three strings. So what are the two strings, you ask? Well hopefully by the end of the movie you'll have figured it out for yourself.
I recommend this movie to everyone—especially children of all ages. It is heartwarming, emotional, and should bring tears to your eyes. Don't miss it, as it may well end up being selected best animated film at this year's Academy Awards. I’d give it my vote.