Film Critique 1 – Animation

I have always been a fan of stop-motion animation, enjoying the hi-jinx of Wallace and Gromit, the harrowing tales from Tim Burton, and the heartwarming family films like Chicken Run. Being someone who has seen many stop-motion films I had no clue what to see, and that’s when I found Kubo and the Two Strings. I went into this movie knowing almost nothing about it. I had heard the hype awhile ago but had never had the opportunity to actually see it.

Let me start by saying that this movie was absolutely gorgeous. This was the first time that I actually say claymation flow so smoothly. Along with that the story line was heartwarming, the villains were frightening, and the characters were enjoyable in every way. Kubo is a storyteller, playing his Shamisen and causing paper to actually come to life and act out his stories. Kubo lives a happy life with his mother in the mountains, though she struggles from memory loss caused by a blow to her head. Kubo soon finds himself in danger from his grandfather the Moon King and his mothers evil sisters. He sets out with his companions Monkey and Beetle in order to find the sacred armor, learn about the past of his father, and stop the moon king.

Probably the best part of the movie is when Kubo plays his Shamisen. Throughout the movie Kubo must use this instrument in order to manipulate his environment. Every time he plays the melody is always different and captivating, starting typically with just Kubo and his instrument before being mixed into a larger soundtrack. Every song that was used was absolutely beautiful and very fitting for the environment of the film.

Another thing I admired was the smoothness of the dialogue with the claymation animation. Typically with claymation it is obvious that the voice, though connecting with the character, falls behind when it comes to syncing up with the actual human movements of the mouth. That was not the case here as the dialogue seemed to literally emerge from the characters mouths, even though they are only simple puppets.

I do have a favorite scene sound wise. It’s at the beginning of the movie (don’t worry, no spoilers). The previous scene a baby Kubo and his mother wash up on a rainy beach. The music is beautiful and intense, throwing in that Shamisen that I have fallen in love with. The favorite scene features Kubo waking up and beginning his day. As essentially the first real scene of the movie there is no music in it. As someone learning folley this is a scene rich in it as Kubo makes breakfast, getting ready to go out, and taking care of his mother. There is no music to enhance of distract, only rich sound effects that enhance the scene. I caught it immediatly when I watched it and I admired the skill that was put into it.

I would highly recommend this movie who has ever been a fan of stop motion or claymation. This movie is aesthetically pleasing, musically gorgeous, and just overall interesting and engaging. I’m using a lot of positive descriptors here but this movie is actually a really good movie. I would also say that this may be a children s movie, but it is fun to watch for anyone at any age.

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