Kubo and the Two Strings
A simple and predictable fantasy fable that was wildly entertaining. Smart, affecting writing that did not dumb down the material brought laughter and scares, and an emotional sucker punch at the end that was not only surprising, but also well deserved. But most importantly, the stop-motion / CGI animation was downright stunning, and it has been a long time coming that a film's score had been so effectively used throughout.
Laika has done it again. The stop-motion maestros continued to astounding work with Kubo and the Two Strings. From the opening moments, the animation will leave you spell bound. Mixed that in with amazing origami action and seamless CGI background, and this is a real contender for best animation Oscar.
Of course, to be an Oscar contender the story itself is important, and the screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (with story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes) was well written. As simple - and predictable - as the storyline itself was, the way director Travis Knight engaged the audience with its simplicity was effective with stirring images and poignant silences interspaced between moments of physical humour and manga-esque action.
Nonetheless, the two biggest disconnect with the movie was the casting and the voice attacking.Other than Art Parkinson (aka Rickon Stark) and Rooney Mara - who were great in their roles - Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey were simply miscast and lacked vocal chemistry between each other and their character. It seemed like a shameless big-name, headlining-grab for some star power which kind of does reflect the lack of faith the producers have with the original material itself. And that is sad.
Dario Marianelli wrote the score for this film, and it is in one word: stunning. Absolutely beautiful and befitting score. It has been a long while since I last felt so attuned with a film's music. One of Marinelli's best score since Atonement and Anna Karenina.
I think this film - and the animation - would have been more stunning had it been watched in 3D. It seemed to lend itself very well, like most animation, to that technology.