In this edition of Creations of Chaos, it’s the film that teaches that music, storytelling, and paper, can be mightier than the sword. It’s Kubo and the Two Strings.
When I was in fourth grade, I did not like my fourth-grade teacher. She wore several inches of makeup and had beauty-pageant-perfect, fire-red hair. Several times a week she would click-click-click around the classroom in her impractical high heels, making comments that clearly expressed that she was not a fan of children. It was the 1980s. Helicopter parenting wasn’t prevalent and our feelings as children were not considered all that important. It didn’t matter that our teacher was horrible. You did your work, behaved, and hoped fifth-grade would be kinder. To deal with the situation, I used the only tools I had at my kid disposal, my imagination, a notebook, and a pencil. I started weaving a tale about my teacher secretly being a witch. She kidnaps my dog, taking my canine away to her evil witch world. I had to save my furry friend. Soon, my friends joined my quest, and were written into the story. The mean kids in our class were cast as grotesque monsters that we met as we made our way towards the witch’s castle. Now when the teacher yelled about the tiniest infraction, all I could think of was… dialogue!
As I watched Kubo and the Two Strings, the memories of my forth-grade year came flooding back. The story of Kubo is essentially a story about a boy who uses the only tools he has, to cope with a difficult situation.
Kubo, learns that he is being hunted by his evil Aunts and Grandfather. With the assistance of a childhood toy-brought-to-life, and a half-man, half-beetle, Kubo must go on a quest to find the pieces of a legendary armor, before his estranged family members steal his humanity.
Kubo’s got talent. He is an excellent storyteller, musician, and he’s not too shabby at origami. Since he lacks experience with a sword, Kubo uses his music, storytelling, and paper folding skills as his weapons.
I love the idea that imagination can be a weapon, and that storytelling has power. Whether the object is to teach a lesson, connect us with something spiritual, purge difficult feelings, or simply create an escape during a stressful time, storytelling heals.
Music, combined with origami, is a neat concept, and creates stunning, eye pleasing, animation. I’m always fascinated by stop-motion animation, and the use of 3-D printing, with a dash of robotics, makes the visuals especially interesting. This isn’t any old animated film, it is a work of art.
This is also another film that makes me highly suspect of the Academy Awards. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Zootopia, but Kubo and the Two Strings and The Red Turtle, had far more depth and artistic dazzle.
Mask of Fear
When I was a very small girl, one of my older sisters watched a scary movie while babysitting me. I had to sleep in bed with my parents for weeks, and one of the images from the film still haunts me. It was a person in a thin, clear mask, that looked very much like a person’s face. Since then, I’ve always had a fear of certain types of masks. I’m even more alarmed when the person speaks, but because of the mask, the mouth remains still.
I think this is why I found Kubo’s two Aunts particularly terrifying. Kubo’s director, Travis Knight, does not hold back the creepiness.
Not only do they speak in spooky voices, their masked faces remain completely still. It reminded me of the character, in the chilling end scene, in the short, animated, horror, film, Kakurenbo.
Even more alarming than their appearance, is the Aunt’s and Grandfather’s motivation. Kubo’s family wants to capture him to steal his humanity. His Grandfather already succeeded in stealing one of Kubo’s eyes, and he seeks the other. Without eyes, Kubo cannot see the suffering of others. If he can’t see people, he will have no issues acting coldly towards them.
In many animated films, the main characters are trying to escape losing their lives or their freedom, but there is something uniquely startling about being turned into someone who no longer cares about the suffering of his fellow man. This is a great concept that could generate a lot of discussion with kids. What is humanity and why is it important that we keep our humanity intact? What are the things that could cause someone to lose their humanity and act cruelly to others?
We Are Family
There is an especially heartbreaking scene where Kubo expresses his desire to simply have a meal with his parents. All he wants is a family, but that desire is plagued with road blocks. His mom is catatonic, his father is dead, his aunts and grandfather are heartless villains. Kubo’s life is teeming with family, but it’s not the family that he wants.
Though it isn’t quite the same as Howl’s Moving Castle’s lesson of family being what you make it, Kubo learns that you may not get the family you want, but you can appreciate the family you get.
Knowing my affinity for animated films, people have asked me if I’ve seen Kubo and the Two Strings, since its opening day. For one reason or another, I haven’t been able to catch up with it, until now. I’m so happy I finally had the chance to see it.
The storytelling is beautiful, the animation is stunning, and the concept ignites the imagination. If one of the film’s goals is to stress the importance of memories, then it worked its magic on me. It revived multiple childhood memories, and reminded me how important storytelling has been to me throughout my life.