I just got back from watching Laika's new film, Kubo and the Two Strings. First things first...the two strings...the two strings does not refer to Kubo's shamisen. His shamisen actually has three strings. The two strings refer to something else all together. I wont spoil it here, though, but it's not crucial to the story.
Laika did a great job. Again. Their puppets, animators, set builders, costume designers, painters, etc. are a great team. They are perfecting the craft that is stopmotion animation. 3D printing is definitely their friend. The movie was beautiful and was fun to watch. I really enjoyed it. There is way more action in this movie than, say Coraline, and the Moon King and his Daughters are a bit scary for little kids like Coraline's Beldam and ParaNorman's witch, but I enjoyed it all the way through and had no cringe moments.
Likewise to ParaNorman with it's Anti-Bullying message, there was an underlining moral in Kubo of listening and obeying your parents, dealing with loss, and finding the strength and courage to move on. The ending of the film reminded me too much like ParaNorman, where there was this big visual spectacle of a bad guy, and all our hero had to do was just to stand their ground thus defeating the bad guy with just words somehow. A bit too simplistic since the whole movie is revolved around finding the sun armor, just to bush it way so easily. [spoiler] I was also a bit confused why the towns folk were so quick to lie to Kubo's grandfather of who the kind of person he was in the town. This scene was a nice sentiment, but it felt out of place.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
UPDATE: I purchased the Blu-Ray, and have since watched the movie again. My oldest brother called me asking for clarity on a few things, as he did not understand the ending.
1. Why did the Moonking want Kubo's eyes?
2. Why did the Moonking want to have Hanso killed? I.e. Why was Hanso even a threat to him?
3. What was the point of getting the armor?
4. Why was getting the sword unbreakable important when the only "weapon" that was actually effective was the Kubo's shamisen?
I got to say, Kubo was, in the end, a bit disappointing, mostly do to the final Act of the film. I don't feel that the plot paid out in the end. The whole movie, we are following Kubo to acquire armor needed to protect against, or defeat, the Moonking, but it isn't really clear why this is important, or how it would affect the world as a whole. But that aside, the armor and sword didn't do any damage to the Moonking, and isn't what ultimately defeated him. Personally, it feels the whole quest was rather meaningless, thus making the whole back story rather pointless.
I am a little confused about the plot holes concerning Beetle. He is Hanso transformed into Beetle. So, he has been in Beetle form for 10 years but his memory and interaction with Kubo imply that he was literally born yesterday. When we first meet him, he is simpleminded, almost child like. As the movie progresses, he grows up personally to adulthood by the time he dies. Why did Beetle grow more in the last few days than he had over the last 10 years alone fending for himself in the wild?
Why, in the last act of the movie, was the entire town, hiding out in the ruins? They all pop up out of no where and their presence here totally feels wrong. Would they not all have left to neighboring towns or family instead of hiding in the ruins in the middle of the night?
Anyways, enough ranting. All that said, just to say that the story just seemed to fall flat at the end.