Before delving into things, some quick bullet points between why I like it, and potentially why it might be a turn off to some:
- Great composition of (mostly) stop-motion and CGI. I feel like I'm missing something, but overall it feels very seamless.
- The trailer does not show the entire movie, in fact far from it.
- For a western studio doing a thematically cultural film, I'd say it's one of the more respectable ones. At the very least it feels more balanced in what it portrays, and feels more like it's trying to teach something more than give a flat representation.
- The movie does not hold your hand. While yes, it is a family film, it doesn't feel like it's written or executed for an audience with a short attention span.
- The voice direction is great, especially for the actors not being full-time voice actors.
Thoughts, Opinions and Other Things:
This is neither a "Disney" film, nor does it feel like simply a cash grab. I don't say this as if you say you can't enjoy either of those things, I know I do, but it is not that kind of movie.
The best way I could probably sum it up would be... it kind of feels like if Don Bluth directed a Samurai Jack film, with a "Secret of Nimh" feel as far as Don Bluth levels go. Though I remember watching a review somewhere that called it "the closest thing to a Legend of Zelda movie", and that's probably more accurate.
Within the first 5-10 minutes, the tone is set for the film regarding what kinds of "darks" and "lights" it's going to hit. The film is not afraid to hurt the main characters physically and mentally, however keep it mind that it does maintain its PG rating. It does let your mind fill in the blanks some in areas, which is nice.
Also probably for the first time in a long time, at least for this theater experience, even the younger (than 10) children were relatively invested and allowed for the quiet moments to be quiet. Some got scared, they were amazed by the action and scale, and others even sad if they had an understanding of what was happening. The person I went with, as an older adult whom had children they raised and grandchildren that they see on a regular basis, had concerns that the movie was too scary for children.
I honestly feel it's something that's been missing from a fair chunk of children/family targeted audiences within the past decade or more, give or take. While I can understand that (at the very least) some parents want their kid to have a good, fun childhood, I like to think it's just as important to let children be scared and to feel comfortable with being able to approach your parent/guardian/figure person/etc. to ask questions about some of the themes brought up. In this case, I would say it revolved around humanity, mortality and the ability to move on.
I don't mean they should become enlightened or have an epiphany from it, but it feels like a nice way to at to introduce the idea and start a conversation. Whether or not a parent would want to engage in that will vary.
However, I can understand that the pacing might be a bit slow in some parts where exposition comes into play. That's not to say the movie doesn't keep you engaged.
I will also say that the story itself is a bit simple and easy to predict, though well executed. The main character Kubo, despite the abilities shown in the trailer, is not all powerful, but not helpless either. He's a great "kid" character, being clever, imaginative, though also understanding serious situations. The monkey and Matthew McConaughey the beetle bring great support and character interaction. I say it like that because it's basically him as a beetle, but he's still a fun character. The monkey is great just as well and brings solid ground between the three, but they all compliment each other on the journey.
The "villains" of the film are fun as well, giving off a great creepy vibe, and are formidable to the trio. I will say the final bout though could've been better given the previous fights, but the resolve itself is nice. For some, the motive might get lost if you're not paying attention, but I wouldn't call it "evil" either despite their actions are very aggressive. It's not supposed to be completely black and white.
The cultural queues used feel well balanced. You feel like you're learning about something, without feeling like you're being fed mere typical stereotypes. It also doesn't really feel alienating either by making it too complex.
TL;DR - It's a fun adventure film that doesn't treat the audience as either low brow or more mature than it needs to present itself. Great visuals using mix of stop-motion first, aided with CGI and great use of compositing to bring it together. The characters work well with each other throughout the entire film, and it made them work to meet the end of the journey. A few moments might be tear jerkers, but it feels earned.
Go see it if you get the chance~!
If you have seen it, lemme know your thoughts, even if you didn't enjoy it. If you can help it, please avoid spoilers for others. If not, feel free to send me a note instead~