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Peter T Chattaway

Kubo and the Two Strings

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2 hours ago, Justin Hanvey said:

That makes sense, thanks, yeah I can see now how that'd be problematic



Even though the film goes strange at the end, it at first seems like there is some conceptual link in the fact that the old man loses his memories.  But then I came to see that this doesn't actually link up as well as they had intended.

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So, if I'm understanding the story and ending correctly, Kubo's grandfather--the moon king--is defeated by Kubo due to the magical and beautiful power of collective memory, somehow causing the moon king to lose his magical powers, his home (the celestial moon kingdom), and his own memory. Then Kubo and the villagers make up fake memories for the old man to placate him and bring him into the village community. Which raises a question, and I need help understanding this: Was the grandfather a person who genuinely lost his memory and became the moon king somehow, then Kubo's act essentially saved him? Or was he knowingly the moon king, and Kubo's act defeated him? If the former, he didn't really know or understand what he was doing. If the latter, and he's conquered by the memories, why does his memory disappear? Also, is it ever really articulated why the moon king wants Kubo's eye? He says he wants Kubo to come be with him in the moon kingdom...but then he tries to kill him. What does the moon king actually want? Like, what's his plan, his motive, etc.? I genuinely did not catch on to what he was trying to do or how Kubo was a threat to him, so if you've seen the film, help me out.

Here's my big problem with the ending (and this may have been articulated elsewhere already): the filmmakers had a beautiful opportunity for Kubo and the villagers to tell a new story for the old man's memories, one with magical and mythical elements, perhaps even incorporating Kubo's instrument and origami figures to finish out the story...and they don't do it. Instead, the villagers invent lies. So now the entire village has a dark secret they have to keep from the old man, which isn't true reconciliation or redemption. In terms of how it approaches memory loss and manipulation, it's more Memento and less Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


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Wow, Attica. I used those very words talking to my friend Carl-Eric on the way out of the theater: "Robbed of any meaningful sense of justice and mercy. Robbed of an opportunity for redemption."

Man. This narrative gets so close to greatness. Talk about losing the game at the bottom of the 9th.

Well, no... it doesn't lose the game. It just falls short of an almost perfect game with a confounding error on the last play.


Looking over this thread now, I'm finding a lot of agreement. FYI: Here's what I posted on Letterboxd before visiting this thread.



Paper, scissors = ROCKS.

Two things — 1) a rather confounding storytelling choice during the decrescendo (no spoilers here, but I haven't yet made sense of how the resolves its conflict with the villain), and 2) the film's overly chatty dialogue — prevent me in a sort of five-star ecstasy. 

The lovingly hand-crafted stop-motion animation already has such tidal waves of praise, all I can say is "What they said." 

The characters are visually unique and memorable, if not in their personalities. 

The environments through which they move — whether in dark caves, lively villages, or stormy seas — are breathtakingly realized.

The musical score is a joyous fusion of styles right down to Regina Spektor's performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

And this movie positively revels in the possibilities of the big screen. This is a case, folks, where you really are going to lose something if you wait to watch it on your TV. At times, even on a big screen, the most important detail in the picture was something so subtle that you had to go exploring to discover it.

So it's too bad that the script is so talky. And I'm talking about that familiar, annoying, even obnoxious "Jokes that aren't funny are better than long pauses" mode that so often characterizes animated features for families (and that apparently <i>will</i> characterize the next dozen animated films to be released this year, judging from the headache-inducing trailers that precede this movie onscreen).

But the heart of the story — the emphasis on the power of artistic gifts to break down walls, unite divided communities, and even defeat villains (in ways that typical "weapons" cannot achieve) — is powerfully manifested here. This is a case of a movie that embraces its own lessons; it's creativity illustrates its themes beautifully.

The film also awakens its hero to a sort of "communion of the saints" through the emphasis on honoring ancestors that opens up possibilities for meaningful interfaith discussion.

I think I'm going to have a lot of writing to do about this film, when the time comes.



Edited by Overstreet

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5 hours ago, Overstreet said:

Wow, Attica. I used those very words

You know what they say.  Great minds......   :)


5 hours ago, Overstreet said:

Well, no... it doesn't lose the game. It just falls short of an almost perfect game with a confounding error on the last play.

No, it doesn't.  It had so many great plays throughout.   The ending was a big fumble, but luckily they had already scored plenty of points.


i can see myself buying the Blu Ray and even just resting in front of their journey through the woods now and again.  

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Finally saw it. agree with much of what was said here now. ending felt completely wrong and tacked on. but there is a small bit of dialogue that makes me wonder...

We see Kubos power break the demonic hold over this person, assuming that like Hanso as Beetle and his mother as monkey, the Moon King was a mortal human who in exchange for immortality and infinity gave up his soul and became the demonic creature villain as they were cursed and became other beings and even lost memories in Hanso's case, and that Kubos magic restored him to original form, but without his memories. then the villagers craft a lie for him..it's here that a lot of quibble is, and rightly so, but the old woman tells the man that Kubo will help him remember his story. I think that the lies are just to give him foundation in the world, and to not feel lost, a bandaid til he is strong enough to be helped by Kubo to know his true story.

It's a hope that's what the dialogue means and the story's weakness is that one is left rather confused and uncertain what was the whole point.

It does feel cheap. and tragic as far as the sisters go. I kept hoping their masks would be broken off and they'd be able to see under them and realize they'd been cursed and how beautiful the world they were blind to is

Well, anyways I liked it well enough for earlier bits, though I don't know if I feel as rapturous about its earlier parts as others in this thread.

Edited by Justin Hanvey

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The lies at the end of this didn't bother me so much as the abandonment of its own mythological structure.  Its a kind of prometheus story tacked on a Japanese construct but not with internal integrity.  

1)  The Moon King and the daughters are the moon + stars.  

2) Hanso is a mortal, who after many mortal failures preceding him, is about to complete his quest to get magical armor.

3) The magical armor somehow is offensive to the moon & stars.  

4)  Daughters go off to kill anyone who gets the magical armor.

5)  Daughter A falls in love with Hanso (he's different due to adorable combination of samurai + West Texas accent)

6)  Moon King unhappy with development uniting eternal "heavenly folk" with mortal man (it's the Lay of Luthien in neo-Japanese clothing).

7) He steals ensuing baby's eye (why?  I never got this, or rather, never believed that the explanation for the eye stealing was sufficient.)

8) Sisters find boy; boy goes on quest.

9) Boy finds armor

10) Boy confronted by Moon King--back at the village where the third piece of armor was hidden in plain sight.

11) Boy attacked by Moon King/floating alien from the Avengers, LOSES armor.  

12) Boy defeats Moon King anyway, using a THIRD string to play a chord that transforms Avengers alien/Moon King into old duffer.  Still no armor.

13) Villagers tell Moon King nice falsehoods to make him feel better.

14) Dead parents show up aglow.

15) While My Guitar Gently Weeps plays.

Huh?  SDG and others are right--amazing (but still a muddled) initial 90 minutes.  Last 15 minutes utter nonsense.  From a mythic standpoint--why was there no, zippo, zilch, nada tie back to the celestial part?  Why not extend the myth to its mythic conclusions?  Why does Grandpa want the eye?  What good will that do him?  Were the sisters blind?  Was he blind himself?  No!  What's the scoop with the armor?  Was it the worst macguffin ever?  Why does the moon king turn into an old duffer?  Why does he turn into a floating Alien from the Avengers?  Where is Loki?  What the heck?

Still, some of the images and the characterizations and the cinema of it--so beautiful.  My kids loved it (11 and 9).  I just don't understand how a movie loses its way like this--it must have taken years to make--how do you miss the end?  What was originally written?  What did they intend to communicate?  What could this have been?  Ah, well, I probably blinked.

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