Kubo and the Two Strings Blu-ray Review
If you must blink, do it now.
Kubo and the Two Strings delivers Pixar-grade quality, and unparalleled craftsmanship both in terms of technical prowess and narrative depth.Weaving a majestic, folklore-entrenched tale about a one-eyed child with a magical talent for wooing townsfolk with his wondrous stories, animated by paper creations brought to life by his strumming, Kubo is exquisite. As dark forces arrive to destroy him and everybody he loves, Kubo must undertake a treacherous voyage of discovery, accompanied only by a magical monkey and a beetle-samurai. Beyond the staggering amount of work that went into crafting the stop-motion animation (we're talking over a hundred thousand frames, with some days yielding little more than 10 frames) and into creating this wonderful, epic universe and the unique characters that populate it, Kubo should actually be celebrated for its rich emotional resonance and deep, contemplative themes. Considering it's a directorial debut for Travis Knight (who was previously an animator on Coraline), it's a tremendously impressive film.Indeed, whilst it will likely enthrall younger audiences with its scenes of wondrous fantasy (and, indeed, somewhat scary sorcery), and with its colourful, visually opulent world, it's the adults who may well be truly drawn into the plight of young Kubo, as the twists and turns of his truly traumatic voyage hammer home tragedies that have touched us all in one way or another. Art Parkinson (the youngest Stark kid from Game of Thrones) provides the perfect vocal incarnation of Kubo, taking us on this voyage, whilst Charlize Theron voices the powerful monkey, and Matthew McConaughey the goofy but loyal samural beetle, who both protect him. Ralph Fiennes brings the villain to life, but Rooney Mara steals the show as evil twin sisters straight out of a J-horror. Bravely eschewing feel-good sentiments and happy-twist cop-outs, this strange, unique, melancholy voyage is marvelous, magical and not to be missed.
Picture QualityKubo and the Two Strings hits UK Region Free Blu-ray courtesy of Universal, who deliver a sumptuous and impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen. The meticulously crafted piece is finely textured and wondrously captured, with some innovative techniques implemented to bring the stop-motion animation to life. Everything from Monkey's almost feathery pelt to Beetle's 'armour' is given nuanced observation, picking up the finest of details, blemishes and flourishes on the characters' skin and the intricacies of the lavish costume designs. Colours are broad and rich, popping with vibrancy, whilst black levels are deep and display excellent shadow detail.
The meticulously crafted piece looks sumptuous and impressive in HD
Sound QualityThe audio is reference through and through
Kubo and the Two Strings serves up a vibrant DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which makes the most of the outstanding, sweeping, evocative score, innovative, mystical effects and well-placed vocals (Parkinson's voicing of Kubo really makes his stories captivating). The array delivers these elements with precision and presence, largely courtesy of the LFE channel, which is ready and waiting to lend weight to every characteristic of the track, from the action sequences to the more soulful musical drifts. Dialogue is prioritised at the front, whilst the effects engulf you from every direction, from arrows flying across your living room, to crashing waves all around, and whilst the score sweeps you into the emotional voyage offering further welcome resonance. It's reference through and through.
ExtrasKubo's release sports a decent selection of extras
Kubo and the Two Strings' UK release sports a decent selection of extra features, headlined by an Audio Commentary from the director who talks in detail about the production, how they put it together, the design, the hard work and the symbolism, folklore basis and themes. It's well worth checking out. Kubo's Journey is a 6-part Making-of Featurette totaling half an hour of background material, and split into key sections - Introduction, Japanese Inspiration, Mythological Monsters, Braving the Elements, The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music, and Epilogue. A further couple of 2-3 minute Featurettes, Corners of the Earth and The Myth of Kubo skim over the myriad 'locations' and the deeper themes at the heart of the film.
Blu-ray VerdictThis strange, unique, melancholy voyage is marvelous, magical and not to be missed
Universal's Region Free UK Blu-ray release boasts excellent video and superior audio, as well as a decent selection of worthy extra features, and comes highly recommended for those young and old.
You can buy Kubo and the Two Strings on Blu-ray here
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