Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Matinee with Snacks
I went into this movie with pretty low expectations. The previews are gorgeous, but what computer animated film has any excuse not to be gorgeous these days? The whole thing seemed like something Elijah Wood would headline (and by that I mean Happy Feet and not Lord of the Rings). Well, it’s more like Lord of the Rings than you might imagine, and well worth the 3-D surcharge at that.
The Guardian Owls of Ga’Hoole are legendary heroes whose tales are told to fledgling owls like we tell stories of Robin Hood or King Arthur. There are two factions, the Guardians and the Pure Ones, pitted in an epic struggle that really feels epic, world-encompassing. Two brothers undergo a great schism and their differences become the grist for a great and final conflict. With an insanely stellar British and Australian voice cast (Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Miriam Margolyes, Sam Neill, Abbie Cornish, David Wenham, more) ennobling the already-solid dialogue, the brilliant animators manage to bring life and full actorly range of feeling to the flat, stiff physiognomy of the various species of owls.
The plot is a pretty straightforward adventure story; though bloodless, it’s quite violent, and I am not sure I would bring someone under the age of 9. Zack Snyder directs, and his last films were Dawn of the Dead and 300 — and Ga’Hoole, while simply plotted, does not let you forget that these birds are first and foremost predators. The story, from Kathryn Lasky’s novel series, makes me want to go and read the books, though I fear they may be too kiddie to be enjoyed as I enjoyed this film.
Guardians gets 3-D right. Like Pixar movies and Avatar before it, the effect is used for depth and richness of an environment and not gags. Marvel at a battalion of owls, glimpsed from below and stretching up into the stormy sky. Goggle at the aerial acrobatics in a lair built for flighted creatures, the dust wafting off the cliff and sparking flames raging behind windswept cloth, the swirling eddies of atmosphere and the blinding fog. It’s a phenomenal portrait of the vastness of their world and the open cavern of the sky in flight.
My one complaint is a common kid movie pitfall, and one that in this film felt even more out of place and egregious than normal: a dopey montage backed with an obnoxious pop song. I don’t care if the band is “Owl City,” it was appalling and wrenched my companion and I out of the world we were so happily nestled into, staining David Hirschfeld’s lush and appropriate score, and making me dock the film a letter grade. Inexcusable. It’s bad enough when it happens during the credits one second after the story is done; during the movie is so jarring.
MPAA Rating PG
Release date 9/24/10
Time in minutes 90
Director Zack Snyder
Studio Warner Brothers