Produced by the same studio as ‘Happy Feet’ and directed by Zack Snyder, the visionary behind ‘300’ and ‘Watchmen’, ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ is a dark fantasy that is visually stunning yet emotionally vacant.
Loosely based on the first three books in Kathryn Lasky’s epic fifteen-book fantasy “Guardians of Ga’Hoole”, ‘Legend of the Guardians’ is the tale of a young, adventurous Barn Owl named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess, also featured in ‘Across the Universe’) who has been entertained by the titular legend of the wise Owls of Ga’Hoole his entire life.
After accidentally falling to the ground underneath their home nest, Soren and his brother Kludd (voiced by Ryan Kwanten, better known as Jason Stackhouse on the popular show “True Blood”), are kidnapped and taken to the home of the Pure Ones, an evil clan of owls led by the infamous Metalbeak (with voice provided by Joel Edgerton, who played Owen Lars in ‘Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Revenge of the Sith’), sworn enemy of the Guardians. Through brainwashing and fear, Metalbeak is fashioning an army that will attempt to defeat the Guardians and bring him one talon step closer to ruling all of the Owl kingdoms. After escaping the clutches of the Pure Ones, Soren and a group of misfit owls set out on a journey to find the supposedly mythical Guardians, rescue the captured owlets, and in turn save the entirety of the Owl kingdoms.
On a technical level, the film is a masterpiece. The animation is simply breathtaking, with the movement and texture of the owls being so realistic that were it not for their speaking and advanced militaristic tendencies, you would forget that they are computer generated. Seeing the film in 3D adds to the spectacle, making the battle sequences all the more tense and stupefying.
However, for all of it’s incredible animation, the film lacks a cohesive and strong plot. As has been said, the film is an adaptation of three books. It attempts to squeeze the depth and amount of action in these three novels into a 90 minute time frame, and it fails miserably. As a result, the few twists and turns of plot in the film come off as contrived instead of compelling, and new characters and plot devices are introduced so speedily that the audience can barely keep up.
The voice acting, however, is one of the film’s stronger points. Jim Sturgess hits just the right amount of strength, naïveté and bravery as Soren. Helen Mirren, notable for her role as Emily Appleton in ‘National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets’, sends shivers down the spine as Metalbeak’s evil wife, Nyra.
However, characterizations are a minus. Digger, a Burrowing Owl that served as the group’s brain in the novels, is demoted to the scatterbrained comic relief in the film. This adds color and humor to the otherwise dark film, but doesn’t help in preserving the integrity of Lasky’s works.
In the end, ‘Legend of the Guardians’ isn’t a bad film, but it is certainly an example of style over substance. It’s enjoyable, but only for the eyes.
Great and thorough article Sam.