Animation Movies, by Ajay Singh, 17 March 2011

Director: Zack Snyder

Stars: Emily Barclay, Jim Sturgess, Emilie de Ravin, Abbie Cornish, David Wenham, Jay Laga'aia, Miriam Margolyes, David Field, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Ryan Kwanten

Country: USA | Australia

Runtime:

Release Date:

Language: English

Nominations: Annie Awards, Australian Film Institute, Satellite Awards

Official Site: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole Official Site

Legend of the Guardians tells the story of young Barn Owl Soren, who must seek out the help of a legendary band of owl warriors called the Guardians to rescue his family from the villainous Metal Beak and his minions.

It is impossible to avoid comparing Legend of the Guardians with a host of other recent fantasy adventure films, starting of course with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The film proliferates with unpronounceable names and exotic-sounding locations, massive special effects sequences, idealistic heroes, and ancient legends come to life. But then, that is what films of this genre are meant do; the question is only how well it is done. In the case of Guardians, the answer to this question varies greatly.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

The plot, adapted from Kathryn Lasky’s Legend of the Guardians series is original only for the fact that it features owls rather that elves or Hobbits. The young and visionary Barn Owl Sorin (voiced by Jim Sturgess), inspired by the epic tales of his father, dreams of joining the ranks of the mythic Guardians. The Guardians are a legendary alliance of owl warriors who once saved all owlkind from the forces of evil, headed by the villainous Metal Beak. In the fine tradition of Harry Potter’s Voldemort and Lord of the Ring’s Sauron, Metal Beak was horribly disfigured and all but destroyed, and is now somewhere in hiding, stewing in malice and awaiting his chance to strike.

Predictably, Soren is soon kidnapped by Metal Beak’s minions, known as “The Pure Ones”, together with his ambitious and envious brother Kludd. Enslaved by the Pure Ones along with a crowd of other kidnapped and brainwashed owlets, the two brothers soon begin to show their true natures. Kludd betrays his family and crosses to the dark side as Sorin manages to escape in search of the Guardians, hoping to reveal to them the devious plans of the Pure Ones and of course save the world. Throughout, the film displays a slightly disconcerting blend of childishly naïve dialogue and character development combined with moments of Watership Down-levels of violence and naturalism.

Unfortunately it takes quite a bit of strain to catch up to the plot. Many concepts and rules of the story are taken for granted and not clarified sufficiently for those unfamiliar with the books. What exposition is given, is drowned beneath impenetrable Australian accents that are inessential to the plot. A star-studded voice cast including Geoffrey Rush, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neil, David Wenham, and others is wasted on a muddled screenplay and bad diction. Many of the above-mentioned are already accomplished fantasy veterans and should have had no trouble with this type of material if given clearer directions.

The quality of the animation itself is quite gorgeous, and far surpasses the painful dialogue. Every feather is richly textured, and the movements of the owls’ wings are hyper-realistic, beautifully rendered and even majestic. They look stunning and ethereal as long as they keep their beaks shut. The special effects are very meticulous as well, more than up to the standards of live action films, and the skillful use of lighting and silhouette creates a rich atmosphere. The landscapes are not quite as brilliant as the details, and do tend to blend slightly with the owls themselves, but they were evidently not the top priority. It is good to see an animated feature done with this level of care and attention to detail.

Guardians has a great deal of potential even if it is in its aesthetics more than its story. Unfortunately, its sophisticated visuals and powerful animation are bogged down by a weak plot overloaded with unexplained references, and it makes little effort to endow its beautiful owls with anything like emotional weight or character logic. Leaving the theatre, you may bear away the image of some elegantly gliding owls, their soft feathers swaying in the spray of growling waves, their elaborate helmets glinting in the soft moonlight, but you will probably not remember who they were or where they were going.

Legend of Guardians – Owls of Ga’hoole (2010) Blu-ray 3D & Blu-Ray (Blu-ray)
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Studio: Warner Home Video
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Price: £16.68
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4.4 out of 5 stars (334)

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole Videos

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

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