"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" Movie Review

9/27/2010 Posted by Admin

"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"

Movie Review

Directed by Zack Snyder, Written by John Orloff and John Collee, 90 Minutes, Rated PG

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Legend of the Guardians," no matter how much it's embraced by audiences (if at all), seems set to be one of the more bizarre entries in the filmography of Zack Snyder, the director being touted recently as a "visionary" responsible for some very good films ("Watchmen," "Dawn of the Dead") and one pretty bad one ("300"). He's bafflingly uneven, primarily due to his focus on spectacle over character and plot development (even in stories that desperately call for it), but there are few directors out there as purely distinctive and earnest.

"Guardians" is his first attempt at reaching a broader audience--not only is it his first family film, but it's also his first animated film (though that may be giving him too little credit--"300" was virtually CGI animation behind live action). It would seem a rather odd choice for the director who previously covered pretty adult topics, and ultimately, that lack of experience in the area comes through in the final product.

The film is pretty by-the-numbers fantasy stuff. A young owl named Soren (Jim Sturgess) is told tales of the legendary Guardians of Ga'Hoole, an army of powerful owls sworn to protect the kingdom of Ga'Hoole at any cost. This story becomes all too true, however, when he and his friends are captured by a group of Barn Owls who believe their kind to be the purest race of owl and who intend on hunting down the Guardians and destroying them. In other words, there are some Nazi owls and some cool owls and they have to fight each other, and people learn stuff along the way. It's no "Lord of the Rings," that's for sure.

Snyder and screenwriters John Orloff and John Collee do very little to bring this stuff above sheer cliche--everything explored here has been done better, both in live action and animation. There is a heavy weight to the subject matter, but that generally just comes with Snyder's style. Where stories (books or films) like "The Secret of NIMH" or "Watership Down" really work is how much life is brought into their characters--although, regarding those works, in undoubtable that the animation style of this film would suit those stories extremely well. I don't want to throw out the "r" word, but honestly, remakes with this style with those stories have potential to be spellbinding--at least far moreso than "Guardians."

That's not to discount the animation, though. It's very much the one thing keeping the film afloat. Some of Snyder's more aggravating tendencies do come through even in this medium (for example, slow motion--seriously, if his films had no slow-motion, they'd all be about an hour long, combined). But the animation is quite beautiful, and a lot of detail is captured in the owl designs without them losing personality. It's quite a step above the animation the same studio did for "Happy Feet," which was quite good, but doesn't come close to some of the exquisite visuals on display here.

Generally, the whole affair just seems like what it's very likely to be--Snyder's first "paycheck" movie. With a far more conceptually insane and personal movie on the way in next year's "Sucker Punch," it's probable that Snyder picked up this project just so he'd be able to follow it up with something more oblique (probably even moreso than "Watchmen"). There's not necessarily a lack of effort, but there's very little heart in this film, and with such a dull plot, that's really what it needed.

Grade: D+

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  1. Xmas Dolly said...

    I saw coming attractions of this movie at our IMAX theater. It's going to be awesome in 3D. I can't wait to go see it.