That is one cumbersome title. Why not just call it The Owls Of Ga’Hoole? Or Guardians Of Ga’Hoole as the book it’s based on is called. I suppose they wanted both Guardians and Owls in the title but it’s not like you wouldn’t have noticed the owls all over the posters. I dunno, marketing departments these days huh? Anyway, this is my review…
Legend Of The Guardians is your typical kids adventure film on the surface. It’s about a young owl called Soren who dreams of meeting the legendary Owls of Ga’Hoole, team of forest based protectors of all that’s good and just. His brother Kludd doesn’t share his dreams which is the starting point for their problems. After taking a tumble from their tree they are captured and taken away to become either slaves or soldiers for the mighty Metal Beak, who as legend tells lost his beak in a fight with one of the Guardians. Whilst in Metal Beaks lair, where all sorts of evil plans are hatched Soren meets a small owl called Gylfie and they wisely avoid being brainwashed or “Moon-blinked” as they call it and are later trained by one of Metal Beaks non-believers to escape. Meanwhile Kludd has betrayed Soren and believes in the plans of Metal Beak and trains to become a soldier with them.
Naturally Soren and Gylfie escape and head off to find the Guardians. They make friends along the way, have a few adventures and get betrayed all of this leading up to a big battle finale where Soren get’s to try his hand at being the hero. It’s pretty straightforward stuff, you’ve seen this sort of film a million times over. I suppose the fact all the characters are owls is a unique take on things but story wise it’s pretty run of the mill. There’s also a hell of a lot of odd owl terms, none more prevalent than the word “Gizzards”. Gizzars are basically the force to this film. Everything seems to revolve around them.
The film looks spectacular though. Possibly some of the best CGI work in an animated film, although I’ve not seen Rango yet and I hear good things about that films looks. The owls themselves have been given an incredible degree of attention. Each one has a unique enough look to make them stand apart and, despite their beaky faces, they’re fairly emotive. It’s always tricky with an animated film about animals to make them feel emotive when you’re sticking to a pretty realistic approach to the design but it all works out OK here.
In typical Zack Snyder style the battles are quite intense. There’s a few shots that will remind you of 300 particularly. It also features his trademark use of slow motion for everything from talons clashing to heads turning. Sometimes it works pretty well, especially during one particular flight training sequence, but other times it’s as distracting as ever. He’s always made the excuse with his films 300 and Watchmen that the slow motion was there to make the screen look like a panel from a comic, to emphasize a certain moment. Legend Of The Guardians isn’t based on a comic though so here it’s more of a chance for him to show off how good his CGI feathers look in the rain.
Character arcs are pretty straight forward although Gylfie kind of gets forgotten as the film reaches it’s third act. She’s kind of the romance option for Soren but I’d imagine them being very different species of owl would cause a problem there. Especially as he’s like 3 times the height of her. A few other characters get forgotten about as the film goes on. Two that spring to mind are a pair of comic relief bad guy owls, the ones that capture Soren and Kludd at the start. They have the making of a running gag going with their scary face practicing but once Soren and Gylfie escape they’re never seen again. It’s not going to damage anything in the story but you’d kind of want to see the pair of heroes get a chance to get some pay back on them during the finale. Metal Beaks mate Nyra appears to be the real antagonist of the film. While Metal Beak is the big bad she is the one that we’re introduced to first and a lot of time is spent making you dislike her. I imagine her running away to fight another day at the end of the film will lead to her being the villain of a potential sequel.
Tonally the film is pretty dark and some of the battles are pretty intense. there’s no mistaking that this is a Zack Snyder film. It does use that annoying modern Hollywood trait of colour temping every shot to be either orange of blue but it’s not as in your face as it is in most films these days. There’s also some very cool imagery on display such as the previously mention flight training scene. I would quite like Snyder to try to make a few more kids films because he has a knack for making one that is enjoyable for kids and action packed enough for adults. It’s a rare skill that not many directors of similar films quite have nailed down.
Largely every scene in the film is either visually interesting serving the purpose of getting us to it’s conclusion. Pacing is not an issue here. There is one sequence that is really quite horrible though. When Soren and his friends get to the Guardians there’s a bit of a training montage that kicks in. Fair enough, these things are pretty common. Except this one is set to a bloody Owl City song. Way to date your movie Snyder. I can’t tell if it was chosen just because of the name Owl City or if they really felt they needed the latest flash in the pan piece of mediocrity in the music industry to be featured in the film to try to get idiots in to watch it. Either way it’s just painful. Adam Young is a hack of the music industry. Outright stealing the musical stylings of The Postal Service and hoping because of their limited reach no-one would notice. His songs are nonsensical, mediocre drivel the likes of which will be forgotten about within the next year. Having heard the new album at work I can safely assume this to be true as it is pure agony to listen to. How anyone can enjoy that product of January 2010, and January 2010 only, is beyond me. There’s my first Music Dump review. It dates a film about Owls to a specific point in time and ou should not do that if you want your film to last. It’s different for a training montage in a film such as Rocky or The Karate Kid to use some Pop Rock of the 80s as those films are very much set in that era. This is a bunch of owls that make their own armor and have big old battles. There is nothing to date it, except for that bloody song.
Overall the film is pretty by the numbers. It slips up in places but that doesn’t prevent it from being and enjoyable piece of animated fun. There’s enough cute silliness for the kids to enjoy and loads of action and adventure for the adults. Zack Snyder spends every chance he gets making you feel the excitement of flying and these sequences are some of the standouts of the entire film. I’m pretty sure when it comes time for his take on The Man Of Steel, Superman, to be released next year you truly will believe that a man can fly.