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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

A 2010 computer animated fantasy film directed by Zack Snyder.

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Think of it as "300"...but with OWLS!

  • Jan 22, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** out of ****

There is such a thing as a talented director trying something new, without being pretentious. Some directors can do it; some can't. I think that Zack Snyder, director of modern epics such as "300" and "Watchmen", is one of those people who can. In fact, his latest film, "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hool" confirms this claim. "Legend of the Guardians" is a flat-out fascinating animated feature that stands out as one of the grittier animated films to release in the 2010 year. It's not perfect, but then again as the gutsy feature that it is, I don't think it really needs to be. Zack Snyder has not made a perfect movie quite yet; although I think he is talented when it comes to packing enough visual thrills with his often times flawed (but energetic) productions. Lucky for him, he can expand his talent into animated films. The switch is so successful in fact that I'd be happy if there ever was a sequel. Whilst watching "Legend of the Guardians", I realized that I had to give Snyder more credit than most people have been giving him. Here is a man who has just made a film about talking owls, but has also made a film about many other dark, somewhat complex themes. It is fairly easy to look at a film such as "Legend of the Guardians" and admire it for what it strips bare, but looking into it a bit more only makes the film the slightest bit better. This is a darker animated feature than the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks. Coming out of a guy like Snyder, that's not surprising, but neither is the fact that "Legend of the Guardians" isn't exactly as good as Pixar or SOME (and by some, I essentially mean "Shrek" and only "Shrek") of Dreamworks' past productions. Nevertheless, this is one of the single most visually stunning animated features I've seen in years. Its a little low on true substance, but the film is a winner because you kind of loose the ability to care about the generic story-telling as it goes on. You're looking for the same kind of visual flare and awesome action sequences that Snyder has been so good at delivering, and what do you know: he has once again pleased his fans. If you like Snyder's usage of slow-motion and his overall style, then you're going to like what he did with "Legend of the Guardians". It's a stunning, magical cinematic experience. It's not a beautifully made film, but Snyder's vision seems more intelligent than perhaps it should be. Again, it's not a perfect film. But as long as you can get past the flaws, then you're going to have a hell of a time. Just do what I did; that way you'll actually get around enjoying Snyder's latest nerdy/epic flick.

First thing's first; "Legend of the Guardians" is about talking owls. The book it is based upon was indeed about talking owls too. So...it's not really as stupid as it should be. While I hate talking animals as much as we all do (unless they're funny or crucial to the plot), the owls in this film aren't half bad. Their dialogue is on a more serious tone than other past animated (talking) animals, and maybe that's why there's a sort of "epic" charm to Snyder's first descent into the animated Motion Picture world. The film begins with a young owl telling stories of the legendary "guardians" to his younger kin. This owl's name is Soren, and he is an ambitious young dreamer. However, one day he and his brother venture outside of the tree, only to have themselves snatched up by two "evil" owls. These owls take Soren and his brother Kludd to the layer where the other "evil" owls reside, and Soren is forced to work while Kludd becomes a warrior. Soren befriends a female Elf Owl named Gylfie, and the pair plan to escape together by learning to fly. Their plans prove successful and soon the two are on there way to...well, wherever they can be safe. They spread the word of what the "evil" owls, who self-apply the name "The Pure Ones", are really doing. As it turns out, they're killing off owls of a certain "race" or "class". Thus, that's one underlying theme for you; genocide. The structure of the plot itself feels almost too familiar, although it's made bearable by the fact that "Legend of the Guardians" is pretty darn entertaining, and on a level of utter consistency. The story may be the film's largest, and possibly only, flaw...but I was able to forgive it. The themes of genocide, child abandonment, and war really stuck out to me, and this is one of the first animated features since 2009's "9" to really test what animation you'll want to be showing to your children. I think that the dark tone of "Legend of the Guardians" works well with what Snyder was trying to do. It's not the pinnacle of darkly toned animation, if that's what your wondering, but if Snyder had pushed the genuinely dark and violent themes any further then his little film would have been a tad less appropriate. It did in fact STILL get the PG rating; even though it's more intense and more violent than most animated features. Still, I admire what Snyder has made here; a visually thrilling piece of animation. Zack Snyder's obsessively nerdy fan-base will most likely appreciate it, although unless you choose to view "Legend of the Guardians" as more than just a flawed animation, it's not going to appeal to many others. You can expect a lot of criticism when it comes to this film; some will say that the tone doesn't work and the story just isn't good enough. I agree about the story; occasionally it just slows down, and so does the film. However, these moments are thankfully scarce, and they're the only really boring moments in the entire film. Except for the end, which was of course, a big fat cliché. But even though I hated the ending, I'm going to watch the sequel, expecting that there will be one. I'm hoping that there will be, because more air-born-battles means more animated fun. And Snyder delivers. He really does. You just have to accept it.

The voice cast for the film is actually pretty good. Jim Sturgess ("Across the Universe") leads the voice cast as the main owl. Most of the actors/actresses are Australian, and I think the tone of voice actually fits most of the film's characters well. The other voice talents include Ryan Kwanten, Emily Barclay, David Wenham, Geoffrey Rush, and Sam Neill. You might also be excited to hear that Hugo Weaving and Helen Mirren also lend their voice talents to the film. While it's not the most star-studded voice cast that one could think of, it was still satisfying to know some of these actors already. I assume that most film buffs will; and that's all the more reason to see the film.

The most praise I have for this film is in the visual department. To state the obvious, the film LOOKS absolutely magnificent. The visual craft involved in this here production matches the exact finesse of past Zack Snyder films such as "300" and "Watchmen". Those were two films with excellent visuals, and "Legend of the Guardians" only helps to exhibit more of Zack Snyder's love for all things beautiful and lush. The feathers look magnificently real, as does the overall animation of the birds. I loved watching the film because the visuals made it superbly entertaining, and the typical slow-motion that you'd expect out of Zach Snyder is still gleefully in-tact. If you don't like Snyder's style, then this film will not blow your mind. In fact, it will probably annoy you. But you've got to admire the world that Snyder has expanded upon here; one abundant with Nazi owls and the kind of raw intensity that we don't get enough of when it comes to animation. If you can get over the flaws of the story and characters, then you're bound to like "Legend of the Guardians". It's all a matter of perspective; is Snyder's newest flick all style and no substance? Perhaps. But oh, what style it has! "Legend of the Guardians" has convinced me that Zack Snyder will always be the indulgent but admirable visual craftsman that he has been since his 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead". I will watch anything he makes, being the nerdy sort of guy that I am. As long as there's a nerdy side of you, then there's some fun to be had with "Legend of the Guardians". It's likable in that "epic" sort of way, but its charm will only appear to those who can look beyond the fact that it can be quite shallow at times. I was able to accept the film for being the gutsy piece of animated art that it was. It's far from perfect, but it's thrilling and visually stunning as only a Zack Snyder film could be.

With action sequences as exciting and visuals as thrilling as they are here, "Legend of the Guardians" will have your pulse racing in no time as long as you can see it for what it's trying to be. Something inside of me is telling me that Snyder intended this to be a visual feast and not much more. The themes of the film are deeper than perhaps they should be, but at least Zack Snyder appears to have read the novel(s) which his film is based upon. The only thing you need to caution is your will to bring your children, since they will either be frightened or fascinated by the film's tone and animation. Most of the themes aren't so obviously pointed out that any wide-eyed youngster could catch them, but beware, since Nazi Owls could traumatize your children FOREVER. I find that hilarious and perhaps its daring style is what makes the film so endearing. There's a lot I liked about it, and as it stands; "Legend of the Guardians" may very well be one of the better CGI/Animated outings of 2010. It's perfect for a year devoid of anything particularly interesting and exciting; thus this flick fits the bill. It's not art, and it's not riveting. But it's entertainment; and not just any kind either. It's SPECTACULAR entertainment; the kind I expected from Snyder to begin with. His animated debut is fun and fresh, and while it does not breathe new life into the animated genre of filmmaking, it's full of Snyder's admirable dark touches. I liked it. There's no telling who will too, but if you do, then good for you. For its absolutely stunning animation, solid voice cast, and speedy (but definitely imperfect) plot, I say see "Legend of the Guardians". It's worth your while in so many ways. If anything, I advise you to see it for the animation, which is stunning. It will none the less reach the crowd that it intends to appeal to.

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January 24, 2011
I still need to see this, excellent review.
January 24, 2011
Thanks.
 
January 24, 2011
I saw this in theaters and I thought it could've been better but still good. But for some reason, it grew on me and I enjoyed it more the 2nd time around. Great commentary on the film's darkness....
January 24, 2011
Darkness.....(drools).
 
1
More Legend of the Guardians: The O... reviews
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Majestic Owls Fly High In This Zack Snyder Rendition of The Fantasy Epic!
Two of the things I like about Zack Snyder: His ability to try and give tribute to the source material he is adapting to the big screen and to ability to give it the respect it deserves (despite some flaws in execution). Zack Snyder has given us a remake of “Dawn of the Dead”, an excellent adaptation of Frank Miller’s “300” and “Watchmen” which had gotten mixed reviews. This time around, Snyder adapts the first three books in Kathryn Lansky’s extensive …
review by . January 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Sum Far Greater Than Its Parts
   The Legend of the Guardians is a strange tale- and I’m not even talking about the actual film.  Hyped during its theatrical run (which began on September 24th of 2010), Warner Brother announced that it was scheduled for a mid-February DVD/ Blu-ray release.  Then suddenly (presumably in effort to capitalize on the spend-happy Holiday shopper scene), the DVD & Blu-ray were released and with virtually no hoopla on December 17th.  I nearly completely overlooked …
review by . September 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Before I entered my theater to see Legend of the Guardians, my friend I was seeing it with asked me what I really wanted to see in the film. While he was really in it for story and characters (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I simply told him I was simply seeing the movie to watch a bunch of owls fight each other in the same glorious 3D I saw in the trailer. Thankfully, owls fighting in three dimensions was exactly what I got in one of the best-animated films of the …
review by . January 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
So blurry and flurry cute
While it was the wolves that were dancing last night in my living room, it's the owls that are flying around this evening! These owls are so cute & so adorable that I won't mind sleeping next to them! Well, I thought the voices and the expressions are so well matched they are unbelievably real! Until they are "rescued" by the "Pure Ones" and made slaves in another kingdom where power is being tossed around as baits.            …
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
I really didn't have much in the way of expectations for a children's fantasy film directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen). Snyder is just about the last person I would think of when it comes to family friendly films, but to my surprise this movie actually entertains. Sure, the story is a bit cliche and it has all the typical fantasy formula moments you've seen dozens of times before, but the direction makes up for these flaws. The voice cast is quite good, though the …
review by . October 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" is an animated film with the enchanting lure of a fairy tale, the intrigue of a medieval political thriller, the excitement of an action spectacle, and the majesty of a special effects extravaganza. What it lacks is the time needed to fully develop the characters and the story; the film, an amazing technical achievement, not only moves too quickly but also feels incredibly condensed, as if not just one, but several of Kathryn Lasky's …
Quick Tip by . January 09, 2011
I found the film mostly a pretentious yawner, to be honest. Clearly, it didn't quite fit the bill of a kids' film -- I thought the world was way too complex for young'uns -- and it wasn't interesting or compelling enough to serve as an adults' film. Also, while I can appreciate the artistry of bringing CGI owls to life, I found there expressions incredibly limited, making it hard to cement any thematic tone to each of the fictional players. (Maybe this series works better as books than it does as …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Wiki

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a 2010 English-language computer-animated fantasy film loosely based on the first three books (The Capture, The Journey, and The Rescue) of the series Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. Zack Snyder directed the film, with Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Ryan Kwanten, Emily Barclay, Anthony LaPaglia, and David Wenham voicing the characters.

Warner Bros. Pictures distributed the film with the Australian companies Village Roadshow Pictures and Animal Logic, the latter having produced visual effects for Happy Feet. Production took place in Australia, and the film was released in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D on September 24, 2010. Preceding the film is a new 3-D cartoon starring Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner titled "Fur of Flying".
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Tags

Movies, Action Movies, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Animated Movies, Animation, 3d Movies, Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Gahoole

Details

Director: Zack Snyder
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: John Orloff, Emil Stern
Runtime: 90 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Animal Logic
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