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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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A Sum Far Greater Than Its Parts

  • Jan 21, 2011

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 it as a result except for the fact that when preordering Despicable Me, I was recommended Guardians with the sub text “available now”.

Going into the film, I was aware of the fact that the material would be joining an ever-growing list (a list that includes Shrek, Meet the Robinsons, How to Train your Dragon, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to mention a few) of animated features based on popular children’s book series.  This one was done up by the studio responsible for Happy Feet (Village Roadshow), distributed by powerhouse Warner Brothers and represents Zack Snyder's (the man responsible for such works as Watchmen and 300) directorial debut in animated feature film.

On the whole Warner Brothers has been lagging behind in the highly lucrative animated feature market; a place dominated by Disney/ Pixar and DreamWorks.  Other studios in similar positions have begun to realize the potential in this segment and are putting in serious work to catch up (Sony with ImageWorks, 20th Century Fox with Blue Sky and so on).  WB hasn’t proven quite as eager as the competition so converting Kathryn Lasky’s series of young reader fantasy books into CG is about as good a place to start making up for lost time.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ uses personified owls to weave its tale in a completely fantastical world (seemingly devoid of humans).  The plot works on the fantasy template on nearly a point-by-point basis:  A young, inexperienced (eventual) hero is introduced from the safety of his picturesque home.  Innocence and security are whisked away by invasion of a powerful enemy army, complete with a weapon of incalculable advantage.  The only force in the world capable of keeping the rising threat at bay have long since retired to the recesses of memory and myth.

The quest begins to not only prove the legend true, but to convince the Guardians to come out of their self-imposed retirement to once again rise up against this evil empire (The Pure Ones) to restore peace and harmony to the whole land.  Along the way there will be requisite betrayals, family division, advice from goodhearted heroes, training from hardened warriors, a better understanding of the horrors of war and why freedom is worth fighting to preserve.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a story archetype that’s been told countless times throughout the ages.  Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Eragon; you can find this precise tale in various forms of entertainment spanning literature, film, poetry, folklore and so on.  However, don’t be mistaken into believing that because its formulaic, Legend of the Guardians comes up short.  But we’ll get to that.

Notice the apparent lack of names included in my above story summary?  That was a deliberate homage to the actual experience in that upon the film’s conclusion, I was confident only in the names of two of the fifteen main characters.

Names like Otulissa, Strix Struma, Ezylryb, Eglantine and Allomere were made clear to me only in post-viewing research and even then I was quite unsure which were which. Australian accents and little scripting effort to embed faces with the names results is a definite “so that’s the main guy’s brother there?” experience.  Fortunately, somehow, the film suffers none as a result of this little snafu.  A marketing disaster, sure, but the entertainment value endures.

And speaking of entertainment value, Legend of the Guardians is a visual feast! It can truly be said that Pixar and DreamWorks have absolutely nothing on Village Roadshow.  Lighting is spectacular, settings are rich with background detail and the character models are so well textured/ animated that they often border on photorealism.  The flight sequences, particularly when viewed in high-definition, are breathtaking.  I can only imagine what the experience must have been like in a 3D theater.

There are a few complaints to be voiced however.  The weapon of the enemy (an energy field that somehow captures owls and renders them helpless) is kept a complete mystery to the viewer for the duration of the film.  Whether or not it is better explained in the source material books, I cannot say, but aside from requiring tiny little pieces of metal to function, it is nothing more than a one-dimensional plot device here.

Also the PG rating should be taken quite seriously as, though animated, this film contains some pretty intense sequences that will surely unsettle the youngsters.  Additionally, even if the kid in question is desensitized to such things, the plot and themes would likely be a bit heavy/ hard to follow for younger tykes.

In all though, despite what surely sounds like multiple complaints, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ is a surprisingly solid piece of computer generated film.  The story is a bit cliché yet it still manages to engross, the character and location names are a venerable mystery, yet the story manages to shine through, the 3D revolution may be a fad but the visuals here simply refuse to stop dazzling.  At the end of the day, the movie is 97 minutes of sheer enjoyable adventure: a classic tale of good versus evil, told with animation of absolutely epic proportions.  The fantasy element is quite strong throughout and offers fans of films like the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars a fully CG feature to relish.

A Sum Far Greater Than Its Parts A Sum Far Greater Than Its Parts A Sum Far Greater Than Its Parts A Sum Far Greater Than Its Parts

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January 24, 2011
Excellent review, i still need to see this one.
January 25, 2011
Thanks FM_A- I think you'll really dig this one. It's a spectacle to behold.
January 22, 2011
Awesome review, J. Thanks for the heads up on the rating. Seems like a lot of children's movies these days have adult themes in them. This one looks and sounds really spectacular.
January 22, 2011
Thanks so much Devora. Yea this one has a few intense scenes but definitely rings of classic fantasy story telling and the visuals are worth the price of admission alone! Thanks again for the read/ feedback.
January 21, 2011
excellent review!! Great comment on it being familiar at certain points, I rather thought that the movie had some Shakepearean overtones...sacrifice, heroism and how war can wear you down after a time. This looked amazing in theaters, I bet the BD looked just as great. I need to buy once I get the extra cash. Thanks, Jason!!
January 22, 2011
My pleasure Mr. William! I purposely steered clear of your critique all while penning up mine so as not to borrow. Always love it when our scores end up matching like this! And I fully agree with the Shakespearean-themes. I'm off to soak in your critique again as we speak in fact.
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 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
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

Ranked #14
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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About this movie


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


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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