Based off the first three books in the “Guardians of Ga’Hoole” series from Kathryn Lasky comes a new adventure from the studio that brought us “Happy Feet.” Director Zack Snyder — who is known for making “300” and “Watchmen” — takes on a very different film in the 3D-animated “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.”
Soren (Jim Sturges) is a young adventurous owl who is enraptured and fantasizes about the stories that his father Noctus (Hugo Weaving) tells him and his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) about the legends of the great Guardians of Ga’Hoole and all of their heroic deeds and battles to defend the innocent. While Soren believes the legends to be true, Kludd does not and this starts a sibling rivalry and an attempt to get their father’s attention and approval.
Still both young and learning to fly, Soren and Kludd fall out of their tree and are swiftly kidnapped by giant warrior owls and taken to a mysterious land where a group of owls that call themselves “The Pure Ones” are making warriors and enslaving their captured owlets to do their bidding. Ruled by the maniacal Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton) and his mate, the evil queen Nyra (Helen Mirren), they are training an army to destroy the legion of Guardians and to take over all of the owl Kingdoms. While Kludd is seduced by this offering of power, Soren is not and he befriends a little Elf Owl Gylfie (Emily Barclay) and with the help from one of the Pure Ones they escape.
Now on the run and not knowing where they are going, they meet a poet owl Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia) and a neurotic burrowing owl Digger (David Wenham) that help lead them towards the sea where the great tree of the Guardians is said to be hidden. With the help of an old whiskered screech owl Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush), each must discover their own set of talents, and to help each other while learning to embrace their own hidden heroic gifts. Can they make the impossible journey to the tree of Ga’Hoole? If they do, can they convince the Guardians to stop the army of Pure Ones before they take over and enslave all of the Owl Kingdoms?
This movie is a big departure from the very grown-up content from Snyder’s past few films, but he wanted to make a movie that would be great for the entire family and he has done it. “Legend of the Guardians” is a beautifully-made animated feature that lets Zack Snyder spread his wings as a filmmaker. With the mixture of reality and fantasy in the landscapes and epic locations mixed with a soft choral score for this movie, it’s no wonder I kept being reminded of the “Lord of the Rings” films. Snyder’s unmistakable visual style and flair for action and the dramatic effects had me impressed and I saw many scenes that were obviously inspired by classic action movies like “Star Wars” and “The Matrix.” Dealing with issues of faith, courage, loyalty, sacrifice and betrayal, there is a lesson to be learned by all.
“Animal Logic Studios” is responsible for the visuals in this movie and the level of intricacy and attention to detail on every feather on each owl is flabbergasting. It’s one of the best uses of 3D technology ever seen on an animated movie. Using the 3D, they enhance every aerial shot, and never use it as a gimmick; the visuals alongside Snyder’s trademark slow motion battle sequences draw you in and enchant you. Pleasantly dark, rich with texture and full of surprises and suspense the audience is taken on a journey through all of these enchanted lands along with the characters.
The voice casting is stellar, using English and Australian accents to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys. This movie is enriched with first-rate actors for the main and supporting cast, using the voice talents of Sam Neil, Abbie Cornish, Essie Davis, Miriam Margolyes, Richard Roxburgh and many more you are sure to recognize. The animators did a great job in combining the voice recordings and bringing each character to life and giving them each unique characteristics.
Overall, this movie was touching and amazing to watch. In fact, one of my few complaints was that it should have been longer. I know it’s a family film, and making it longer than an hour and a half would be tough, but I thought there could have been a bit more character development and that they reach the Guardians of Ga’Hoole a bit too quickly.
In an interview, Zack Snyder said he hasn’t started work on the sequel just yet, but I really hope that he does soon because this film is a ride I am willing to get on again. Grab your family and head down to your local theater to experience this film for yourself. Make sure you see it in 3D or IMAX 3D, this movie is definitely worth the premium ticket price.
“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” flies into theaters Sept. 24 and is rated PG for sequences of scary action.
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