‘Legend of the Guardians’ is animated by the same studio that did the delightful ‘Happy Feet’, and boy, have they done it again.
Visually, this film is just a wonderful treat. Owls are naturally appealing creatures, what with those big ol’ wise eyes and the soft feathers (think Hedwig in Harry Potter), and this movie capitalises on that charm. ‘Legend…’ is filled with lovely close-ups of the huge, golden eyes of the owlets (the little babies are especially adorable) and of softly rustling white and gold or rust-coloured feathers. This movie also makes optimal use of 3D technology, beautifully capturing the smooth, swooping flight of the birds, and literally taking us along for the ride as they fly through deep canyons and blinding storms.
Now for the bad news – the storyline. Well, it’s not bad, exactly; it’s just that we’ve seen this one so many times, and done far better as well (think Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, etc.). There’s the evil army, lead by the scarred villain (the Pure Ones and Metalbeak respectively), and its rather convoluted plan to rule owl-kind that never quite makes sense (it involves regurgitated owl pellets. Honest). There’s the avenging Guardians of Ga’Hoole, lead by the white-as-snow good guys (quite literally – the leaders are snowy owls). There’s the pure-hearted young ‘un (Soren the barn owl) who leads the way to victory along with his motley crew of friends. And of course, there’s the final battle of good vs. evil (no prizes for guessing who wins).
At one point, you feel like rolling your eyes at the inevitably of it all. But then the movie, based on the ‘Guardian of Ga’Hoole’ books by Kathryn Lasky, manages to suck you in anyway. The credit goes in large part to its darkly brooding atmosphere, especially in the first half, and its gorgeous sceneries, whether it’s the menacing, fog-ridden forest Soren and his brother are kidnapped in by the Pure Ones, or the magical, lantern-lit Great Tree of the Island of Ga’Hoole.
The colourful side characters do their bit in providing comic relief, such as Digger, the goofy burrowing owl (who supplies the requisite ‘hoo’ jokes), Twilight, the lute-playing, poetry-spouting great grey owl, and Ezylryb, the wise but eccentric fighter screech owl.
This may not be particularly original or ground-breaking storytelling, but it’s certainly an appealing bit of entertainment. Go see it for the owlets.
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Jim Sturgess.
Storyline: Soren, a young Barn owl is kidnapped by an evil owl army and escapes to try and find the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole to save owl-kind.
Bottomline: So visually delightful that the been-there seen-that storyline doesn’t matter.