Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D – Review

Synopsis from the official website:

“Acclaimed filmmaker Zack Snyder makes his animation debut with the fantasy family adventure “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” based on the beloved Guardians of Ga’Hoole books by Kathryn Lasky. The film follows Soren, a young owl enthralled by his father’s epic stories of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. While Soren dreams of someday joining his heroes, his older brother, Kludd, scoffs at the notion, and yearns to hunt, fly and steal his father’s favor from his younger sibling. But Kludd’s jealousy has terrible consequences— causing both owlets to fall from their treetop home and right into the talons of the Pure Ones. Now it is up to Soren to make a daring escape with the help of other brave young owls. Together they soar across the sea and through the mist to find the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians—Soren’s only hope of defeating the Pure Ones and saving the owl kingdoms.”

The geeklets (10 and 13 yr. old girls) are both fans of the books. When we found out about the film adaption they were hoping for the best. Sadly they have already learned the truth that great books don’t always turn into the best movies. Originally I was not all that interested in the film because, lets face it, the books are about Owls (yawn). When I learned that Zach Snyder was directing my interest was piqued. Snyder who is well known for a distinct visual style, a love of slow motion action sequences and over the top violence seemed an unusual choice for what was being billed as a PG family film. Then the teaser trailer hit the web. There was one clip that sold me: an owl flying through a rain storm. There was something so visually poetic about that particular shot that made me want to see more…

The story surrounding Legend of the Guardians is somewhat familiar it borrows from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. Not to say that the story is uninteresting just quite familiar; there were not many unexpected turns.

Really more of a primer for heaver themed films (previously mentioned) Legend of the Guardians is heavy on drama but does feature a couple of characters that bring comedic relief, although somewhat sparingly, to keep the story from getting too bogged down in seriousness. Make no mistake though Legend of the Guardians is a serious film and explores themes like honor, courage, betrayal and self sacrifice. Fortunately Snyder was able to tone down his R rated sensibilities and deliver a film that is high on jaw dropping vistas, stunning flight sequences and blood pumping “call to arms” battles.

I know it doesn’t sound too much like a “kid flick”, huh? That’s because Legend of the Guardians is not truly a “kids film” It is really more of a tweener’s film. Which is an age group that does not see a lot of screen time devoted to them. The film strikes a good balance of intensity vs. showing too much. There’s a lot of fighting and the battles are fierce but the blood letting is very minimal (if not at all existent) and deaths or kills are all implied and not shown on screen. Although it is PG (which I feel is appropriate) it is not a young child’s film. You’ve been warned.

Animation studio Animal Logic really does a wonderful job here of creating a realistic but at the same time fantastic looking world. Often, I was stunned at the imagery on the screen from a pure design stand point. The complexity of the surroundings and all of the minute details and textures are impressive. At times the film’s lighting and color feel like a renaissance painting. I can’t think of another animated film that is so visually luscious. The 3D aspect of the film was great. Wisely the filmmakers stayed away from 3D gimmicks and let the story and visuals speak for themselves. I actually forgot about the 3D after about 10 minutes in.

After viewing the film I asked the geeklets what they thought. They both gave it a resounding thumbs up. Both were happy and surprised that the movie stuck pretty close to the books and we had some interesting conversations about the themes and motivations of the characters. Maybe it’s more of a family film then I originally believed.

Bottomline: Not quite as epic as it wants to be but nonetheless a visually sumptuous and rousing action film which will appeal to the book fans and non-tweeners too.

Rated PG: In theaters now.

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