Movie: ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’
In Theaters: Sept. 24, 2010
Director: Zack Snyder
Runtime: 90 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for some sequences of scary action
After last week’s disappointing ‘Alpha and Omega,’ I was happy to see ‘Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,’ a CG-animated family film that doesn’t talk down to kids or make parents cringe because of inappropriate content. It helps that the film has a fan base and foundation in the Kathryn Lasky books on which it’s based.
The story begins with two young barn owls, brothers Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), who view life very differently. Kludd is an impulsive, “seeing-is-believing” type of owl, but gentle Soren holds fast to the stories their father (Hugo Weaving) has told about the Jedi-like “Guardians of Ga’Hoole,” legendary warriors who protect the owl kingdom from tyranny.
When Soren and Kludd accidentally fall from their family’s tree, they’re abducted by “The Pure Ones,” owls working under the nefarious Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton) and his queen Nyra (Helen Mirren). They’re in the business of kidnapping and brainwashing scared young owlets in order to take over the owl kingdom.
Some of these scenes get pretty intense – the owlets’ eyes glaze over, they’re far from their home and parents, and The Pure Ones aren’t exactly warm and loving. The young owls are sorted into various training camps, including soldiers and pickers, owls forced to pick through owl pellets looking for a magical element which when activated, paralyzes other owls.
Kludd is only too happy to grab the attention and power that comes with being a soldier, but Soren refuses to give in. Instead, he escapes and embarks on a quest to find The Guardians with help from a rag-tag group of friends that includes a librarian/warrior owl (also Weaving), a snake named Mrs. Plithiver (Miriam Margolyes), and a small Elf Owl named Gylfie (Emily Barclay).
First and foremost, this film is simply gorgeous. Director Zack Snyder isn’t exactly known for family films – ‘Watchmen,’ ‘300,’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ are among his directing credits – so he brings that edgy feel to this one. Snyder makes great use of the 3D elements, including detailed close-ups and slow-motion shots of the battle scenes. It’s nothing short of breathtaking, and elevates the film’s 3D elements right up there with ‘Avatar’ (and the Guardians actually have a holy tree, as well).
One scene features Soren learning how to fly in a storm. At first he’s tossed willy-nilly, but after some words from his mentor, he “gets it” and the action shifts to slow-motion. We not only see every drop of rain on Soren’s young head and every gust of wind that ruffles his feathers, we can actually feel his exhilaration.
A couple of minor complaints: The script is a little cheesy, and it seems like there must be a better way for Soren to say things like, “We need to find the Guardians! They’re the only ones who can save us!” Also, the pacing is off. I usually gripe about movies being too long, but this one could have used a little more plot development. One example is that Soren and his crew are told that it’ll be a long and difficult journey to find the Guardians. Two minutes into the flight and they’re approaching the Island of Ga’Hoole. I get that most family movies aren’t two hours long, but even a few extra minutes would have done wonders.
Even so, ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’ is a beautiful film and must be seen in a theater in order to be fully appreciated.
Notes for Parents:
Sex/Nudity: .Mild flirting between owls; a married owl couple embrace a few times.
Violence/Gore. Some of the fight scenes are pretty intense, including owl-to-owl combat, sometimes in slow motion. The 3D elements make these scenes even more intense. No blood is shown, but it’s clear that some owls die. One falls into a fire and others are killed during battles.
Profanity: A few insults, including phrases like “what a waste” and “you’re weak.”
Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 7 and older who like CG-animated, 3D movies with talking animals and a spiritual storyline. It will also appeal to kids who’ve read the books by Kathryn Lasky on which this movie is based.
Will Parents Like It? Yes, this is a beautiful movie about faith, courage, loyalty, sacrifice, betrayal, and doing the right thing amidst danger and conflict. Note that some scenes are fairly intense for kids younger than seven — not only the fight scenes, but also scenes where young owls are being enslaved and brainwashed by Metalbeak’s minions. The owlets’ eyes glaze over to signify brainwashing, and they’re separated into various training camps, such as soldiers or the lesser “pickers,” owls forced to pick through collected owl pellets for a magical element.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures