A friend mentioned to me recently that she’d taken her three-year old daughter to see her first movie, Toy Story 3. The first preview was for the then upcoming Warner Bros. film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. At the first sight of the dark night and the owls gleaming eyes the little lass ran out of the theater screaming in fright. True story.
The quality that propels Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole wouldn’t be apparent to children anyway, but perhaps not oddly the film seems definitely aimed at mature if not adult audiences. No child would be able to grasp the intricate plot that introduces us to a world of birds of prey. Even teens would question a movie that takes so much time and trouble to establish that after a mouse is eaten the owl must hack up a furball consisting of the undigested bones and fur of its meal. For me, these are positive selling points for the film. Add top-notch composition and lighting (remember it’s an animated film) along with 3D visualization and you have an absolute viewing pleasure. The 3D effects enhance the story with stoic talking owl heads and grand landscapes bathed in moon or sunlight.
It doesn’t hurt that the film’s director is Zach Snyder, one of the top directors to debut during the current decade. Snyder burst forth with the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004 for Universal), followed by 300, Watchmen and now LOTG:TOOG, all for Warners. In a sense Snyder could be WB’s 800-pound gorilla if they didn’t already have Chris Nolan on board (The Dark Knight, Inception). Warner Brothers was the home of Stanley Kubrick for the last 30 years of his life and Snyder at times emulates Kubrick’s sense of design; just look at Watchmen with it’s homage to the war room of Dr. Strangelove or the design of the apartment based on a similar abode from the last scene of 2001.
Just as Watchmen sought to expand the limits of what graphic novels turned into films could be so too does Legend of the Guardians seeks to reinterpret what a kid’s animated film should deliver. In this case it’s a film that will thrill adults more than kiddies.
The lead character of The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Soren, gets separated from his brother as well as his clan and ends up prisoner of a weird cult of owls who turn their victims into work zombies (they blind them with moonlight). After escaping, Soren and his feathered mates team up with good (if not disfigured) owls and return to take the evil owls out of the picture. Meanwhile Soren’s bro has joined up with the evil owls so the climax involves not just a fight against the enemy but his own bloodline. The voice talent is a virtual who’s who of Australian, and some British, actors.
I cannot imagine this film being that successful because how do you market a kid’s flick that scares the hell out of tykes while satisfying adults who cater to character driven action scenarios. Regardless, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a keeper.
— Michael Bergeron