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Old 10-03-2010, 11:45 AM
Zack Snyder's Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...ls-of-ga-hoole



http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-ric...ls-of-ga-hoole

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)

Zack Snyder, director of the great and underrated films “300” and “Watchmen,” brings us his next visual feast with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” This continues his streak of films with eye-popping visuals that help to pull you into the story. However, with Snyder’s two previous films, the stories were very strong and with the aid of the visuals, they only became better, but with his latest, the story leaves a little to be desired, so the visuals could only do so much.

The story begins by introducing the main owl, Soren (Voice of Jim Sturgess), and his family. His father, Noctus (Voice of Hugo Weaving), is always telling Soren, his brother, Kludd (Voice of Ryan Kwanten), and his sister, Eglantine (Voice of Adrienne DeFaria), stories of the guardians of Ga’Hoole and their famous battles against the evil owls. One night while Soren and Kludd are out practicing their swooping, they accidentally fall to the ground and get captured by owls who call themselves “The Pure Ones,” led by Metalbeak (Voice of Joel Edgerton). This group of owls has been going around capturing owlettes to brainwash in order to make them slaves and soldiers that will carry out their ultimate goal, which is to take their revenge on the guardians who defeated them in the stories that Soren’s father spoke of.

With the help of a friend inside “The Pure Ones,” Soren and his new friend, Gylfie (Voice of Emily Barclay), are barely able to escape. Their mission is to find the legendary home of the guardians in order to warn them of Metalbeak’s plot. Along the way, they make a few more friends, Twilight (Voice of Anthony LaPaglia) and Digger (Voice of David Wenham), who help them on their quest. The journey is rough and they face many dangers, but Soren and his friends are not about to give up, not with everything that’s at stake.

That’s basically a summary of the first act, which turns out to be the most interesting part of the film, for after this, the story simply felt like it went downhill. The entire second act made it seem as though the movie was on pause as nothing really occurs that advances the story any further than it had been at the end of the first act. It’s not that it gets bad, it just feels like it was stuck in place once Soren and company reach the home of the guardians.

The third act picks things up a little, but not very much as it is mainly one long battle sequence. There’s just something that’s not particularly interesting about owls fighting each other, especially when their main move is to smack the other owls with their talons. Aside from the downhill progression of the story, the whole thing felt half-baked with some strange plot about “The Pure Ones” taking over by using some shiny flecks of metal. It is never explained what these are exactly or where they came from. I know it’s mainly a kids’ film, and they probably won’t care, but it just seemed random to have this unexplained element as part of the story. Another strange part of the film comes in the lack of character motivation for one of the character’s actions, but to get into that would be a bit too spoilerish.

I know it seems like I’m completely bashing the movie, but it’s not really all that bad. It never really gets boring. It just needed to be more engaging, especially during the second act where practically nothing happens. The third act was expected to be a battle of some sort, but there was no real build up to it. The film just kind of slips into it and hopes that the audience is still caring by that point.

The thing that saves it from being completely forgettable are the stunning visuals I mentioned earlier. There are several beautifully done scenes of owls in flight that are fascinating to watch. I should mention that I saw the film in 2-D and was still very impressed as to how the film looked, though this is something I have come to expect from Snyder’s films, even from this, his first foray into the world of animation.

While it was a delight to look at, it might have been something really special had it had a stronger, more compelling story behind it. In this case, predictability was not the problem (I think it’s fairly obvious how a film like this is going to turn out before you even set foot in the theater), but rather that the writers didn’t have much of a way of connecting point A to B, or in this case, the first and third acts. Younger audience members will probably find themselves absorbed by the bright visuals, but the adults of the audience will most likely be wishing there was something more to it. 2.5/4 stars.
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