Zack Snyder takes an aggressive step into the world of family entertainment with Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – an epic fantasy that blends elements of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, but with owls. It’s been released in both 2 and 3-D formats, so cost-conscious viewers don’t have to fork out the extra for the 3-D version – but the film is a good time and the 3-D is spectacular.
Owlet brothers Soran [Jim Sturgess, 21, Across the Universe] and Kludd [Ryan Kwanten, True Blood] are kidnapped and taken to an orphanage that is really a center for the forced enlistment of soldiers and various kinds of slaves. When Soran learns the purpose of the Pure Ones [essentially feathered Nazis] – which is to enslave “lesser” breeds of owl and rule the world – he decides to flee and seek out The Guardians.
The Guardians are only stories to most owls, but the Pure Ones were said to have been defeated by them long ago – and since the Pure Ones are real, Soran believes The Guardians must be, too. His brother, though, is seduced by the thoughts of power and racial purity and chooses to stay behind.
Soran and another brave owlet – the tiny, but smart Gylfie [Emily Barclay] – set out to find The Guardians. Meanwhile, Kludd is perceived to have potential as soldier and when Queen Myra [Hellen Mirren, RED, Prime Suspect] asks him to show her what he can do, he brings her his baby sister, Eglantine [Adrienne DeFaria] to be used as a slave.
Naturally, the west for The Guardians leads to a great battle and the Pure Ones put a devastating new weapon to use, while Soran has a key role to play. That’s the way these things work. The difference being that these are various breeds of owls and their nature makes things just different enough to give the proceedings a fresh feel.
The script, by John Orloff [A Mighty Heart] and Emil Stern [Tenderness], is adapted from the first three books in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky [which remains unread by me]. The series is meant for younger readers but the film features some sequences that might be a bit scary for younger children. Give that the film never feels like there’s a lot missing, it would seem that the books aren’t epic in terms of length, but more in terms of the scope of the plotting.
Zack Snyder [300, Watchmen] steps back from his R-rated films to fashion a beautifully looking film that has some of the best 3-D imaginable [note to M. Night Shyamalan: this is what 3-D fire should look like]. Snyder does here what he’s shown he does well in his more adult features: juggles several plot arcs and keeps the film’s pace appropriate to action and character beats. Besides being a nifty riff on the high fantasy genre, Legend of the Guardians is a polished production that holds our attention every minute of the way. It is a fun ninety-minute ride that will enthral kids and adults alike.
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