Eye For Film >> Movies >> Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'hoole (2010) Film Review
Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'hoole
Reviewed by: David Graham
Zack Snyder tackles animated adventure with the same gusto he brought to horror remake Dawn Of The Dead and graphic novel adaptations 300 and Watchmen. Combining the first three of a series of 15(!) children's novels, Snyder again proves he loves to tangle with mythology, resulting in an avian fantasy with clear parallels to Star Wars and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Even in such apparently unfamiliar territory, however, his usual indulgences are present and correct: a jumbled narrative and addiction to slow-motion imagery allied to brutal levels of violence, which would make the censors blanche were it not birds doing the slicing, biting and butting. Freddy Krueger would be proud to call these feathery fiends pets.
Soren is an impressionable young owlet, eager to impress his dad with his burgeoning flying skills, and keen to help his brother Kludd cultivate his own. He's enraptured by the legends of the Guardians of owl kingdom Ga'hoole, especially those involving the heroic Lyze of Kiel. Little does he know he is about to embark upon a journey in which he will play an important part in their next chapter, taking him far from home and into a dangerous conflict.
The story is absolutely barking, but it comes alive in many moments of fine detail. Like Happy Feet, which shares some of this film's technical staff, an intriguing mythos is built around actual animal behaviour - the many different species of owl are distinct in their appearance and abilities, while references to pellets (regurgitated balls of bones and fur) and gizzards (instinct and guts) are both amusing and integral to the plot. The first scene of threat cleverly employs a Tasmanian devil in a very literal sense, and some of the characters lampoon fantasy cliches - Antony Lapaglia is a riot as a minstrel owl with delusions of grandeur, while a prophetic echidna answers increasingly sceptical queries with a forthright ''Twas foretold!'. Like Happy Feet also, there is a surprisingly dark dramatic streak, with incidents of death, slavery and corruption around every corner.
For all these lovely little moments though, there are too many ideas which don't stick. It's never clear what the 'flecks' that motivate the evil owls actually are, and the vampiric purpose of the bats which appear occasionally is not revealed as it was in the books. Beyond the slightly confusing visual similarities of the characters, the decision to have them speak in broad Australian accents is admirable but perhaps ill-advised. It can be difficult to distinguish one from another, despite the familiar tones of a variety of well-respected thesps, from Sam Neill and Geoffrey Rush to Helen Mirren and Hugo Weaving (in two roles!). Jim Sturgess nails the foreign brogue as our young hero, while Abbie Cornish and Ryan Kwanten bring a degree of depth to their supporting roles.
The film really succeeds as visual spectacle, being both photorealistic in its depiction of its airbourne characters and offering the most painterly vistas seen on screen since Vincent Ward's heavenly-looking What Dreams May Come. While the surprisingly robust How To Train Your Dragon may have beaten Snyder's mini-epic to the box-office, the aerial attacks and swooping sensation in evidence here are at least on a par with anything in that film, or even Avatar for that matter.
The 3D effect is employed appropriately, working surprisingly well in allowing us to appreciate the sort of minute attention to detail that for once justifies an excessive use of slow-motion. The sound design is also excellent, with all manner of clanging and scraping accompanying the combat and a score that instils a sense of both wonder and foreboding as befits the action. An incongruously upbeat song from indie upstarts Owl City shatters the film's illusion in the middle, but for the most part this is a hugely arresting experience, which just about overcomes some seriously haphazard storytelling to become a worthy watch for kids and adults alike.Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2010