In a throwback to 80s "children" movies like The Dark Crystal, The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole opens with a kidnapping. After all, who says that children's movies shouldn't make your children cry? Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) is an owl that was goofing off with his little brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), when Kludd kicks Soren out of the nest, before he could fly. And, because nature abhors terrible siblings, Kludd also lost his balance and fell to the base of their maghty home tree, with Soren. Instead of getting eaten by Tasamanian Devils, which was apparently an option, the pair was rescued/kidnapped by a couple of dim-witted adult owls. These scary-looking creatures take young Soren and Kludd to a distant land, where they are presented with an interesting choice. They can either follow the racist/speciesist teachings of Nyra (Helen Mirren), queen of the Pure Ones, or they can become mindless slaves.
|Alternate title: White (Owl) Power|
|Above: an owl realizing that someone wrote sixteen books about owl racism|
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole could not be a modern animated movie without a ridiculously famous cast of voice actors. The most effective in their roles were probably Helen Mirren and Geoffrey Rush; both have wonderfully emotive voices and did a fine job as important, but ultimately peripheral, characters. Rush plays a great grouch, so it was nice to see that talent being utilized. Hugo Weaving had a double role, although his voice talents are not exactly what I would call "audibly versatile." He fine fine in both parts, but anyone who knows his voice can instantly recognize him in both roles. Joel Edgerton was pretty good as the head bad guy, but it seems odd in retrospect that he was the cast member chosen for the villain role, and not Weaving or Rush.
|Maybe he got the role thanks to his physical presence|
|Romantic owl eyes are slightly unsettling|
What about Zack Snyder's direction? It's no secret that Snyder likes to aim for "epic" as a director, and he did a solid job framing Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole in an epic fashion. It is interesting watching Snyder's direction in a film where he can get exactly the visuals he wants. It's not too different from his normal style. The visuals are stunning. The slow-motion is prominent and occasionally questionable.
|Or, as Snyder likes to call it, "The speed at which all things should happen"|
|They're like Storm Troopers that cough up pellets|
|I'm guessing he focused more on eye reflections than the script|
My other problem with Legend of the Guardians is that it feels very, very familiar. If you're familiar with Star Wars or the Chronicles of Narnia, or just about any other epic tale with children as an intended audience, then you've seen this plot before. A lot of kid's movies are like that, but this feels like a Frankenstein of epic childhood fiction, with the only new addition being the owls.
|This scene actually dubs in dialogue from Attack of the Clones|
The moment that crystallized my feelings toward Legend of the Guardians came toward the end. After growing up with tales of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Soren is happy to tell his father that the Guardians are not just legend, but are real. His father's response was, "You made them real." At first glance, it looks like the meaningless "kids rawk" fluff that often pops up in animated movies. But this was so blatantly wrong that my wife got seriously irritated. She actually raised her voice to ask, "HOW? They already exist!" My wife doesn't like every movie, but she doesn't loudly question movies very often. To put that in perspective, the last time she watched an animated feature and wasn't happy with it was G-Force. Congrats, Legend of the Guardians, you are in elite company. Apparently, there was not enough cute to counteract the dull and stupid here.
|Sorry kid, not cute enough|
Let's be honest, though. This is a movie for kids, and the standards of entertainment for children are comically low. Sadly, Legend of the Guardians doesn't quite meet those unimpressive standards. There are a few moments that truly "wow" the viewer --- yes, they are in slow motion --- but they are not the most important or memorable parts of the plot.
|This scene > rain flying|