Soren, a young barn owl, is kidnapped by owls of St. Aggie's, ostensibly an orphanage, where owlets are brainwashed into becoming soldiers. He and his new friends escape to the island of Ga'Hoole, to assist its noble, wise owls who fight the army being created by the wicked rulers of St. Aggie's. Written by
TO THE SKY
Written and Produced by Adam Young
Performed by Adam Young
Courtesy of Universal Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc.
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises See more »
I suppose this is that movie that's a third generation retelling of an older more established fantasy settings and hero's journey. Which seems kind of like retreading dead waters at this point, but hey throw some owls in there and you got something fresh enough to justify a ninety some minute movie. While on the surface having a cast composed almost essentially of all owls seems a bit silly, and to some degree it still is, but the movie carries itself in the right tone. The fact that they're owls never sticks out to a negative and the fantasy aspects of the story kick and carry the weight of the plot nice and properly.
On reflection there's a few things to like about this little movie. The CG looks fantastic, the facial animations carry all the right emotions and don't even get me started on the feather as each one acts as they should wither their in the air or dancing through the rain all without diving strait into the uncanny valley. The voice work has some charm and believe it or not Hugo Weaving is not the villain in this movie, in fact he has two separate roles in a bizarre double casting. Helen Mirren has a nice mother/temptress run at things, and Jim Sturgess finds that sweet spot between being a naive dreamer and headstrong bravery. Furthermore the heavy handed emotional speeches that usually make my ears bleed just a bit actually have some proper reserve behind them, relying more on the power of the words more then the emotional act behind them. And I will say this, although in about twenty minutes of the movie you'll hear somewhere around fifteen fantasy words, one's that have no relevance to the real world, but the movie never makes the mistake of sticking around them long enough to where things just get dry and confusing. It's kicked from one reel to the next, which kind of works in its favor to some degree. You're never lost in this world and the plot advanced fast enough that your brain never has the time to throw up too many red flags and pull you right out of the story.
As far as negatives are concerned. The owls suffer from the same boring over dramatic dull most fantasy stories suffer from in terms of plot. In that everything boils down to the one righteous path or collective taking arms against the bullying radical one. Essentially when broken down the bad owls, the Pure Ones, really only seem to be into slavery, kidnapping and training child soldiers and for all other purposes ethnic genocide all aimed in the total commitment of just being evil bastards. There's no real balance of purpose for the Pure Ones. Furthermore on another note, you would think a pseudo fantasy heroes journey would be all about the journey. Where each step for the main character is filled with adventure and danger and perhaps even a lovely maiden or two along the way. But this never really settles into that sort of pattern, perhaps it because the owls have the advantage of flying over those pesky foot dwelling creatures normally put on camera, but our cast of heroes scale all the way to Mt Doom and back and only break a sweat when the plot demands it, which is about three times throughout the movie. Oh and although this is sort of a kids movie, the standard betrayal has no real emotional resonance because its handled more as a demand of the plot than a character turn not to mention if you don't see these things coming I must assume you are either a bit of a young ling or a recent victim of cranial intrusion.
In the end I'd equate this movie to something like The Dark Crystal or Dragon Heart. Those kind of over zealous fantasy pseudo epics that have more than a few open wounds but have enough charm to warrant a viewing. I'll admit I enjoyed myself. While there's not a whole lot of new thins brought to the table and I can't help but feel I'm missing out on more than a few things for not having looked into the source materials, what is there hits all the right notes for this kind of fantasy setting and there are a handful of nice idea's that even Tolken never got into well. In that there's a bit of subtext about the cost of heroism and how much it hurts to do the right thing even when its what needs to be done, and I quite liked those aspects. Although I would caution the more casual movie viewer as this movie asks you to buy into a fair amount of fantasy tropes and once again there are only five types of characters owls, a single snake, some crows and some bats and one ratty looking mole like thing.
One last thing, speaking from a 3D viewing perspective. It's actually well done here. The unique perspective give the aerial combat a nice visceral punch and the ever sprawling backgrounds look deep and distant giving the movie the feel of a huge sprawling world. So there is some value to the price jump between the 2D and 3D if your into that sort of thing.
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