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 »
Zack Snyder directing a fantasy film aimed at a younger audience. For some reason, that concept doesn't feel entirely right. After all, we're talking about the man whose first three features have become prime examples of good R-rated action, be it a gory Romero redux (Dawn of the Dead), a campy comic-book-inspired epic (300) or a respectable take on Alan Moore's masterpiece (Watchmen). Not exactly the kind of back catalogue that usually gets you a gig based on a series of books that, unsurprisingly, could provide material for a lucrative franchise if everything goes well. Then again, Snyder has shown to be a pretty fearless filmmaker (again, he made Watchmen, something even Terry Gilliam viewed as an impossible project), and with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole he gets to explore plenty of new territory: not only is this a PG-rated film, it's also animated and in 3D.
Set in a remote land inhabited by talking owls, the movie is essentially a coming-of-age story centered around Soren (Jim Sturgess), a youngster who has grown up hearing the stories of the Guardians who live in the kingdom of Ga'Hoole and will come to the rescue if danger manifests. This is exactly what happens, as a presumed dead adversary returns and threatens to destroy all "impure" owls. Having been separated from his parents, Soren, paired with a group of unlikely allies (voiced by David Wenham and Richard Roxburgh, among others), must find the Guardians and stop the evil army, which also includes his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten)...
Despite the child-friendly rating, Legend of the Guardians is a quite unusual cartoon in that it tackles an unexpected subject alongside the familiar epic themes (avian racism? Cool idea) and has all its characters (minus one) speak with Australian accents (then again, most of the cast members are Australian). And in the first half it looks like it could work for grown-ups too, with a healthy balance between funny banter and exciting action, with a few shocks along the way (characters get tortured and all). Shame that the third act is a conventional good vs. evil story that borders on preachy (you know, for the younger viewers) and, predictably enough, sets up a sequel rather shamelessly. Granted, Snyder has yet to fail at the box office, but at least other potential franchises (Lemony Snicket comes to mind) were careful enough to have an adaptation that could work as a standalone story, without any need for further installments (a wise move in the case of Snicket, given there has been no sequel so far).
On the bright side, the voice work is impeccable (but hey, what do you expect with Helen Mirren and Geoffrey Rush in the cast), and despite the lack of blood (and inventive kills, for that matter), it still feels a lot like a Snyder picture, with gorgeous visuals (including a Bambi homage in the climax), stunningly executed action scenes and, of course, slow-motion. Lots of it. The 3D is also used skillfully, although in some scenes the conversion signs are obvious, making for an unpleasant, jarring effect (still better than Clash of the Titans, though).
So, barring a few narrative and technical missteps, Legend of the Guardians is proof of Snyder's versatility, showing that when the time comes, he will be able to keep his rawer instincts in check for the Superman reboot. In the meantime, however, there's no denying that his return to the usual stuff with Sucker Punch looks a lot more promising than his first PG experience...
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