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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

Despite having one of the worst titles of 2010, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is quite a fun ride. If you can let yourself escape to a place full of evil owls and babysitting snakes, you’ll probably be thoroughly entertained with director Zack Snyder’s animated adventure fantasy. It’s a gorgeously assembled piece of cinema, and it’s quite a bit darker, more adult, than your average animated film. Though it’s not as fulfilling as something like Toy Story 3, but it’s still enjoyable.

The film centers around the very different journeys of two very different brother owls. Soren (voice of Jim Sturgess) is a dreamer. He loves the old tales of the Guardians, a society of owls dedicated to preserving peace. His brother, Kludd (voice of Ryan Kwanten), thinks Soren is childish, even though Soren is a far superior flyer. One day, both brothers are kidnapped by the Guardians’ archenemies, the Pure Ones. Soren defies them from the outset and eventually escapes, but Kludd accepts their ideology and eventually becomes an important member of the clan. Once free, Soren tracks down the Guardians to inform them of just how powerful the Pure Ones have become. There, he and his friends are trained by Ezylryb (voice of Geoffrey Rush), and soon the Guardians, and Soren, are off to war.

Legend of the Guardians definitely has some problems. The plot is both silly and formulaic. Its desire to be an animated owl version of Lord of the Rings is apparent from the outset. There are moments during which the good vs. evil stuff is piled on so thick that it’s suffocating, and the simple fact that its owls in what are traditionally human roles is a bit off-putting. I also took issue with the treatment of the character of Kludd. His transformation just didn’t make much sense to me, and the way he’s disposed of at the end turned me off.

All that aside, I still enjoyed the film quite a bit. First of all, it’s visually stunning. Like the dragons in How to Train Your Dragon, the owls here aren’t realistic. But they aren’t necessarily changed to make them cuter. Some of them are flat-out ugly. Others are more majestic. And yes, some are really, really cute (Soren and Kludd’s baby sister Eglantine is just adorable, if I’m being honest).

But perhaps most noteworthy is the look of the world in which the film takes place. The skies are sunset orange with shades of blue and pink. There are impressive mountains and valleys. And the climactic battle takes place alongside a roaring forest fire. It’s all a sight to behold, not only for how picturesque it looks, but also because it’s the kind of place we’re totally unaccustomed to seeing. There will be some who will be turned off by this sort of idealized animated setting, but I found it great to look at and very appropriate for this kind of fantasy.

When put up against some of the year’s great animated features, Legend of the Guardians feels a little weak. It’s not the kind of film that leaves a strong impression, but in the moment, it’s light (despite being darker than most films aimed at children) and fun.

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