PLOT: Deep in the forest of Tyto, nestled into the arms of the fir trees, the Barn Owls dwell. Soren is born into their tranquil kingdom. But evil lurks in the owl world, evil that threatens to shatter Tyto’s peace and change the course of Soren’s life forever.
REVIEW: Zack Snyder’s latest action movie is almost here but it isn’t quite what you expect from the guy who directed the likes of WATCHMEN and 300. Instead of reaching into his comic pile for inspiration, Snyder chose to adapt "Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a children’s book series about owls who go on a journey to save the rest of their kind from enslavery by the “Pure Ones”… and the result is gorgeous. LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS is a fantastic film both in visuals and story and it’s the first time that Snyder’s directing style fully fits his audience and his material.
Even despite the somewhat dimming effect of the RealD lenses the colors popped on screen and every single texture looked lush. While the 3-D seldom “popped” out at the viewer, save for a few scenes, it did do a wonderful job at creating a sense of depth within the screen. As the owls flew through the sky everything in the background truly felt like it was far off, instead of demonstrating the flat texture that some animated features have had in the past. Beyond the engrossing nature of the environments though, is the absolutely endearing and anthropomorphized visages of the owl characters. I found myself quickly falling in love with the entire cast as Snyder’s and his crew’s attention to detail and the mannerisms of real owls bled through, whether it was a small detail like the way they blinked or the doubtful closing of a beak. Considering how I try to remain poker-faced when presented with overt cuteness in movies, it’s telling how many times I caught myself letting out an “aww” or “This movie is the cutest thing EVER.”
But to boil down Legend of the Guardians into just its graphics and “cute factor” would be selling it short. There’s no getting around the fact that LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS is a movie for children and is written as such, with a fast pace and silly humor but that doesn’t prevent it from being as charming as any number of Disney/Pixar films and a welcome entry into the genre of children’s fantasy. Snyder pulls no punches when it comes to explaining the mythos of the owl world and revels in storytellers and court scenes, legends and heroes. It’s not the greatest movie of its kind, nor is it the most unique, but it does everything so well that any child just being introduced to fantasy film will love it — while a more experienced moviegoer like myself, will nod appreciatively at the way it upholds the markers of its genre.
Some people may rush to call these markers cliche, but certain scenes — such as seeing an evil owl outlined against darkness with red eyes — are what we see in children’s films all the time because they are needed as identifiers. You can’t roll your eyes at an obvious-evil-dude scene as an adult,until you’ve seen a dozen or so movies as a kid that use that technique. And, let’s be honest, when you’re eight years old and watching beloved characters fighting for their lives and friends on screen, nothing is as thrilling as seeing the antagonist be so delightfully evil and frightening.
What surprised me the most though, was just how much I loved the action sequences. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Fighting owls? What can be cool about that?” But somewhat oddly enough, Snyder’s action sequences are better now enacted with owls than with the humans who have graced his prior films. At a special advanced screening two months ago, Snyder admitted that it was great to not be “restricted by gravity, etc.” when it came to storyboarding, and as a result even his slow-motion sequences are all the better for it. Whereas repeat viewings of Watchmen and 300 have led me to roll my eyes at the slowed-down fighting, there’s something almost poetic with the way Snyder films the owls flying and fighting — and it’s not something that’s liable to get old anytime soon. Not when their armors is gleaming and every single feather seems to have a life of its own as the wind passes through it.
LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS is, at its root, a basic fantasy film, but with enough differences and garnishes to make it an enjoyable film no matter your age. It’s the kind of movie that kids can grow up loving and the kind that makes even the most jaded of adults smile with childlike glee for a moment.
Also, owls are cool.