Friday, September 24, 2010
Movie review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
A 3-D adventure that’s pretty on the outside, hollow on the inside.
Legend of the Guardians is a 3-D animated movie about owls. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, there’s not much more to it than that. Owls fly and fly and fly and occasionally hawk up pellets and that’s about it.
Two brothers, Soren (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe) and Cludd (Ryan Kwanten, HBO’s True Blood), are both abducted early in the film and kept at a compound where a snow-white owl claims to be on the hunt for a “pure” race of owls. Noble Soren, of course, wants no part of such ethnic cleansing and flees to find the mythical Guardians of the Great Tree. But eternally jealous Cludd immediately latches on to the idea of being part of an elite group and quickly ascends the ranks of the Hitler Youth-esque militia.
The film in some ways a condensed version of The Lord of the Rings saga -- which I admit is a series that could have used some condensing -- with owls. There’s a lot of epic chanting on the soundtrack and good-vs.-evil mythology that would take entirely too long to explain, and yet the film does spend a lot of time with exposition.
Based on the first three books of Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, Zack Snyder’s film tries to cram a whole lot of plot into a 90-minute movie. Even at that short length, one of the many loud little kids behind me at the screening cried out, “Is it over yet?” only 20 minutes into the picture.
But that’s not the film’s biggest problem. As Snyder has proven with both 300 and Watchmen, his insistence on being faithful to the source material actually does the film a disservice. Any creativity or liberty that could be taken with the film is ditched in favor of nifty camera tricks and incredible special effects. What the audience ends up with is a visually stunning piece of work that feels hollow, as if the filmmakers were just going through the motions on anything that didn’t involve an effects shot.
And although the film is no more violent than the latest Harry Potter installment, it’s a bit too dark and violent for its 8-and-under target audience. While that franchise knows how to add layers to the classic good-vs.-evil showdown, there’s no depth here, just a checklist. Wise mentor figure? Check. Mysterious masked villain? Yup. A follow-your-dreams-and-stand-up-for-what’s-right message? You better believe it.
And by the time electro-pop dork/Ben Gibbard wannabe (though now that he’s married to Zooey Deschanel, who wouldn’t want to be him? Am I right? But I digress) Adam Young of Owl City (how perfect!) belts out “Let your dreams take flight,” you’ll want to clip the wings of this 3-D fantasy.
Kip Mooney is a freelance writer and recent graduate of UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism. Read more of his reviews at kipmooney.com.