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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

I haven't posted an older review in a while but here's something that has just been released here in South Africa on DVD. There has also been a lot of talk about the next Superman movie lately and Sucker Punch has just been released in the US so it's timely to talk about this, the most recent film by director Zach Snyder. Oh and I keep referring to it as "this movie" or, simply, "this" or "that" for the very simple reason that I refuse to keep on typing the absurdly long name of this bloody film!

From (Originally posted 15 October 2010) 

What it's about:

After escaping the clutches of the Pure Ones, a militant group of owls running an orphanage dedicated to the brainwashing of "rescued" orphans into mindless drones and soldiers, Soren, a young barn owl seeks out the help of the mythical owls of Ga'Hoole to put an end to the Pure Ones' nefarious schemes to rule over the entire owl kingdom.    

What we thought:

While there is certainly plenty to like about Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - horrid title clearly excluded - its greatest virtue is that it's hitting our cinemas shortly after The Last Airbender. In comparison to M. Night Shyamalan's limp, lifeless kids' fantasy adventure,Legend of the Guardians' star can't help but shine all the brighter. However, up against the sublime Toy Story 3 or, more appropriately, the similarly mythic adventure/comedy stylings ofHow to Train Your DragonGuardians doesn't fare anywhere near as well.

There's nothing particularly wrong with being artistically stuck in the middle of the road as Legend of the Guardians so clearly is, but it is ultimately doomed to be measured against what it's not, rather than what it is. It may well be a more than serviceable kids' flick but it loses out when held up against the far more charming, far more quirky How to Train Your Dragon or the depth, wit, heart and sheer magic of Toy Story 3. 
Or, at least, that's the way it looks to me, a somewhat jaded film critic in his late 20s. I have absolutely no doubt that most kids, especially pre-adolescent boys will get a huge kick out of this and rightly so. It has likeable characters, thrilling action scenes, solid jokes and seriously beautiful animation. Sure, other recent animated movies often do the same thing better but I doubt that that's going to stop a 10-year-old from absolutely loving the film and revelling in the action, even if some might wonder just why on earth this particular tale had to be told with owls in the first place.

Parents should be warned though, the film does have an oddly callous attitude towards characters getting killed off so it might prove distressing to younger and/or more sensitive children. On the other hand parents can rest easy that while they're watching it with their kids they won't roll their eyes at some lame and quickly dated pop culture reference because this film is mercifully free of that very old, very tired staple of 21st century CG animation, as it opts instead for good, old-fashioned story- and character-based humour.        
Moving away from post-Shrek, post-modernist humour is not the only very welcome trend thatGuardians picks up from the aforementioned How to Train Your Dragon. When I first saw those flying scenes in Dragon, I was immediately amazed at how this relatively unassuming and far less hyped kids' film could so thoroughly beat James Cameron's so-called "game-changing"Avatar at its own game. Taking in the brilliantly life-like and varied characters of Guardians and the beautiful painterly vistas that serve as its settings, the same thoughts couldn't help but crop up once again. And while I may have laughed out loud at director Zack Snyder's (300,Watchmen) usual dependency on slo-mo during battle scenes, it constantly felt like these owls were just a squawk away from shouting, "THIS. IS. SPARTAAA!" but there's no getting past how well crafted the battle scenes are.            
Legend of the Guardians might be little more than a perfectly solid animated adventure film for kids but, considering how much worse it could have been, that might just be enough – especially for its intended audience. Do, however, take the kids to see it on the big screen – the animation is really terrific – but feel free to not bother with 3D. As usual, it doesn't have much to add.

Oh, and don't be late for the film. They may just be ripping off Pixar (surprise, surprise) but Warner Bros. have added a pretty awesome CG Roadrunner cartoon before the movie. That's right. Roadrunner. On the big screen. With awesome animation. Do I really need to say more?

South African reader buy this DVD from Take2 on DVD and Blu Ray

International readers buy it from Amazon:

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