Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, director Zack Snyder’s audaciously grim animated feature, might be one of the most visually strikingly and beautiful films I have ever seen. Every detail seems to effervesce with textures and layered hues and shades; the feathers of its central characters flutter with a natural, realistic ease not seen since the blue monster Sully’s hair in the Pixar flick Monsters, Inc. Having seen the film only in traditional 2-D, I cannot speak to the extra dimensions affect on the film's technical mastery. Although this dark adventure might be kin to a moving portrait, the story is a polar opposite -- bland and utterly generic. There is much to admire in “Guardians,” but unfortunately still epitomizes the axiom “style over substance.”Having already tossed around words such as “grim” and “dark,” I hope you would come to the conclusion this is not a movie for young children. There are battles (between owls, yes, but battles nonetheless) and it features themes of kidnapping and militarism. I always appreciate more adult animated features and this film never goes so far off the dark side to become an odd mishmash of tones such as 2008’s Igor. Though boasting a foreboding aura, the pacing is rather sluggish, setting up the universe with characters blurting out a lot of Lord of the Rings-esque jargon (if you didn’t already surmise that by “Ga’Hoole”).“Legend of the Guardians” is the first of a popular three-book series beginning with Guardians of Ga'Hoole and is yet another hopeful franchise starter this year after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, etc and follows a young owl named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) who is kidnapped by the war-mongering “Pure Ones.” Along with his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten of “Saw” fame) they are sent to the “orphanage.” Telling hopeful stories of the righteous “Guardians” to keep them strong, they eventually escape to find the truth and warn The Guardians about the growing threat. If this film is a success and a sequel is made, I have an inkling that the story will build significant weight as it goes along.This is a peeve of mine, and should not be held against the filmmakers, but I could not get over the fact that it was owls talking, fighting, etc. Perhaps the ultra-realistic visuals actually acted as a detriment to the ultimately bizarre story. “Guardians” reminded me of the Redwall book series which became a 1999 television series. While a better example of animals replacing humans in an alternative universe, the strangeness still exists. Synder, after three great films overall with Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen -- one can’t help but notice an instance of diminishing returns. He has yet to have a full-out dud and this is his first foray into animated filmmaking so I am more than excited for his next effort (which so happens to be the amazing-looking Sucker Punch). “Legend of the Guardians” is not a bad film by any means, in many ways it breaks new ground, but considering the talent involved I was expected something more awe-inspiring, visuals aside.Rating: 6/10
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’HooleDirected by: Zach SnyderWritten by: John OrloffStarring: Jim Sturgess, Ryan Kwanten, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving
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