I had only seen a few ads for this week’s film before I went to see it. What drew me to it was that the concept stirred up childlike feelings, memories of the animated adventure films I so loved. Thinking about this film, I thought “What if Zack Snyder remade The Secret of NIMH?” I know, the thought is one that will make some shudder, but you have to admit that he would crank up the action and tone down the humor.
Before I get to the film, I will make one of two comments about 3-D. As long as I can continue to see the films I want to see in 2-D, I will not complain. I don’t hate 3-D, I just hate paying more for it. I’m not cheap, per se, I just conserve wherever I can so that I can continue to see new releases each week. There were no less than five trailers in 3-D and the only one I found interesting was the teaser for The Smurfs.
Before the film started, something came onto the screen that I was not expecting. The theater went dark and I instantly turned into a seven-year-old with the first notes of the Loony Tunes theme. I could not believe my ears as my inner child was thrust into sensory overload. The title of the short was Fur of Flying, starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. Mr. Runner and Mr. Coyote look fantastic in 3-D CG. Unfortunately, the short was high on visual appeal, but low on heart. The short was enjoyable, but seemed to lack some of the cleverness of the Road Runner as I remember it. Again, it looked amazing and while I never want to see the upcoming Yogi Bear release, I would like to see the new Road Runner short that is slated to be attached to that one.
Now, on to the film- The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, was directed by adapter of quality source material Zack Snyder. I make no apologies for the fact that I’m a Snyder fan. I have enjoyed Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen. I think Snyder has an eye for visually pleasing shots. That’s not to say that I agree with every choice he makes, but there are a few memorable shots in each of his films.
The film is loosely based on the first three books of The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, written by Kathryn Lasky, who coincidentally is from my town, Indianapolis. The film tells the story of an excitable Barn owlet named Soren, (Not Soarin’, Disney nerds) voiced by Jim Sturgess from Across the Universe and 21. Soren’s imagination has been completely captured by the stories of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole. His favorite story is the story of Lyze of Kiel at the battle of ice claw and he loves to act the tale out with his younger sister Eglantine. Soren and his brother Kludd, voiced by True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, are given lessons in “branching” or gliding silently to a spot on a branch, by their father, Noctus, voiced by Hugo Weaving. Soren and Kludd can not yet fly, but this is the first step in the process.
While the parents are out hunting, Soren and Kludd decide, in a moment of brotherly competition, that they should continue their branching exercises, unsupervised. Just like young boys do, they end up someplace they shouldn’t be… the ground. After a short attack by what I assume to be a Tasmanian Devil, the owlets are rescued by some adult owls. It turns out that the rescue was not a rescue at all, but a… an owlnapping?
The brothers are taken to St. Aggie’s where they meet the infamous Metalbeak, voiced by Joel Edgerton, best known to me as young Owen Lars from the Star Wars prequels, and his mate Nyra, voiced by the great Helen Mirren.
From this point, the film is your basic hero’s journey. Soren meets the adorable elf owl Gylfie, voiced by the unknown-to-me Emily Barclay. The owlnapped owlets are separated into workers and soldiers. The workers are made to go to sleep while staring at the moon. The process is known as moonblinking and turns the owls into zombie-like workers.
Soren and Gylfie are able to escape and set out on the journey to notify the The Owls of Ga’Hoole, the legendary protectors of freedom in the owl world. Along the way, Soren and Gylfie meet Digger, a.k.a Faramir, a.k.a.Dilios, a.k.a. David Wenham and Twilight, voiced by Anthony LaPaglia.
As far as the story goes, you know what is generally going to happen. The surprises come in the form of some decently-done battle scenes. I had never seen owls donning helms and talon spikes to fight bats, some of Metalbeak’s workers, with blades on their wings. It is a scene familiar to most films with a great battle, only this time it is the arming of owls. The battle scenes are somewhat brutal, but there is little to no gore. I say that as a warning for parents of younger children.
Once the story gets rolling, it is easy to see where it is going, but it is worth watching it get there. The visuals are the reason to see this film. I don’t think 3-D is necessary for this film, but I have said that animation is the best fit for 3-D if it is going to exist.
To those familiar with the source material, it depends on how faithful you feel an adaptation should be on whether you will like it or not. For me, it was good fun for the family without really young kids. I would take my niece to see this.
How much would I pay to see this again? Out of $10, I would pay $8. What can I say? I like owls, animation and Zack Snyder.
Images: Warner Bros.