The owl movie, that’s how I refer to this movie when telling my friends and family about it. “Going to see ‘The Owl Movie’, be back later.” Of course, the movie I am referring to is Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Just like every one else who saw the trailers a few months back, I giggled at the title, what a strange name for a movie, and owls? Seriously? Despite this, I was amazed by the animation I saw during the trailer and decided I’d check it out when it was released. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m happy to say, I genuinely enjoyed myself.
Based off a very popular set of children’s books, the story follows two young owls named, Soren (Jim Sturgess), and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten of ‘True Blood’ fame). They’re brothers being taught by their father the ways of being an owl. They learn how to perch, fly, search for food etc. A sibling rivalry is clearly present and for those who have seen this story countless times you can already kind of tell where this is heading.
Soren appears to be a natural at perching while Kludd stays true to his namesake, nearly falling to the ground each time. Soren, young, passionate, and a big dreamer, reenacts the stories of The Guardians, warrior owls whose stories are told like King Arthur and his knights with his family and much to his brother’s annoyance.
Soren dreams of one day joining The Guardians while Kludd believes his brother is an idiot for believing in fairy tales about owls that may not really exist. This begs the question, if The Guardians are such great warriors, fought all these battle and yet no one knows where they are or if they still exist, don’t you think they perhaps didn’t do their job well enough?
One day, Soren and Kludd sneak out while their parents are out on a hunt, fall out of the tree, and end up on the ground where no owl wants to be. Some rabid-like animal with red eyes and razor sharp teeth attack the young owls. The action is fast and sure to scare a kiddie or two. Luckily, Soren and Kludd are saved by much bigger owls. It isn’t before long that they realize they’ve been taken away and forced into slave labor by the film’s villain, Metalbeak.
Metelbeak (Joel Edgerton) is cold, evil, and almost bone chilling as he stares down at you. His namesake is gained from the metal beaked helmet he’s forced to wear to hide his scars and missing beak that was torn out in a past battle.
The Hitler-like maniac has a plan to build a master race of owls. His plan entails having the owlets dig through owl pellets (that’s the bones and fur of the mice they regurgitate after eating for you non-science folks) to look for a metal, that when combined with other metals creates a flux that messes with the owl’s gizzard’s and grounds them.
Yeah, the story is kinda hard to follow and not entirely strong but it holds well enough. I saw the movie twice and still couldn’t understand the whole thing with the metal plotline.
The Owls of Ga’Hoole carries many similarities to other movies and themes we’ve seen many times before. Watching it, I am reminded of Hitler and the master race, child slave labor, Oliver Twist, and it also carries that Lord of the Rings epic feel. It’s the hero’s journey we’ve seen and heard countless times before and yet it still works. The film proves that if you take an old story and put a fresh spin on it, it can be enjoyable.
This leads me to the meat and potatoes of any action movie, the action, which is quite impressive here. The owls duck and dodge each other in near lighting fast reaction while plotting and carrying out silent kills.
Upon researching the books of which the film is based on, I discovered that they’re mainly popular with little boys which explains why they poured the action and violence on. There is no blood, but it isn’t shy to let the viewers know that everything dies with they just die, are eaten, or killed in battle. Essentially you die a la The Lion King circle of life kind of thing.
As the film progresses, Soren befriends a young female owl named Gylfie (Emily Barclay) and they manage to escape. Eventually they discover that The Guardians are not only real but they’re thriving. The Guardians are indeed a bunch of badass medieval special forces soldiers with steel gauntlet talons, used to pierce the skin of their victim.
One owl has swords on his talons and I’m not quite sure if I saw it correctly given the fast pace of the action but I could have sworn it was implied that the sword owl beheaded another. That prospect alone makes me wonder, could there be a gorier or unrated version coming out on DVD?
Given that this is directed by Zack Snyder, (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, and the upcoming Sucker Punch) one can easily assume that he has an unrated version out there somewhere. This is Zack’s first attempt at a non R-rated movie and he exceeds almost brilliantly.
I’ve enjoyed every movie he has directed and while I will agree his slow-mo gimmick can be irritating, Mr. Snyder is actually more reserved in this and uses it sparingly but also when needed. How else could you watch a movie about some Special Forces owls fighting? You wouldn’t be able to see a thing.
When it comes to the animation, I spent the majority of this movie with my jaw nearly on the floor. It’s simply amazing. At times the owls look real, so real you almost feel that they somehow found owls that could actually act (perhaps taught in some Harry Potter school for acting), gave them a the script and just let loose.
The amount of detail given to every inch of every feather should be applauded and respected. Animal Logic, the company that did the animation for Happy Feet, perform their duties here well beyond most animation companies. There are two sequences in particular, both involving our hero Soren, that are just breathtaking.
All-in-all, The Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, is a very impressive movie. Voice acting is top notch, animation is simply amazing and breathtaking, and it’ll surely remove the doubt anyone had about a movie being based on owls.
Also, don’t be fooled by the false 3D movies we’ve been subjected to over the year, this 3D is the REAL DEAL, this is how 3D should be. It only serves to enhance the film and really brings the animation to life.
So by all means, go watch some badass owls for 90 minutes and awe at how much animation has grown.
Though the film isn't not perfect, beautiful animation and strong voice acting make up for the messy story and poorly written characters.