Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
US, 90 mins, 2010, PG
I straight up love owls. They’ve got everyone fooled. Mortarboard-wearing, book-reading cartoon owls aside, they’re actually one of the thickest organisms on the planet. Everything they do is based on murderous intent.
They only have two expressions: surprise and disapproval. They’re fast, silent and deadly – the ultimate killer – but don’t you just want one to sit on your shoulder and deliver your post? I do.
Please understand, therefore, that I went into Legend of the Guardians with my owly bias already established. In print, it sounds ridiculous – some cute owls get kidnapped by the Pure Ones (slightly fascistic owls) and escape becoming ‘moonblinked’ owl-zombies by flying across the sea to find the Guardians, a legendary parliament (fun fact: that’s the collective noun for owls) sworn to protect the owl kingdoms from the threat of Bad Owls.
However, onscreen it almost makes sense – Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) uses his trademark speeding-up-slowing-down fight scenes to great effect, and as much as I slagged off Avatar for being more about the 3D than the story, this film does look beautiful: every fluttering feather looks soft enough to touch, every beak and claw looks ready to gouge your eyeballs out. Plus, the film is based on an existing series of books by Kathryn Lasky, so I can’t really have any gripes about the story: it’s a decent tale about a nice little owl who goes on a quest with his friends, OK?
Featuring a host of cute critters (a matriarchal snake named Mrs Plithiver, a clairvoyant echidna and a super-annoying burrowing owl to name but a few) and some solid voice acting from Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren and Geoffrey Rush, the film is somewhere between The Animals of Farthing Wood and, er, 300. Of course it’s ridiculous in places: Soren (Jim Sturgess) has one too many scenes of flying in slow motion against a big dramatic aria, and some lines are as unintentionally hilarious in-context as they are out of it (“What do I know? I’m just a tired old screech…”). The soundtrack features the unfortunate likes of 30 Seconds to Mars and – wait for it – Owl City.
The film also has what I call Avatar Syndrome: so much attention has been lavished on the 3D that it feels like they’ve blu-tacked any old script on as an afterthought.
Legend of the Guardians is like that hopelessly beautiful individual in your seminar whom you kid yourself is flawless – until they actually say something and you realise that they have a lump of cheese for a brain.
Still, they’re so stunning you don’t really mind dumbing down for an hour or two. Legend of the Guardians: it’s a hoot. Sort of.