Then again, I grew up on wonderfully illustrated Grimm’s fairy tales, and can appreciate the opulence and darkness even if it is essentially a kids’ flick. One also has to be willing to embrace the fantastical, and if you are willing to do that this movie will take you there.
We first meet Soren (Jim Sturgess) and his family at their home in the forest of Tyto. Soren is playing make believe and spinning wondrous tales about the Guardians of Ga’Hoole that he learned from his father, for his younger hatchling sister Eglantine (Adrienne da Faria). His elder brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) looks on with something more akin to contempt than mere disapproval. It isn’t long before we realize there is a rivalry between the brothers that is more one sided on Kludd’s part due to what appears to be jealousy and scorn of Soren.
All too sudden, the family’s simple life becomes a fond memory. Soren and Kludd fall out of a tree while trying to get the hang of flying, which they call branching, and end up on the ground where they are vulnerable to attack. They are first attacked by a horribly terrifying tasmanian devil; and just when we think they are safe, they are suddenly owl-napped by two strange and frightful owls out on patrol. The brothers are taken against their will to the owl stronghold St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, along with other young owls who have suffered the same fate.
Nyra (Helen Mirren), the evil leader Metalbeak’s (Joel Edgerton) right hand woman, arrives to inform them of the new regime. She delivers a lofty speech trying to brainwash the stolen owlets into believing that their families have abandoned them and the Tyto’s are their family now. It is here where the frightened prisoners learn they will either become pickers without a will of their own, or soldiers trained to fight for world domination.
After being moon blinked, which is a trance that enslaves them, the lesser owls are forced to pick through nasty owl pellets, also known as regurgitated owl waste, for tiny pieces of shiny metal called flecks. These shiny bits are used in some sort of energy stealing electromagnetic contraption designed to render owls, namely the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, powerless so they can be controlled by blood sucking bats.
By standing up for his new friend Gylfie, Soren seals his fate as a slave. Selfish Kludd willingly accepts his new position as a Pure One, and betrays not only Soren, but their little sister Eglantine as well in order to gain advancement and favor without a hint of remorse. At St.Aegolius, it is better to be among the ranks of the Pure Ones, and as a Tyto, it is better to enforce the rule than to spend the rest of your days picking.
Unwilling to spend his life as a slave to tyrannical evil doers, Soren and his new friend Gylfie escape. Along the way they meet some new friends and an old friend. Together they set out in search of the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole in a bid to save not only themselves, but the entire owl kingdom from oppression and death.
The score, composed by David Hirschfelder, was a thrilling crest of inspiring beauty carrying the ability to infuse the audience with wonder, awe, and terror at all the right moments. It helped to give the film a nuance of myth and legend, awe and magic which brought emotion to all the right moments.
Obviously studios will be hoping for a franchise as there are 15 books in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, written by award winning Kathryn Lasky. The only way deterrent I see to this happening is it’s poor box office draw (so far it’s only barely made back it’s budget), since it comes with an endearing hero, tension, and the universal themes of freedom, hope, and believing in one’s dreams.
Even though this story (also starring the voices of Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, and Abbie Cornish) was told with the kind of graphical and visual opulence usually reserved for an adult audience, what Zack Snyder did with Legend of the Guardians was pretty amazing. It was in a way, a 300 movie for kids, only with owls and a happy ending. It breathes new life into traditional fairy tales. It is a movie for dreamers and for those looking to believe in something greater than themselves. It is a film made for those who dream of heroes that will inspire us all to be something greater.
Legend of the Guardians is visually stunning in every sense, but is the landscape of formulaic kids’ flicks ready for this type of stylized graphical artistry? There were a few minor discordant notes, like a few phrases I won’t name here, and I admit I did have to get used to the owl armor, but all in all it was worth the 3D ticket price. It might be a story told in a way and medium that is before it’s time, but I for one appreciate this stylish depiction and hope to see more of this kind of story telling and more of the Owls of Ga’Hoole.