Starring (the voices of): Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Helen Mirren, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer(s): John Orloff, Emil Stern,

Cinematography: Grant Freckelton

Original Score: David Hirschfelder,

Running Time: 90 mins.

An animated film about owls from the director of Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen…stranger things have happened, Mad Max director tackling dancing penguins anyone!?! Oddly, and like that penguin film, Warner Brothers have pulled a coup d’etat with another visually arresting effort adapted from a series of children’s books, this time The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Lord of the Rings by way of Watership Down with owls is the best way to describe Legend of the Guardians and whatever your opinions on Snyder’s (rather shallow, story-wise at least) output there is no denting his eye for visuals even if he does like slo-mo a little TOO much.

The Legend of the Guardians is your typical coming of age tale, two brothers, one good one eventually seduced by badness, butt heads as the good one gathers a band of owls (and a snake!) to find the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole whilst the bad-guys mount a plan to overthrow the owl kingdoms using, inexplicably, metal pulled from owl pellets consisting of mostly dead mice, culminating in an epic battle between the good guys and bad guys to rescue the young owl sister and restore balance to the force…ih  hang on wrong film. As you can probably tell this is a film that pulls the “epic” plot points from many a quest film, no bad thing as many of these inspirations are classics in their own right. Star Wars, Watership Down, Lord of the Rings…each is a classic and is capable of being applied to a new and awe-inspiring world, the world of owls.

It is undoubtedly the visuals that make the film and for all its lack of originality it finds something special in its presentation, even without (or perhaps even more so) 3D this would be a refreshingly real representation of a world full of depth and awe-inspiring epic wonder (arguably as luscious as that of Avatar), of course it helps that the characters are largely all owls and fairly gracious in their movement, flying in particular is a god-send to a director as visually accomplished as Snyder leaving little wonder he has been selected to try and reboot Superman, again! The owls soar through the skies and there is enough to differentiate each flying sequence to stop the rot or boredom setting in, whether it be a typhoon of rain or the use of fire and metal gauntlets in the fight/flight scenes each has its own flavour.

Amidst being swept along by the visuals it is easy to overlook the (rather glaring) flaws, unoriginality and predictability of story are a given but the voice cast also serves to hinder at times, ranging from weak to very good it really is a mixed bag, David Wenham and Geoffrey Rush are the only two who make any kind of impact but sound much like themselves giving their characters little in the way of characterisation, something not helped by the lack of much to differentiate between owls. But it is the lead brothers that are the weakest links, making Soren and Kludd both dull and uninteresting to listen to, but like I will keep reiterating you are likely going to be too engrossed in the visuals too care all that much about the sound coming from the characters beaks!

It is easy to pull a film such as this apart, it reaches for something much more than Despicable Me and aspires to be seen as the animated equivalent of Lord of the Rings, unfortnately there isn’t nearly enough at work to raise it to those standards…or anywhere near where depth is concerned but for pure surface sheen there is something to behold, in fact in that sense it really isn’t very far removed at all from Snyder’s past work.

VERDICT

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a luscious and beautifully shot film, employing slow-mo to the max, sadly it shares the weaknesses of it’s directors other films, lack of originality in plot and any sense of depth to his characters, that is unlikely to hinder your enjoyment though.

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