December 28, 2010


Zack Snyder. A CG animated owl movie. Holy crap, did that actually happen? Yes it did, it’s that movie with the terrible name Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. It’s based on a kid’s book, but still. The story of a young owl named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) who’s stolen with his siblings to be a slave for the “Pure Ones” headed by Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Nyra (Helen Mirren), but Soren’s destined to be a great owl, and perhaps savior. Abbie Cornish, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, and David Wenham are also feature voice performers. The review of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole on Blu-ray follows after the jump.

It takes about a half hour to fall in with the film, as owls are weird creatures to personify. But that’s all the set-up. Soren is a dreamer, and not as naturally athletically gifted as his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten). They are set to learn to fly when they’re kidnapped by the pure ones, who are obviously based on Hilterian notions of a master race. They don’t think much of Soren, who’s relegated to picking up owl droppings, which is where he sees their big ball of evil, which is part of their plan to take over the owl world. Soren is shown how to fly by a rebellious guard, and then takes off in search of the Guardians, which is supposedly a truly difficult flight.

He and his company get there and warn of the upcoming danger of Metalbeak’s plans for the other owls. But the island of Guardian owls have mostly given up their old ways, though Allomere (Sam Neill) is sent to investigate. Throw in a double cross, and a training montage, and it’s up to Soren to save the day.

“Star Wars Nazi Owls” is how I described this after seeing it, and the film follows the beats of the genre as to be expected. But even if Zack Snyder is using his “ramping” slow motion tricks with a CG animated kids film, it’s a well put together piece, and the action scenes are rousing. Even if the story is familiar, it’s still potent stuff. Yes, it’s drawn – like Lucas’s films – from the Hero’s Journey, but Snyder knows how to compose and deliver good action beats, while the cast is especially charming with Geoffrey Rush put to excellent use as the Obi-Wan Kenobi type. This must have been stellar in 3-D, but at home, it’s still immaculate to look at, and the visual design and the fun of a compactly told adventure film make this a winner. Even if the title is garbage.

Warner Brother’s Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and digital copy. The film is in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The transfer is jaw dropping. Extras include a maximum movie mode intended for children, which means it’s hosted by Soren and though it does feature commentary by the makers and performers it also comes with more kid-friendly commentary. There’s a piece about real-life owls with Rico Rodriguez (15 min.), and a “Costume Creator” game where you can dress up Soren as a pirate or a superhero. Then there’s a another game called “Match the Owl Treats” where you try and find the two alike owl snacks, and that’s  followed by a video called “Rise of the Guardians” (3 min.) that tells the start of the Guardians. Then there’s a Looney Tunes /Road Runner short “Fur of Flying” (4 min.), four still art galleries, and a music video.

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