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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

by on September 22, 2010
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You’re not likely to find a more gorgeous film this year than the awkwardly-titled “Legend of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.”

It’s the story that’s a mess.

The narrative centers around warrior owls who wear helmets and metal claws on their talons. There apparently are two different groups: the Pure Ones, who I assume are pure of breed and not of heart, considering they’re the ruthless villains who enslave baby owls (I mean, who does that?).

Their mostly cold-war counterparts are the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, who are the good guys who do great things, and that’s about all we know about them.

The star of the film is Soren (Jim Sturgess), a young owl who is captured and enslaved by the Pure Ones. He escapes to Ga’Hoole and the Guardians, and a war ensues.

There’s more to it…a lot more. But it was honestly I’m not sure exactly what because things moved so quickly, introducing new characters or plot points, or both. At one point one character betrays others (and is named as such). but it takes at least 3 full minutes before you know who, when you see them with the villains.

Again, the film is a visual delight, with beautifully rendered characters and background with vivid 3D explosions of orange and brown and soft, supple feathers and fur flying.

The voice work is frankly anonymous, with actors like Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, and Ryan Kwanten of “True Blood,” none of whom stand out among the others.

Director Zack Snyder is known for kinetic, ultra-violent films like the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, “300” and “Watchmen,” and there are flashes of that here with his signature visual style and battle sequences that cut away before the gore. Snyder employs his signature slo-mo shots emphasizing impact, and while it’s a little distracting it also is at times necessary to decipher what’s happening.

The film is based on the book series “The Guardians of Ga’Hoole,” and I’m guessing the studio dumped that title for fear of not knowing owls were the main characters.

You get the feeling watching this film that there is supposed to be more, and rather than retool the script, they simply started chopping. There’s little to no sense of cohesion or logical progression of the story, but there’s a whole lot of flying in storms, owl-on-owl violence, and doe-eyed birds waiting to be saved.

It’s a shame, because there was an epic hidden in there somewhere. It just got lost at sea.