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"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"- (Chris)-{Blu-Ray}
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Warner Brothers
Release Date:
Special Features:

See Below


"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" is an animated film with the enchanting lure of a fairy tale, the intrigue of a medieval political thriller, the excitement of an action spectacle, and the majesty of a special effects extravaganza. What it lacks is the time needed to fully develop the characters and the story; the film, an amazing technical achievement, not only moves too quickly but also feels incredibly condensed, as if not just one, but several of Kathryn Lasky's "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" books (unread by me) were combined into a single story. With so many plot points reduced to vague descriptions, with so many characters that each have engaging and discernable personalities, I didn't feel like I was seeing a great movie, but rather the beginnings of a great movie. And that's the thing - the beginnings are there. For a film just ninety minutes long, that's quite an achievement.***

In what's essentially a redressing of a hero's journey, it tells the story of a barn owl named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess), who's brave, idealistic, a dreamer, and devoted to stories about the Guardian owls, legendary for their heroic acts and their protection of the kingdom of Ga'Hoole. His brother, Kludd (voiced by Ryan Kwanten), thinks the stories are merely that - stories - and is jealous of the attention Soren receives. One day, the brothers are abducted and taken to the lair of the evil Metalbeak (voiced by Joel Edgerton) and his wicked queen, Nyra (voiced by Helen Mirren). Once there, the weak owls are mentally incapacitated and forced to pick through owl pellets; the strong ones are brainwashed into joining Metalbeak's merciless army and take part in an insidious plot to take over the kingdom. The details of this takeover are left a little obscure, although it apparently involves a debilitating device that runs on scraps of metal.***

Brother is turned against brother as Soren befriends Gylfie, a timid elf owl (voiced by Emily Barclay), while Kludd is primed by Nyra to be the greatest of Metalbeak's soldiers. With a little help, Soren and Gylfie escape, and they realize with great excitement that they have finally learned how to fly. They quickly team up with a kooky burrowing owl named Digger (voiced by David Wenham) and his lute-playing poet companion, a great gray owl named Twilight (voiced by Anthony LaPaglia). Only then does Soren learn that the Guardians are not only real, but also the only hope left for saving ... I guess you'd have to call it owlkind, since mankind apparently doesn't exist in this world. Thus the story progresses to a fierce and fiery battle in Metalbeak's lair, which, if the title is of any indication, will someday become legend.***

This 3D animated fantasy, director Zach Snyder's first attempt at family entertainment, shows that considerable care went into creating its look. Production designer Simon Whiteley and art director Grant Freckelton have crafted a world of woodland charm and battle-scarred horror, with just a hint of Celtic thrown into the mix. The owls themselves are a triumph of animation, and I have no doubt that their feathers alone were a painstaking ordeal, what with the texture, color, movement, and transparency to take into consideration. There's a close-up shot late in the film, for example, of Soren as he flies through a violent rainstorm; coming towards the camera in slow motion, his feathers ruffle authentically in the howling winds, and rain droplets cling to his body while others splash into his eyes. It's a breathtaking moment, overflowing with power, grace, and style.***

The problem is that it didn't go far enough with the story. Either that, or far too much of it was trimmed away in post production. Whatever the case, "Legend of the Guardians" is one of the few films that actually needs an extra thirty minutes just for the sake of pacing and clarification. We're so quick to complain about a film that moves too slowly, but we often forget that it can be just as damaging for a film to move too fast - we don't want to leave the theater feeling as if crucial details have been overlooked. As a full two-hour film, I suspect the film would do more than seem complete; it would also be one of the best modern-day examples of a conventional fairy tale retold.***

Note: Despite the film's PG rating, "Legend of the Guardians" is considerably darker than most recent animated films - more so, I suspect, than the studios have been willing to reveal in the ads. There's no gratuitous violence, although there are a few decidedly violent moments of owls in battle. It's not excessively gloomy, although there is a consistent undercurrent of danger and despair.

Special Features:

Maximum Kid Mode: Soren guides you through the movie and reveals exciting real-life stories about the entire Owl Kingdom; also features two fun challenges, Armor Up with Soren and Eglantine and Match the Owl Treats.

Legend of the Guardians: Rise of the Guardians - The Owls' legendary bedtime story that inspired Soren to seek out the Guardians (BD-exclusive)

Music video: Owl City, "To the Sky" (BD-exclusive) Artwork galleries (BD-exclusive)

Legend of the Guardians: The Guardians

The Locations

The villains of St. Aegolius

Legend of the Guardians: Soren and friends

True Guardians of the Earth: Digger and Modern Family Rico Rodriguez host this fascinating look into the world of owls and why they are counting on you to protect them

Fur of Flying: new Looney Tunes cartoon, starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (in 3D on the 3D Blu-ray)

Final Words:

Take from this what you will. You obviously know your children a lot better than I do, but I've always been a firm believer that, in general, kids can tolerate a lot more unpleasantness than adults give them credit for. If this weren't the case, stories by J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, L. Frank Baum, The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, or Carlo Collodi would not have withstood the test of time.***


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