Elliot Hyams takes flight with the new children’s fantasy film that will take you by surprise.
It would seem the major problems facing films these days is hype, in the weeks leading up to a film’s release we are assaulted by trailers, articles and interviews all promising that this film will be the greatest film ever made. To go into a film with such huge expectations usually leads to disappointment and can leave you feeling cheated. That is why sometimes it is nice to stumble on a film by chance and to find a hidden gem, and this is exactly how I was fortunate enough to discover Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Finding myself at the cinema with a small child who had already seen Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me, I had begun to weigh up the pros and cons of taking an infant to see Saw 3D when the friendly girl behind the counter suggested Legend of the Guardians. So despite my companion’s protests that “owls are stupid” we bought our tickets and went in with no expectations, and I’m glad we did.
Directed by Zack Snyder of 300 and The Watchmen fame and based on the successful series of books by Kathryn Lasky, Legend of the Guardians tells the story of Soren, a young owl who is kidnapped along with his brother Kludd and taken to the lair of the evil Pure Ones, a group of owls led by the ominous sounding Metalbeak. The Pure Ones use a process called moon blinking to turn young owls into slaves to do their bidding whilst they prepare to take control of the owl kingdom. Kludd willingly joins Metalbeak's army, but the noble Soren escapes with his new friend Gylfie and flies to the island of Ga’Hoole to enlist the help of the mythical warrior owls known as the Guardians. Along the way he meets a series of bizarre and amazing characters, discovers his inner owl and prepares himself for the inevitable showdown that will pit owl against owl, and brother against brother.
Featuring an all star voice cast including Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill and Helen Mirren, this Australian made CG animation really is very impressive. Visual effects company Animal Logic, who previously worked on Happy Feet and The Matrix and Lord of the Rings films, have done an amazing job on the animation to the point where if it wasn’t for the fact that they speak, you’d think these were real owls you were watching. The story is dark, perhaps a little too dark for very young children, and there is relatively little comic relief. Similarly the battle scenes can get quite intense and whether it is intentional or not, are deeply reminiscent of the fight scenes from 300. Legend of the Guardians shares an awful lot in common with Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal, another brilliant fantasy film that was seemingly too dark for children to enjoy, but this assumption does a great disservice to our young friends. My little companion absolutely loved this film despite its lack of songs and toilet humour and what’s more so did I.
Review by Elliot Hyams