Mark Reviews Movies

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: The voices of Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Helen Mirren, Ryan Kwanten, Emily Barclay, David Wenham, Anthony Lapaglia, Hugo Weaving, Joel Edgerton, Abbie Cornish, Miriam Margolyes, Sam Neill

MPAA Rating: PG (for some sequences of scary action)

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 9/24/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 23, 2010

The wonderful thing about moral absolutes is they need no explanation. Here is good, and here is evil. Here is honor, and here is treachery. This is the truth; that is a lie. They are easy distinctions to makeóno questions asked because none are necessary, thank you very much. They are also, if held firm to, dramatically boring.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a perfect example of that process in effect. The good guys are good for no reason except that they are good (and that they fight the bad guys), while the bad guys are bad for the same reason though with the altered moral qualifier (and that they are opposed to the good guys). For children's fare, such distinctions are desirable, because they easily digestible. This story, with its basis in Kathryn Lasky's fantasy book series, leaves a strongly sour stomach.

It is the hero's quest, with young owl Soren (voice of Jim Sturgess) and his brother Kludd (voice of Ryan Kwanten) captured by the evil Metal Beak (voice Joel Edgerton), an owl with a taste for global conquest. Soren escapes with a tiny, big-eyed Elf Owl Gylfie (voice of Emily Barclay) and joins with comic sidekicks Digger (voice of David Wenham), a Burrowing Owl who does what his name and species implies in addition to telling lame jokes, and Twilight (voice of Anthony LaPaglia), a minstrel singing songs of their impending doom. Meanwhile, Kludd stays behind, under the seductive control of Metal Beak's mate Nyra (voice of Helen Mirren). John Orloff and Emil Stern's screenplay is baffled by the ambiguity in Kludd and, hence, abandons the possibility.

Since the baddies are doing terrible things, the quartet must find the best of the good, the legendary guardian owls of the Ga'Hoole Tree, of whom the title speaks. After a mildly perilous journey across the sea (It's very cold, and one very nearly doesn't fall to his death), Soren and his band find the tree and meet Ezylryb (voice of Geoffrey Rush), Soren's hero who tells the young bird that battle is not as heroic and glorious as he might have heard in stories.

Political discussions ensue. Do they believe the intelligence of a young, naÔve owlet and go to war immediately, or do they send in some inspectors to Metal Beak's layer to see for themselves (while some hope to appease the enemy)? Children learn valuable lessons: Not only is battle as heroic and glorious as it is in the stories, it also happens in slow motion (Director Zack Snyder, who in the past has implemented some effective use of changes in camera speeds, is just show-boating the animation). Those who insist on caution and rational judgment in matters of conflict are not only philosophical traitors but very real ones, willing to betray kin and country for a taste of power.

These are the movie's simplistic values. They end up holding too much sway in the examination of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole when set against lush scenery, effective character animations, and the resulting stalled narrative.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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