When two adolescent owls are relocated, they are faced with a choice: go along with it, or do the right thing. Drawing from the great stories of yore, the animated Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is an aesthetic wonderment that captured my attention and used the occasional depth of plot to hold me tight.
The cynical Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), his cheerful brother Soren (Jim Sturgess), and their freakishly adorable little sister Egaltine (Adreinne DeFaria) live nestled safely in their hollow. On an evening flight practice session, Kludd and Soren end up in a dangerous position, in the claws of the Pure Ones, a group of power hungry owls who captures “lesser” owls and enslaves them. The only group powerful enough to save them are The Guardians, a group of legendary warriors who are sworn to protect.
The animation in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole stole my disbelief and would not give it back. Each feather, each drop of water, the light, and shadow were just skewed enough to keep me in a fantasy, and at the same time, was so realistic, my mind didn’t try to kick me out of the moment. I was taken by the incredible texture given to individual feathers and type of feathers. Not only do they move individually, but also as a whole on the animal. Immature feathers have different movement and texture. The character’s colorings are distinctive enough to be individual, but when two owls of the same species were featured, it was easy to tell the relation.
My only contention with the animation is that there is a great deal of effort and time spent on utilizing the 3D. In the flight scenes, or the in-air fight scenes, the use of all three dimensions added to the sense of peril and danger. At other times, it’s obvious that the director and animators are trying to create false drama by whipping the audience though high rises and low drops. This is fine if you are watching in 3D, but viewers watching in 2D may be frustrated without much time is dedicated to plotless flight.
The plotless flight is an issue for the flow of the plot as well, but it isn’t the hardest thing to overcome. At times, we have to just accept that there are movements in the plot that we aren’t privy to or that seem to go by too quickly. Those moments are redeemed by moments of subtle wisdom that smacked my gobs.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole has a simple plot. Right and wrong; good and evil are as stark a contrast as hot and cold. Yet, it draws on some of the most inspiring stories in history to create a straightforward, uncomplicated version that still gives the audience inspiration. One of the adolescent owls takes it upon himself to do the right thing, at great risk to himself. He has a rag-tag collection of helpers. He is an unexpected hero because he is small, untrained, and it is required that we all believe in his willingness and ability to complete his quest. He is Frodo, Homer, and Able wrapped in a feathered suit and hollowed bones. This reassembly of the unlikely hero myth may lack freshness but it is the classic nature of the story that makes it work.
There is a confusing message about faith and being positive. It was unclear if they were trying to make a larger message about faith or just about only trusting oneself. It doesn’t undermine the story but it did make me wonder if the faithless will leave with their faces slapped.
At times, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is downright surprising. The focus of the story is war. Unlike so many other stories where war is portrayed, even to young people, as a glorious example of group solidarity, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole portrays it a bit more honestly. At one point, in a discussion between the main character and an older character, his misconceptions are nearly mercilessly shamed out of him. Violence is not seen as a first choice, as something they go into lightly, or without consequences. It is discussed, discouraged, and ultimately disheartening to some of the characters.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole will not be harmful to small children, but would be more suitable to the parents of children ten years or older. They may have given up on being hyper-protective of their children from the real dangers in the world and may be willing to discuss things like when violence is acceptable, when it is not, how to behave bravely, and when it is courageous to not act.
Even though the plot gently skips across the top of the plot waters, the stone finally settles with deeper meaning than one expects in a movie aimed at children. Parental units will not be bored when accompanying a youngster. In fact, seeing Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole at any age is recommended.