Friday, September 2, 2011

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)

     Maybe the problem I had with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010), other than its lengthy title, is that it is a truly unsatisfying children's movie.  Maybe the source material is much better – I have no means of judging since I didn't even know there was a Guardians of Ga'Hoole book series until the movie came out – but in the movie, the story is a little all over the place, occasionally sweet, sometimes bitter, and often very violent.  Much of this seems to be a little too intense for children (especially young children), but the dialog and relationships is too simple for adults.  The characters are often too cute, and many of the lesser characters are not developed at all.  The most damning thing may be that the characters are owls – and a snake – and several of these owls are just not built to be very expressive or to carry to mantle of anthropomorphism the story implies. 
Protagonist Soren learning to fly in a storm.
     The movie looks great, though.  It has some of the crispest animation I have ever seen.  Even in watching it in 2D, it is clear how well suited for 3D.  Director Zach Snyder once again indulges in the use of slow motion during the action sequences, but here it does not look forced – as it did in Watchmen (2009) – or ridiculous – as it did in 300 (2007) – and not doubt served the 3D effects well.  He does not, however, get overly graphic in the combat sequences (probably good for the children, but ultimately unsatisfying for the adult viewer) as he did in previous efforts.  Still, the combat looks good.  It makes me think that if there ever were a hard-R, ultra-violent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated movie, then Snyder and this team would be the ones to handle the technical aspects.
Evil pure one Nyra and some minions.
     There is a good story in there, somewhere.  There is hero worship, betrayal, more betrayal, dangerous beasties, dangerous journeys, and standing up for what is right.  It has the elements that should appeal to children and adults alike.  But the voice acting is a little flat (which is surprising given the cast) and the characters don't have enough depth.  Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) seems perpetually lightweight and lacking in resolve – even when he is following his gizzard.  Gylfie (voiced by Emily Barclay) seems to do nothing other than to give Soren another owl with whom to speak.  Nyra (voiced by Helen Mirren) should make for a compelling villain, giving voice to the righteousness of bigotry and domination.; instead she comes off as a slightly mean surrogate mother and little different from the Guardians when they finally appear.
     The movie looks good enough to give it a look, especially if you have the 3D set-up at home.  Just don't expect much in the way of an engaging story.  I kind of wish this kind of technical expertise had been applied to a more faithful remake of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1971). 

1 comment:

  1. They shouldn't have market this as a children's movie. Good review.