Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D review

Historically, owls haven’t had the most fearsome reputation either in real life or in fiction. Sure, they have big talons and catch mice and that but on the other hand they’ve got round heads that spin round 360 degrees and those big friendly eyes that blink slowly. And not to forget their wisdom, as displayed in the form of Wol, in AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. Except of course Wol wasn’t that wise after all. Anyway, the point is that owls are not your typical hero creatures so to find them portrayed precisely like that – even animated ones as they are here – is something of a surprise. That Zack Snyder is directing such an adventure is quite something else.

The story of the film is based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky and centres on two young owls Soren (Sturgess) and Kludd (Kwanten) who are snatched from their home by Pure Ones, a group of owls who believe they will rule the owl kingdom. Along with Gylfie (Barclay), the owls seem set to be to “moonblinked” – blinded and turned into working zombies – as part of the Pure Owls plan to collect metal flecks which when combined create a powerful force. Understanding the significance of this, Soren vows to escape and find the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a group of legendary owls who live to protect the kingdom from evil.

As the synopsis suggests this is very much a classic quest, good versus evil, right versus wrong, love, betrayal, sibling rivalry, honour, bravery, you name it, it’s in here. In that sense it’s not especially original but it’s amazing how unoriginal you can get away with being if enough of the other elements are in place. Most obviously is impressive here is the Warner Bros animation and there is no doubt that this is the most photo-realistic CGI I’ve ever seen – and that includes Pixar. Remember when Monsters Inc came out and we were all wowed by the fibres on Sully? The feathers on the owls here are like that only better. And we get the full benefit of these in some truly spectacular slow-motion in the rain flying and fighting sequences.

Yes, this may be about cute owls but Snyder still knows how to throw together an action sequence and his work on 300 is writ large all over this celebration of our feathered friends. The 3D actually does its job for once too and enhances the viewing experience, particularly in the aerial pursuits. Of course, the downside to 3D is that it’s all a bit dark which is a shame because when the action switches to sunlit scenes it’s a quite beautiful film.

These vistas are inspired by Australia, the country in which it was made, so some of the landscapes will stir up memories to anyone who's been there. The voice cast will also be familiar and although the bigger names of Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush and Hugo Weaving have small roles, their recognisable tones add weight to those of the more prominent youngsters, all of whom do a fine job. The script is solid without being inspired but does provide a fair few chuckles in what is quite a serious and at times scary story, especially for younger viewers. The animation is worth the price of the ticket alone and there’s more than enough in the way of excitement to keep the whole family entertained.

Official Site
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole at IMDb

Justin Bateman is a Screenjabber contributor

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