Legend of the Guardians The Owls of GaHoole movie poster

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Emily Barclay, Abbey Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Sam Neil, David Wenham

Release Date: September 24 2010

Studio: Warner Brothers

As one of the best lesser known productions to have been released in the last decade, director Zack Snyder attempts to replicate his kinetic style within the realms of talking owls. A premise that at first seems disjointed, the expertise of the acclaimed director establishes this particular film as one of the most impressive 3D animated to have been produced. Released in 2010, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hool was an early adopter of realD 3D, and as such may seem dated in retrospect to what has come since. However, through Snyder’s stylistic aesthetic and realistic animation, Legends of the Guardians is a highly entertaining but be it flawed film.

Lord of the Rings meets Happy Feet and based on a children’s book series, Legends of the Guardians tells of the mythical battle between two clans of Owls, the titular Guardians and the evil ‘Pure Ones’. When young barn owl siblings, Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), are kidnapped by ‘pure one’ fanatics,  they are placed into a nightmarish situation of slavery and genocide. Managing to escape their clutches, Soren seeks the legendary ‘Guardians’ and together they fight against the tide of darkness that threatens to engulf the Owl kingdom.

From the outset Legends of the Guardians feels very much like a version of World War 2 with the look and feel of its anthropomorphic characters. Under the rule of the over-the-top Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his equally vile mate Nyra (Helen Mirren) the pure ones are easily fantasy examples of Nazi analogues, with the guardians serving as the beacon of rebellion that fought for freedom. However, Legends of the Guardians is still a children’s film, so these references are played more softly in the design and feel of the film – instead of examples of the monstrosities that were conducted during this time.

Throughout this film the antagonists are designed as dark, broken creatures , with the Guardians opposed with their white colours and regal armour designs. This allows for a very simple differentiation to be made between the two factions, again playing to the strengths of the films target demographic. With a cast of Australian actors lending their voices to the multiple characters that feature, the film feels very much south coast in its production. This is mirrored in the inclusion of native Australian animals such as Echidna’s and Tasmanian Devils within the plot. With a fantasy setting, the choice of basing this world on Australia seems to hold conflicting ideas – is it Australia represented through the animals, or a fantasy world from Australian locales. The film never makes the setting entirely clear and as such seems to disjoint its cinematic world.

Snyder, who is famous for high kinetic and stylised action sequences is a perfect fit for moments of this films animation – with showpiece slow motion and high quality animation utilised to produce some of the most visually impressive moments to have ever graced the big screen. However, there is also lots that do not work so well within the film, such as the rushed plot line, simplified character arcs and motives that are never made clear. Of course the film is written for younger viewers, but that does not excuse how little the narrative takes in regard to the consistency of its better moments.

For every key scene that uses water, wind and 3D effects that compliment each other brilliantly, Snyder’s films struggles to deliver context to why everything is occurring in the first place. As Happy Feet’s more mature brother, Legends of the Guardians is a difficult film to position – with the studio seemingly stuck on where the tone should lie. However, for all its issues, this animated film consists of some of the most amazing animation to have ever come out of the genre. For that reason alone it should be witnessed by all.

Plot – 3

Voice Work – 3

Direction – 5

Retrospect – 2

Overall – 3