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The Independent Critic

Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Emilie de Ravin, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill
Zack Snyder
Emil Stern, John Collee, John Orloff, Kathryn Lasky (books)
Rated PG
91 Mins.
Warner Brothers


 "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" Review 
If an animated feature could be judged solely upon the basis of its animation prowess, then Zack Snyder's The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole would likely be 2010's animation masterpiece.

However, to judge an animated feature solely on the basis of its animation would be akin to judging an action film solely on the basis of its action, a comedy solely on the basis of laughs and so on. There is no denying, of course, that the quality of animation and the technical splendor on display in an animated feature is of utmost importance. It simply cannot be the sole consideration, recognizing the importance of the script the vocal work, the direction and all the other areas of filmmaking and the ways in which they are woven into the fabric of the film.

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is a beautiful film to behold, a visually arresting and wondrous cinematic experience featuring what may very well be 2010's best use of 3D imagery and one of the very few films this year to be worth the extra expense to see it in 3D.

Based upon the first three books in a 15-book series by Kathryn Lasky, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is also a film that may very well hold the attention of children but will also have them tugging at your shirt sleeve asking questions such as "Why'd they do that?" and "What's that about?" throughout the film.

As visually amazing as is this film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is strangely and uncomfortably lacking in the emotional resonance that would turn the film into a true animation masterpiece on par with a Pixar type film. While the film may very well find itself among this year's Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature, the film doesn't begin to compare with the simplicity, mastery, wonder and magic of a film such as Toy Story 3.

The film centers around Soren (Jim Sturgess), a young owlet who is among a trio of owlets kidnapped by Tyto, owls known as "the pure ones" and who are raised in preparation for a desired battle with the "guardians," a legend with which Soren is raised. Soren escapes his evil captors, though his weaker brother (Ryann Kwanten) stays behind leading to a brother vs. brother inevitable battle.

It's important to keep in mind that Legend of the Guardians is directed by Zack Snyder, the same guy who gave us 300 and Watchmen. It's hard not to forget this fact, however, given that much of the film feels like it's an awkward weaving together of 300 with the visual stylings of Happy Feet, not really that surprising given that the film has been constructed by the same digital outfit that gave us the penguin toe-tapper. Snyder, for all his effort at making the film a visual wonderland, really isn't suited for directing a film that is, at its essence, targeted towards kids and there's little denying that quite a few of the film's action sequences, battle sequences and its overall menacing nature may prove frightening to smaller children who would otherwise be enchanted by the rather stunningly brought to life owls.

The vocal work in Legends of the Guardian is impressive, Snyder having assembled a largely Aussie cast including none other than Helen Mirren (There are films she's not in, right?) as Nyra, head of the master race of owls.  Geoffrey Rush, who is seemingly masterful in every film where he appears, serves up amazing zest as the leader of the guardians, while Miriam Margolyes, Joel Edgerton and Hugo Weaving also excel.

As already noted, the film's technical presentation is astounding and remains captivating despite the film's occasionally confusing moments and bit too long 118-minute run time. David Hirschfelder's original score is a marvelous companion to the film's peaks and valleys.

A likely Oscar nominee this year almost solely on the basis of its wondrous visuals, The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole never completely gels as a children's film and yet never completely commits to simply being an animated feature for older children and adults. Unfortunately, it's not entirely successful in trying to ride the fence and, as such, Legend of the Guardians is a visually amazing yet all too easily left behind cinematic experience once the closing credits roll.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic