Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Plot Summary: A young owl, Soren, and his brother are kidnapped and enslaved by the Pure Ones, evil owls who want to rule the world. Soren must escape and find the Guardians of Ga’Hoole to rescue his brother and save the owl world.
Reason for the Rating: Some sequences of scary action.
For all of his short life, Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) has been fascinated by the stories of the Guardians, noble owls who live to protect the peace and freedom of the owl world. His brother, Kludd (voiced by Ryan Kwanten), is less than impressed by the stories his younger brother constantly repeats and struggles with feelings of jealousy over his natural knack for flying.
When Soren convinces his brother to sneak out one night to practice, both of them get snatched by the Pure Ones, evil owls who are building an army of slaves to take over the world. When Soren gets a chance to escape, he expects his brother will come with him, but Kludd’s jealousy drives him to stay with the Pure Ones, who have promised him a life of power and importance.
Soren flies off to find the Guardians, collecting various friends along the way. But can even the Guardians defeat the evil Metal Beak and his hordes of traitorous owls?
This movie is based on the epic fantasy series by Kathryn Lasky, and combines all three of the first three books in the series into one continuous story. The visuals, frankly, are outstanding, and this is one of those movies that, if you’re going to see it, you should see in 3-D. Lots of slow-motion shots of owls flying spectacularly through the clouds or the rain or the forest or diving at one another with metal claws affixed to their talons. The music and voice acting are also very well done. This movie is clearly trying to be the “Happy Feet” of epic fantasy movies. But it all falls a bit flat thanks to poor pacing and an overstuffed plot.
Although the owls are both frightening and adorable in turn (in fact the movie may be too frightening and intense for younger children), the entire plot flies by on wings so quick that you never have any time to feel like you’re part of an epic story.
One minute Soren is being captured with his brother, two minutes later his brother is turning bad, and one minute later he’s being rescued. Soren stops to rest for about a minute and a half, picks up three new minor characters, and a couple minutes later has concluded the “epic” journey to Ga’Hoole. The entire movie feels like it only takes a couple of days.
At several points, the movie simply resorts to telling you the plot instead of showing it to you, letting you know what roles each of the characters are supposed to play rather than establishing their roles through an organic process. It’s effective, but it’s certainly sloppy storytelling, making the whole thing more of a Cliff’s Notes recital rather than a proper story.
As a proper fantasy should, the story is framed around good, old-fashioned morals. There are clear villains who plot dastardly deeds while they betray, murder, and enslave; and there are clear heroes who uphold good, freedom, and nobility. There’s not a lot of depth to their morals; the good guys are just good and the bad guys are just bad guys who want to rule the world, but it’s still a clean, classic setup.
There are a couple gems that stick out, such as when Soren learns that the grand exploits of the Guardians aren’t quite as grand as he expected. Fighting an ongoing battle for good isn’t about winning glory, it’s about doing the right thing over and over again, no matter what. But lessons like that take time to explain, and director Zack Snyder (who most recently helmed the ultra-violent, CGI-heavy movies 300, Dawn of the Dead, and Watchmen) doesn’t have much time for them.
Most parents won’t find anything to object to in this film, except maybe the somewhat dark and scary material, and Soren does stand up as a good example of a brave, loving owl who tries to protect his friends and do what’s right. The main problem with it is that the filmmakers, who were clearly trying so hard to make a great movie, had way too much on their plate and ended up wasting a lot of the movie’s potential. It does make a good advertisement for reading the books, though. Use the movie as an inspiration, and pick up the books from your library to read to your kids, so you can take your time to enjoy this clean and creative fantasy series.
A beautifully rendered movie with lovely visuals and lots of excitement, but it all falls a bit flat and wastes most of its potential. However, most kids will probably forgive its faults (if they aren’t terrified by it) and will enjoy the ride.
Let’s Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• Why do you think Kludd stays with the Pure Ones instead of going with Soren?
• Soren believed in the stories, even when he didn’t have anything but the stories themselves as proof that they were true. How is this similar to or different from your faith?
Note: All movie-related graphics in this column are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective movie studios.