I can only imagine what went through author Kathryn Lasky’s head when she envisioned her Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series. I wholeheartedly believe that she was under the influence of some strong psychotropic drugs when she decided to essentially retell the story of the Third Reich, with the peeved German politicians, concentration camps, and slaughtered Jews being replaced with . . . owls. That’s right; your favorite nocturnal birds of prey are the focus behind the series. But now I also question director Zack Snyder’s mental stability following his choice to adapt the first three novels into a film series. Of course, as one would expect from Snyder (Watchmen and 300 were merely decent — despite what hardcore fans believe to be true), Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is barely cohesive, cliché as hell, and simply put — a flop.
First of all, Snyder’s first venture into the world of animation sports some of the most awkwardly named characters in all of cinema. Just some of the characters include Gylfie (voiced by Emily Barclay), Otulissa (voiced by Abbie Cornish), Eglantine (voiced by Adrienne DeFaria), Kludd (voiced by Ryan Kwanten), and Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess). I found it hard to even pronounce half of the names in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, let alone remember who’s who. That being said, the owls all speak in an Australian accent for some reason and the only way that I was able to differentiate the characters was from their looks alone.
But luckily I took notes so that I could do this review and it’s for the reason that I managed to remember that it is Soren and Kludd who are the film’s leads. In the beginning of the film, Soren is introduced as the dreamer who indulges in tales of heroes and glorious wars, and Kludd is the moody “who gives a fuck” type. Of course, the duo is taken hostage after a botched attempt at flight and is forced to live under the control of Nyra (voiced by Helen Mirren), who takes great pride in being the wife of Metalbeak, the infamous overlord of the “Pure Ones.” Soren decides to escape the fortress of evil and pursue the “Guardians,” which are destined to defeat the Aryan-esque Pure Ones and Kludd stays behind in order to become one of Metalbeak’s powerful warriors. You can probably tell where this is going.
And that’s the problem with the film, it’s all so predictable — especially the third act and ultimately the “epic” battle sequence which leads up to the sequel set-up. Screen-writers John Orloff and Emil Stern do little to maintain the audience’s interests and instead focus on owl-related puns (such as when one of the owls proclaims “you’re going to get daymares”) and allow the visuals to do all the heavy-lifting.
Thankfully, the computer-generated images are decent but the novelty of having owls talking and fighting each other quickly runs dry. The entire premise actually becomes borderline creepy too, and by the end of the film I got nothing but the newfound knowledge that owls make excellent blacksmiths and architects.
I did, however, enjoy some aspects of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, namely some of the supporting characters of which include a shaman porcupine and Mrs. Plithiver (voiced by Miriam Margolyes), a nanny who happens to be a talking snake (don’t worry – she doesn’t betray anyone). And to be fair, the film is competently entertaining in an instantly forgettable sort of way.
It takes a certain amount (and type) of imagination for someone to somehow connect a bird’s digestive organ to its “soul” but Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole does just that. But in the end, it’s hard to give a flippin’ hoot.