Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Hmm. Yes. So Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (I'm just gonna stick with Legend of the Guardians from now on) is a difficult film to collect one's thoughts on. Half of it is that, from a technical standpoint it's all quite good. The other half is a little more worrying in that it's been what, 3 hours since I've seen it and it's already fading from my memory. The second half will most likely be more telling in the long run.

So the film is concerned with a young owl named Soren (good money says I'm gonna get sick of typing these names by the end of this review) who, while learning to fly is kidnapped along with his brother and taken to a mountain where a fascist regime is creating soldiers out of their preferred type of owl and forcing the others to mine some jewel with some vaguely defined evil powers for an even more vaguely defined evil plan. Soren escapes the mines along with an elf owl named Gylfie (yep I'm sick of it) to go find this ancient order of Owl Warriors to help fight off the evil owls. Meanwhile a B-plot involving Soren's brother works very hard to rip off the B-plot from Hook.

So it's a fairly generic seek the Legendary people and learn from them fantasy movie with an even more generic my family member is going evil subplot, dressed up with owls. Okay, you could probably make a good movie out of that and for most of the first quarter, they almost do. The shot composition is really excellent, as is the CGI and character design (individual feathers show up like they would on a real owl) and someone clearly went to a lot of trouble researching the different looks of all the owl types present. The action scenes, particularly the early ones, work well and are exciting, which is impressive given that it's just a pair of owls going at it. All the voice actors are doing a good job and much of the scenery is gorgeous to look at.

Unfortunately all of that is perhaps half the movie and the other half is much less impressive starting with a weak screenplay and generic characters. All of the characters seem to have been picked from the generic line up of fantasy characters (small but tenacious guy? Check. 'Funny' guy? Check. Old and bitter former soldier? Check) and refuse to move beyond that. The dialogue is poorly written and unsubtle, even by kids movies standards and the plot is predictable and full of holes. By way of an example (technically a SPOILER, though it doesn't matter, but don't read if you don't want to) one of the major action bits of the 3rd act hinges on a forest near the bad guys fortress being on fire, but it's never explained WHY the forest is on fire which just strikes me as lazy, especially since I could think of at least 3, two sentence explanations.

This could all hold together to a point, but it hits a major stumbling block on the road to act 3, with a pair of reveals skipped over in favor of an obligatory training montage (with some truly terrible music choices). A pair of explanations get skipped over and much of the combat gets more silly the more owls there are, especially when we break out an owl wielding a pair of swords.

The movie has some other problems; a very poor soundtrack, some obvious lead ins to a sequel, the action is a little too pandering to the 3D aspect and director Mr. Snyder abuses the HELL out of speed-ramping (the bit where everything slows down when it's coolest and then starts up again) to the point where there's an entire sequence that seems to have been speed-ramped. If you're an adult going on your own, I'd advise you to skip it, and go see The Social Network or Machete if it's still playing. If you're a parent looking to take your kid, it's inoffensive and frequently exciting, so there are much worse things you could take them to. It's not bad, but it's forgettable, flawed and deeply uneven and certainly doesn't justify a sequel, much less a franchise. Oh well. See you next time.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he's wondering if anyone else noticed a tangential connection between this and an obscure kids book from the 90's called Silverwing.

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