Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Check out those hooters!

Theatrical Release Date: 09/24/2010
Director: Zack Snyder
Featuring the voices of: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Essie Davis, Adrienne DeFaria, Joel Edgerton, Deborra-Lee Furness, Anthony LaPaglia, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Ryan Kwanten, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving

Based on the popular novels by Kathryn Lasky, “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” is sort of like “Lord of the Rings”, but all about owls and intended for a much younger audience.

This thematic similarity sent director Zack Snyder in the direction of hiring a largely Australian voice cast, even though the books themselves don’t specify this detail. As an Antipodeanphile myself, I’m all for including Aussies (and Kiwis) whenever and wherever possible. Well known actors like Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Abbie Cornish and Geoffrey Rush all add their signature voices; as do a few Brits like Helen Mirren and Jim Sturgess.

The story is fairly straightforward: An evil owl going by the ominous title of Metal Beak is intent on ruling the land and a young, but brave, owl named Soren hopes to enlist the mythical Guardians of Ga’Hoole in preventing such a fate. Along the way, we meet a plethora of charmingly stock characters and 90 minutes after the film begins, everyone gets to go home happy.

The CGI used to create the owls and their world works fairly well. The creature design really reminds you that this comes from the same studio that brought us “Happy Feet” but once you resign yourself to the fact that many of these owls look a bit too much like penguins, that suspension of disbelief doohickey comes into play.

When it comes to technical failings, once again I’m going to recommend that anyone headed to theaters save themselves a few bucks and avoid the 3D. On the plus side, since so much of the film takes place at night (that whole nocturnal owl thing), the shaded lenses one must sport don’t affect what is already such a dark color palette. However, aside from an opening credit sequence, very little of the film made good use of that extra dimension. It felt very much like any of the other post-conversion jobs made simply because the studio wants to squeeze every last cent out of audiences.

Now, if one is a fan of the books, know that this film is an amalgamation of the first three in the series. The on-screen ending and all of that extra source material leaves plenty of room for sequels – all dependent on box office of course.

That being said, while I wasn’t blown away by anything as it’s a fairly common plot arc, I also wouldn’t need to be dragged kicking and screaming to see what happens next; as an ardent fan of the Harry Potter and LOR franchises, this fits into that vein. Still, parents of young children (say under 10 or so) may want to veer away from this because of some violent owl-on-owl combat and there’s nothing special enough here to warrant a trip to the theater unless you’re a Ga’Hooligan, or whatever they call fans of the series.

A 3 out of 5, “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” exceeded my low expectations but falls short of making a lasting impression on its own; perhaps any future offerings will sink their talons into me a bit better. (Sorry, I’ve been missing my punny humor.)