Review: Legend of the Guardians

Posted September 24th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

An animated film about a battling faction of owls wouldn’t have been many people’s first guess of what project director Zack Snyder would take on coming off directing 300 and The Watchmen. Despite that it actually turns out to be a great fit, as he has created an experience that will captivate the younger crowd while giving everyone something to appreciate in its actual look and dramatic edge even with a story that feels rushed.

Legend of the Guardians is based on the first three books in The Owls of Ga’Hoole series. It follows Soren, a young but ambitious owl that is kidnapped along with his brother by an evil group of owls. They have created an orphanage to brainwash them into soldiers and use them as “pickers” to help build a weapon to trap and kill the “Guardians”. Soren is able to escape with a friend and they embark on a journey to inform the Guardians of what is happening.

This film has some of the most amazing visuals I’ve ever seen on the big screen, and much of that is due to Zack Synder’s influence. Here he produced some really compelling and breathtaking sequences. Throughout everything looked crisp and extremely well defined, which contrasted with a grittier and more realistic feel with immense depth. The 3D is actually worthwhile, it looked fantastic, though I think the visuals will hold up really well even without that. It just succeeded in enhancing all the detail being put on display.

I had mixed feelings on the story, which seemed a little rushed early on. That is probably because they were cramming three books worth of events into a 90 minute movie. The abduction, time in the orphanage, and journey to find the Guardians were all breezed through pretty quickly. However the final portion of the film, which focuses on the main battle, was outstanding. It was dramatic and compelling on top of the stunning visuals.

Though appropriate for all ages the movie might be a bit dark for some kids. There are some violent scenes, though it is generally cut so quick by Snyder that there isn’t much opportunity to dwell on it. Lots of slashing in the battles where we know the outcome of what just happened, but maybe really young kids wouldn’t see it the same way.  This is good though for the older crowd, as I found myself engaged in the action, even thinking to myself that the movie could have been completely bad ass if it had been meant as a violent action epic with a PG-13 rating in the mold of a Lord of the Rings type of film. It actually has some of the same themes presented just in a different way.

Probably what I appreciated most is that Snyder held true to his vision and kept the movie with that darker tone. There are battles and there are consequences to it all, and there is even an emotional sibling rivalry that finds the two brothers on opposite sides. There isn’t any childish humor forced in thankfully, and while there is a definite message it isn’t forced down the throats of the audience.

Legend of the Guardians is a visual masterpiece and that alone makes it worth seeing on the big screen. While the story felt rushed it ended up coming together for a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: ★★★★☆