GENRE: Medieval CGI-animated avian fantasy adventure
THE PITCH: Soren (Jim Sturgess) a young owl enamored by the legend of the mythical group of warrior owls known as the Guardians embarks on an epic adventure after he and his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped from their tree home. When Soren learns of a fiendish plot to take over the owl kingdoms, he sets out, with a band of newfound friends, into the unknown to find his legendary heroes. The film is based on the Guardians of Ga'Hoole book series written by Kathryn Lasky.
MONEY SHOTS: Soren attempts to free the Guardians from a deadly trap by grabbing a kettle full of oil, igniting it from a nearby wild fire and releasing it from his talons causing a spectacular explosion that destroys the primitive wench that secures the mysterious element that renders owls helpless. This is a period film involving owls after all, so there's not a lot of variety in terms of action sequences and special effects (sans talking owls). Still, the fight sequences between the noble Guardians and the sinister Pure Ones are fast paced, violent and suspenseful.
BEST LINES: Soren is reunited with his nanny Mrs. Plithiver (Miriam Margolyes) who had been captured by mild-mannered Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia). Confused about the relationship between Soren and his reptile nursemaid, Twilight asks, "Who are these tiny owls and why are they talking to my dinner?" On the eve of their adventure, Twilight prepares to capture their adventure in song when his best friend Digger (David Wenham) declares, "Just because its sound doesn't make it a song."
KNOW YOUR OWLS: While most of the owls featured in the film are Barn Owls (Tyto Alba), they feature most varieties of the species including Gylfie (Emily Barclay) an Elf Owl, Digger - a Burrowing, Twilight - a Great Grey Owl, Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush), a Screech Owl, and Metal Beak a Sooty Owl.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER ...: Who knew there was a pecking order in the owl world? The conflict of the film revolves around the dastardly plan of the Pure Ones, a gang of owls of the Tyto genus who believe they are the superior race (as far as owls go) and are destined to dominate the species.
HOW DID THEY DO THAT: One of the more distracting elements of the film is the sheer craftsmanship these owls possess. Throughout the film you discover these owls are master blacksmiths, weapon makers, architects, and book printers. Without hands or any prehensile upper appendages, this is a head-scratcher.
FLIGHTS OF FANCY: So moviegoers can marvel at the complex ballet these birds perform, especially while hunting or fighting, the sequences are done in slow motion to accentuate the various feats. For example, in the beginning of the film we see Soren's father dive from high above the forest through the plume of trees, righting himself then spreading his wings and stretching his talons just in time to snare an unsuspecting mouse.
A TITAN AMONG THEM: One of the fierce Guardian warriors is named Bubo. In the film Clash of The Titans, Bubo is the name of the goddess Athena's owl.
BOTTOM LINE: There's no doubt director Zack Snyder knows his way around a green screen considering the lush environs and effects he used in films such as 300 and Watchmen, but he makes a stunning and dramatic leap with his animation directorial debut in Legends. Set within an ancient, green backdrop and pristine skies, Snyder crafts an honest and believable world to spin his protagonist's tale of self-discovery and faith.
While I can't find a single feather out of place with this visual spectacle - including some well-placed 3D moments, it seems Snyder has difficulty choosing which parts to prioritize to tell this compelling story. Like his previous film Watchmen, Legend Of The Guardians has multiple arcs that make perfect sense within its print origins but tend to make the story a bit too big to fit within the confines of whats seen on screen. At points you're wondering why certain scenes are necessary - hoping it has some relevance as the story continues, only to find that it doesn't.
Story compression aside, Legend Of The Guardians is a true gem of a film, rich in character and masterful CGI animation.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: this epic takes place in the world of owls a majestic but fiercely violent, hunting breed of birds. The story is rife with darker themes like betrayal, kidnapping, extremely violent battle sequences and some deaths that may not be suitable for younger children.