Thursday, January 6, 2011

Legend of the Guardians Review

Now the last thing that I expected Zack Snyder to do after his Dawn of the Dead (2004), 300 (2006) and the amazing Watchmen (2009) was a cute little children's movie about owls. I didn't have the urge to see it right away but finally I did find time to squeeze it in so I thought a little review was in order.

I'm really not a person who goes to watch movies just because they look pretty. I admit that my great enjoyment of the Hellboy movies was very much enhanced by their marvellous design (especially the second one) but I usually never watch a movie just because the visuals interest me and nothing else. But for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole this might be true. Which is not a bad thing at all! The movie is utterly beautiful. I am used to the kind of cartoonish animation movies that Pixar and Dreamworks produce so watching something like this is a bit unusual and shows you a whole different side of the animation genre. When you watch a movie like this you realise: They have come really far now with the technical capacity. Beautiful backdrops, amazing weather effects and the owls themselves just look very real, down to their individual feathers. Knowing that feathers and fur have long been a problem in animation, a movie like that really reveals the technical advancement that has been achieved over the years. I have watched this movie in 2D but I think it might be nice to watch it in 3D as well. At the very least there have been a few scenes that were very obviously made to make use of the 3D technique.

This is a movie about owls set in a fantasy world. It starts out looking quite realistic and not necessarily fantasy, but be prepared for owls not only fighting with swords and wearing armor but also smithing the metal themselves, writing books, playing musical instruments and doing all kinds of stuff. Honestly, I thought it was pretty ridiculous at first but it doesn't throw you off too much since those elements are built up slowly over time and mainly dominate the latter half or so of the movie. Well, if you are prepared for swordfighting owls and have accepted their ability to do this then I guess you're free to enjoy the movie.

The characters themselves are likable enough. Since this is obviously a children's movie they are a bit on the black and white side but this is to be expected. Actually, I did wait for a plot-twist or something to come near the end of the movie but it just didn't come. It's a very straight forward movie about a fight between good and evil. I don't know how I came to expect a plot twist, I think it was some comment I have read before and must have misunderstood. So if you are fine with watching a not all too complex children's movie you won't be disappointed.

In some regards this movie feels a bit incomplete. Since it is based on a book I will just assume that there wasn't enough time to work on certain things enough and explain some issues. I still don't have any clue at all what that "fleck" substance in the movie is and why the evil owls gather it and what a gizzard is. I mean, I know what a gizzard is because I looked it up but the sort of mystical part it seemed to play in that movie remains completely mysterious to me. Now, not all things have to be explained and I really do enjoy watching movies that leave things open for the viewer to think about themselves but in instances like this it just seems a bit unfinished. There is also the role of the little elf owl, Gylfie which becomes a friend to Soren in captivity. This makes you think she will become an important character but then she just doesn't do a whole lot in the movie at all. It's sort of sad because she was one of the only female protagonists and being quite small but determined she suggested great potential from the start. I can't help but think that her role must have been bigger in the book because in the movie you're just left wondering why she is even there at all if she doesn't do a lot.

One thing that makes the movie quite lively and funny to watch are all the different accents the voice actors are lending to their characters. I couldn't identify them all but I certainly have some favourites among them. If you like owls and enjoy watching a really good looking movie set in a fantasy world, then you should check it out.

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