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The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole


Featuring the voices of Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Essie Davis, Adrienne DeFaria, Joel Edgerton, Deborra-Lee Furness, Sacha Horler, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Barry Otto and Richard Roxburgh.

Screenplay by John Orloff and Emil Stern.

Directed by Zack Snyder.

Distributed by Warner Bros. 90 minutes. Rated PG.

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole falls into an uncomfortable netherworld that all too many animated films reach these days. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a children’s film or an adult fantasy and ends up not quite working on either level.

First of all, I hate to say it, but the plot is simply too dense and at the same time too dark for most kids to really grasp. On the other hand, it is a little too simplistic (at least philosophically) and derivative of earlier, better movies for adults to hop on board.

The Legend of the Guardians is trying for the age-defying gravitas of a Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia – however that goal is out of this modest film’s reach. So, while Ga’Hoole looks truly amazing (really, this is some of the finest computer animation yet) and has some wonderful moments, in the long run I never quite bought into the film’s world.

Part of the problem comes from a very basic obstacle – seeing a bunch of owls fighting to the death gets to be a bit silly. In fact, as directed by tone-deaf director Zack Snyder of 300 fame – whose only volume settings are loud and even louder – the movie is insanely busy and earnest to the brink of sappiness.

It is trying to be a touching Cain and Abel story about inhumanity, injustice and familial competition. Snyder seems to think he is making an important statement on the human condition.

But, umm, did I mention that the main characters are all owls?

Of course, I did. And, yes, of course I know that there is a long history in literature and film of using animals as an allegory for human beings – going back to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Yet, somehow, I couldn’t find myself getting too invested in the problems of this alternate universe.

The movie is based on a popular series of books, so someone must care, but I can’t say that I did.

One big problem is that it is kind of hard to tell owls apart. Yes, yes, I understand there are many species of owls and Legend of Ga’Hoole does its best to give the birds different looks and personalities, however often during the movie I had no idea who was doing what. Different characters seemed to meld together in my overworked brain to the point that I was often confused by what was happening – and in general I am very good at keeping plots straight in my head.

Besides, I must admit I spent way too much time trying to figure out how owls were able to forge armored masks and gloves made of sharp blades for their talons.

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole takes itself way too seriously and is awfully violent and disturbing for PG rated film. As mentioned before, just because a film is animated does not make it a children’s film. You’d probably want to keep really small children away.

However, I will give credit where credit is due – for the most part it does look stunning.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: September 24, 2010.


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