Legend of the Guardians

REVIEW

Amanda Diaz

There’s something about Australians and animated birds. First, there was 2006’s Happy Feet- a shiny tale of dancing penguins and now Legend of the Guardians- a film that’s being described as Star Wars with owls.

These birds aren’t quite as cute and cuddly as penguins. Sure, sometimes they appear wise and noble, but they can also look an awful lot like chickens. Perhaps this is why there is an absence of  feel good tap dancing and a whole lot of flying and fighting. The owls have to work with what they’ve got.

Soren (Jim Sturgess) and his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are opposites. Soren is the dreamer, who wants to be just like his heroes- the legendary Guardians, while Kludd is jaded and cynical. He finds his brother’s general optimism irritating- but then, so did I. After a run in with a feisty Tasmanian devil, the two owlets are kidnapped- taken to a place that could be in the Australian desert but could also be Mordor. It is there that they are forced to serve the icy Nyra (Helen Mirren) and the Pure Ones. When the two brothers are separated, Soren sets out on a dangerous quest to the island of Ga’hoole  to warn the Guardians of the Pure Ones’ plan. (Something about taking over the owl kingdom- the usual thing desired by nocturnal creatures.)

With a release date in the middle of the school holidays, Guardians will be seen mostly by young children and their parents. The majority of theatres will be screening the film in 3D- and such outings are expensive. The disappointing thing is that the movie doesn’t have an awful to offer either demographic.

Recent films like Toy Story 3 and last year’s Up have cemented the fact that animation can be entertaining for all ages. By trying so hard to be an epic adventure, Guardians lacks the grasp of universal themes that would have helped it to appeal on multiple levels. We understand that if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything and that good will triumph over evil- but we just don’t care. It’s possible to tell, in a detached sort of way, which owls you’re supposed to find bumblingly lovable or eccentric or just plain adorable- but it’s hard to empathise with them. The characters just seem to be going through the motions. For a cast that  includes everyone who’s anyone in the Australian film industry, the voices are disappointingly difficult to pick.

It’s a little too dark for younger kids and a little too lame for anyone older. The attempts at owl-related humour are initially cutesy, but quickly escalate into cringeworthy. (And yes, before you ask, there is a pun about a joke being a hoot.) Much of the dialogue sounds like it was read directly from a thesaurus. (“I wager if we follow the bats, we will discover the extent of their plan.” Seriously?)

The real hero of this film is Sydney based visual effects company, Animal Logic. Guardians is Australia’s first ever 3D film and there’s no denying that it’s impressive to look at. The scenery is beautiful and the scenes where the owls are in flight are stunning. (Even if director Zack Snyder indulges in one too many slow motion sequences.)

Such stunning visuals deserved a story to match, and unfortunately The Owls of Ga’hoole falls short.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole is in cinemas on September 30


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One Response to “Legend of the Guardians”

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  1. Shelf Picks « The Shelf - October 22, 2010

    […] Legend of the Guardians Review […]

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