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

September 24, 2010

Legend of the Guardians – A Warner Bros. Release

Release Date: September 24th, 2010

Rated PG for violence, some scary scenes.

Running time: 100 minutes


Nanette Burstein (dir.)


John Orloff (screenplay)

Emil Stern (screenplay)

Kathryn Lasky (novels “Guardians of Ga’Hoole)


David Hirschfelder (music)


Jim Sturgess as Soren

Helen Mirren as Nyra

Geoffrey Rush as Ezylryb

Hugo Weaving as Noctus/Grimble

Emily Barclay as Gylfie

Abbie Cornish as Otulissa

Ryan Kwanten as Kludd

Anthony LaPaglia as Twilight

Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Plithiver

Sam Neill as Allomere

Richard Roxburgh as Boron

David Wenham as Digger

Adriennce DeFaria as Eglantine

Joel Edgerton as Metal Beak


LGFFD-00288: Soren, voiced by JIM STURGESS in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ fantasy adventure “LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

© 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Our reviews below:


Legend of the Guardians Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a stunningly realistic animated film that looks spectacular in 3D.  But aside from the visuals, the story left me a little confused.  This is possibly because I haven’t read any of the fifteen books by Kathryn Lasky, namely the first three on which this movie is based.


Soren and his little sister Eglantine would always delight in hearing their father tell stories of the Guardians – a group of warrior owls that fought in great battles and wars.  But their jealous older brother Kludd always derived the stories as fiction.  When both owl brothers fall out of their tree when learning to fly, they are kidnapped and forced to join the ‘Pure Ones,’ an evil group of Nazi-like dictators that wish to control the owl population.  Soren and Gylfie, a tiny elf owl, leave the clutches of the evil group and go out on an adventure to not only prove the Guardians existence but to enlist their help in fighting a WWII-style battle against the Pure Ones.


Parents should know that this isn’t a movie for the age that would wear the owl backpack that was being raffled off before the film.  There were shrieks from the under-10 crowd at the packed Sunday morning screening.  This is an often intense and sometimes violent film that will be best enjoyed by older kids (10-11 and up) as well as adults.  It’s a good movie when viewed as part of that crowd, but parents should keep young kids away as it will likely give daymares to the hatchlings it’s been marketed to.


I had a good time watching it from behind 3D glasses, but with little character development and no emotional connection, the story is unfortunately not brought up to the level of the visuals.  There were also several instances where the script faltered by injecting jokes that pander to little kids.  But negatives aside, with the first-rate animation and voice cast, this is a well-made and beautiful to watch film for older kids and adults.


Legend of the Guardians Review By Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

In Legend of the Guardians, Soren (Jim Sturgess) and his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by a group of bad owls that call themselves the ‘Pure Ones.’  When they find out that these owls are taking young owls to train as a secret army, Soren decides that he must find the Guardians that his father always told about in stories, to try to set things right.  But his brother won’t go with him, since he becomes addicted to the power that the Pure Ones give him by making him a soldier, so when Soren escapes the prison camp, it is with another young owl instead, named Gylfie (Emily Barclay).  To get a gist of the story, think WWII.


Besides adding a couple of lame jokes to try to stop kids far too young for the film from being frightened, the main problems herein lie in both the structuring of the story and the lack of true character development.  Maybe it’s because they tried to combine three books into 90 minutes without choosing what was necessary to tell the story properly – I don’t know.  But I did get this.  Watch this trailer [link].  The trailer is structured quite well and if the film had played out with that power, it could have been another animated film on the best of the year list.


That structuring is how it should be – it illustrates a story about following your heart, and believing in and pursuing your dreams.  It has a sense of dark, mystical, epic adventure, and the music is great.  Ultimately, it makes the movie seem like it will be an amazing quest to find the guardians, discover the truth of what’s going on, and find a way to fix it.


Unfortunately, it takes no time at all to have the pieces fall into their laps, them to simply fly across some water to these mystical (apparently hard-to-find) guardians and then go out and simply have a fight and voila!  Problems solved.  I didn’t feel that any of the characters really had to think and become invested in what they were doing, it’s as though they were, put quite simply, just flapping through the motions.  There was no need for discovery, no need to doubt the existence of the guardians, no need to actually have to figure out what needed to be done.  It shouldn’t be this way, but it felt like I knew the characters no better than I did from the trailer, after an hour and a half with them.  It felt like a letdown – possibly because of the way the trailer was put together, but probably more because I know that this script had a lot more potential than what I watched on-screen.


I’m actually interested in seeing it again on DVD to really cement my opinion.  It did pass the time, and I thought the whole thing was a good effort.  I didn’t mind the darker tones and felt this could have been a groundbreaking teen/adult animation that really dealt with important messages in a strong way.  Granted, though I mentioned DVD, if you plan on seeing the film, I would actually recommend theatres (and in 3D, although the images do ghost at times).  This is because, the one thing that is amazing about this film, is the animation.  Make no mistake, this is a stunning film to watch.  There is so much detail to look at – if only the story was to boot.  Basically, it’s best feature is visual, so while it will still be beautiful to look at, I think it will pale greatly in comparison on DVD.


Legend of the Guardians Review By Nicole

***1/4 (out of 4)

Based on the first three books by Kathryn Lasky, Legend of the Guardians is an allegorical tale based on WWII.  Taking place in Australia, this film follows Soren, a young owl who lives with his family in an old tree.  When Soren, and his brother Kludd, fall out of their tree while learning to fly, they get kidnapped by two members of the Pure Ones, an evil group of owls that are equivalent of the Nazis.  Their wicked leader (Nicknamed Metal Beak because of his prosthetic beak and helmet), and his wife, Nyra, kidnap owlets, telling them the Pure Ones are their family now.  Soren, along with elf owl Gylfie, set off to find the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a group of owls that can defeat the Pure Ones and free the owlets.


Although Legend of the Guardians is an animated film, it is definitely not for kids.  The owls fight and actually kill each other with cock-fighting spurs.  (Thankfully, no blood is shown.)  This fighting is not for food, over mates, or to defend territory.  It is an anthropomorphic depiction of brutal war.  Even funny characters, such as owls Digger and Twilight, and Mrs. P. the snake are not enough to make this movie for children under twelve.  It should have been rated PG-13.


One problem that I had with the film is that there was not enough character development to emotionally connect with the story.  I kept getting the names mixed up, but that didn’t seem to matter during the action scenes.  I have not read the books, but I presume the first three books have more room for character development than allowed in a 90 minute movie.


That being said, the animation in this film is stunning.  Everything is photorealistic, and there are some sequences of the owls flying that are just breathtakingly beautiful.  Despite the extreme, almost excessive violence, and underdeveloped characters, I am still giving this film a high rating, because it is a technical masterpiece.  I would recommend going to this movie, preferably in IMAX 3D, just to see this amazing animation for yourself.


Legend of the Guardians Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a compilation of the first three in the fifteen book series by author Kathryn Lasky.  The fantasy series written for teens and adults is an allegory for World War II using owls as the main characters.  On the surface this movie with its beautifully realistic animated owls looks like it should be a movie for kids, reminiscent of the wonderful movie, Happy Feet.  However, the storyline is dark and the battle scenes between the owls with their metal talon armor is quite intense at times.  The four-year old sitting a few seats away from me was shrieking every time a battle would begin.  This is not for little kids despite the marketing and merchandising.


This movie does offer an engaging story for older viewers.  The story follows two owl brothers, Soren and Kludd.  The owlets were raised with tales of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole, great warrior owls who fought many battles to save the other owls from the clutches of the Pure Ones, an evil band of owls.  The comparisons to the war and the Nazis is obvious.


When the brothers are captured by the Pure Ones, Kludd decides to join forces with them while Soren escapes and with the help of some new owl friends seeks the help of the Guardians to free the other captive owlets.  It’s during Soren’s journey that the movie lightens up somewhat.  He pairs up with a smaller owl named Gilfey and they meet up with two other owls, Digger and Twilight who offer some comic relief.  Soren’s snake nanny, Mrs. P also provides a lighter tone.  Soren’s younger sister Eglantine provides the cute factor.


Overall, this is a visually impressive movie to watch.  The details and realism of the feathers and eyes on the owls is beautiful.  The flying sequences are done really well and there is a real sense of depth going from treetops and sky to dark caves and caverns.  The 3D is used well to enhance the sense of depth.  The colour palette is very natural and plays up the darker tone of the story.  The score by David Hirschfielder also fit the mood.


Fans of the books will find this to be a very watchable adaptation.  Even those not familiar will be impressed by the animation.


Legend of the Guardians Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, based on the first three books of a series, is a 3D animated feature from the same Australian production team that made Happy Feet.  Owlets Soren and his brother Kludd fall out of a tree while learning to fly and are rescued from a Tasmanian devil by larger owls that take them to an ”orphanage” to be enslaved by the Pure Ones who are bent on world domination. Kludd is recruited as a soldier while Soren and an elf owl Gylfie are assigned to recycling metal from owl pellets used in some kind of plasma generator that renders owls defenceless to bats. Soren and Gylfie escape to seek help from the legendary Guardians who must return to do battle with the pure Ones to restore balance to the world.


Though beautiful to look at, despite rather dark images made more so by the 3D glasses, I found the story hard to follow at times.  Trying to cram three books into one film left a lot of details unexplained, such as the nature of plasma streams as the base of the Pure Ones’ power.  It was hard to keep track of all the faux medieval/Celtic names, making me feel as if I had walked into the middle of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter without knowing anything about them. The inevitable result was emotional detachment despite admiration for the technical details of the film. Moreover, the concentration camp conditions and pitched battles are too dark for the small children to whom the film appears to be aimed based on the toys tied in with it, even if the razor-sharp blades attached to the owls’ claws did not seem to draw the blood that cock-fight fans delight in being sprayed with.


Consensus:  Although Legend of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole boasts stunning animation, the story isn’t told well enough to be truly engaging past the visuals.  But older kids and adults, (particularly those interested in animation), may still want to check this one out. *** (Out of 4)

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