Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Joel Edgerton, Abbie Cornish
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After a taste of full-on slow-mo Owl action in Watchmen, Zack Snyder goes back to bash birds together with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Based on some books that many people may not have heard of, this is an epic adventure of fluffy, George Lucas proportions.
Soren (Sturgess) is a young owl who dreams of leaving home and joining the Guardians, the owl kingdom’s legendary force for good. A bit like Star Wars. The mythical warriors have long held the lands safe from the dark powers of The Pure Ones. A bit like Star Wars.
Then one day, Soren flies the family nest and gets taken prisoner by evil scouting creatures. A bit like Star Wars. He escapes from Nyra (a delightfully hammy Helen Mirren) with the help of a wise old owl, Grimble (an equally hammy Hugo Weaving), who encourages Soren to fly far away to the Tree of Ga’Hoole and warn the Guardians of the Pure Ones’ plans. A bit like Star Wars.
Along the way, Soren picks up companions – some of them cute, some unfunny, most of them pointless. Trained at the Rebel Base by his hero Lyze of Kiel (Geoffrey Rush – also partaking of the ham), Soren shows his true flying prowess as he learns to tune his senses to the natural world. A bit like Star Wars. Soaring through slow-mo wind and rain, he deftly ducks in and out of thermals, riding the wind with impressive agility. “Use your gizzard! Trust your instincts!” shouts Kiel.
It turns out the Pure Ones are building a giant metallic device, with the power to destroy an entire world. A bit like Star Wars. The nasty little beasties are led by Metalbeak (a hammy Joel Edgerton), a disfigured monster who hides behind a mask. A bit like Star Wars. With Soren’s brother defecting to the dark side, an epic showdown shapes up as the Guardians dispatch a fleet of owl fighters, each of them equipped for battle against a fearsome unseen forcefield.
Bringing such an original tale to the big screen is no mean feat. Particularly when you’re stopping every five seconds to slow stuff down. But Zack’s Snydey senses are on fine form here, creating a visual tapestry that’s genuinely breathtaking; the feathers rustle with intense detail, the landscape is a luscious backdrop for the curious script. And, as you’d expect, the action is decent too.
With plenty of metal scraping metal and beaks snapping beaks, Snyder’s fantasy is set in a world where animals can somehow weld weapons to their own wings. It might be a little violent for younger kids, but that faint bloodthirsty streak gives it a satisfying edge. The Legend of the Guardians is a pretty watch – but more importantly it’s an exciting one. Even if the magic is little more than a faded carbon copy of something that was made a long time go in a galaxy far away. Like St – oh, you get the idea.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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