Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

A WWII film set in Middle-Earth featuring owls and with a Chronicles of Narnia flavor to it.


Yeah. Whoa.

I was pleasantly surprised with this film. I went into it with low expectations- the trailer reeked of cheese. And the film delivered some cheese, I must admit. I can appreciate a story about talking animals, that’s OK, but the film often takes itself too seriously and makes the main owl too awesome a few times. The slo-mo and epic music were a bit much. LOL (But, the slo-mo might have looked amazing in 3-D. I dunno. And I also know that some people really liked it... oh well. It took me out of the story.)

There was also some magic in the film.

That said, Owls had surprisingly, refreshingly original character arcs, and a remarkably good overall worldview. The story took me by surprise when what I thought would be the main goal of the film actually was more of a catalyst to the real challenge.

I thought their journey to get to the guardians would be the meat of the film, but it only took a very short amount of time, surprisingly. It wasn’t a boring film, either.

I'll break this review down into two parts- my thoughts on the film as such, and my thoughts on the worldview behind the film:

The Film

Legend had some of the most amazing animation that I have ever seen. I was amazed by the realism and the downright gorgeousness of this film. The detail in the eyes, the suppleness of the feathers, the ability to make the main character’s features memorable when they’re all owls- I was very impressed.

The sound-design and music were OK. It seemed a little rough to me- perhaps at a few parts the levels could have been tweaked better. The score was not one of my favorites, especially with the over-the-top wailing in some parts. It had some neat dulcimer, though.

The story was the big weakness of the film. This could have really been an excellent film if they had spent more time developing character and simply letting the audience take in the story. A lot of it happened too fast and/or too randomly. I could feel that something just wasn't that great when I first saw the film- many thanks to friend and fellow filmmaker Aubrey for unpacking a lot of the why behind what I felt. Maybe I'll be able to pinpoint it better next time. But, to analyze this in-depth is not the purpose of this review- suffice it to say that the story could have used more work.

The credits- another pop song. WHY? WHY OH WHY? *grrrr*

This is a pet peeve of mine. Of all the things to NOT let the composer score, why would you withhold from him this chance to rhapsodize on the themes from the film? And why would you want to leave the audience with a pop song? Give them something grand and deep to walk out of the theater to.

The Worldview

The worldview of this film, though imperfect, was very refreshing.

The brother who honors the father and his stories is the good guy, the one who dishonors his father is a bad guy and ?dies? in the end- or at least almost dies.

Family is portrayed as good. The legacy of the forefathers is portrayed as good (pointed glance at Fiddler on the Roof). Good big brother loves and protects his little sister- bad big brother doesn’t. Good big brother respects mom and dad, bad one doesn’t. Good big brother treasures the tales of the past, bad big brother doesn’t. Good big brother honors the heroes of days gone by. It does bother me that he didn't go home after being lost and talk to his parents, though. Maybe we can say he had no choice? Or perhaps he knew that that was what his father would want him to do.

The two brothers disobey their parents once- a very overused tactic for getting kids into places they shouldn't be- and good big brother also disobeys orders twice later at the revelation of new information. That said, good big brother obeys, on the whole, even when he doesn't want to- he's not the young guy who ignores the older warrior's exhortation to remain home.

One owl in the film talks about how there is no glory to war (where I disagree with him), but the refreshing part about it was that, instead of doing the trendy “war is bad” sermon, the wise old owl continues by explaining that we fight because it is right, not because it is glorious. That amazed me- I loved it.

There is a severely underdeveloped romance between two owls in the film.

The jokes were, overall, very clean. The word “hell” was used to describe war.

The “pure ones” (bad guys) were a stark parallel to the Nazi regime- powerful stuff.

Altogether, I’d definitely recommend this film, especially on a worldview basis. 3/5


Rebekah said...

Somehow I just knew this film would be next... :D

Good review! I'm glad the romance was "severely underdeveloped"! Something about animal romances just... gets to me! *thinks of Bambi and shudders* :D

To the KING be all the glory!

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Yeah, the film could have done without the romance altogether...

Aubrey Hansen said...

Skipping the romance altogether would have been nice, I agree.

As you know, I saw this film on your recommendation and, while the story has its flaws, it's a nicely clean story I can enjoy without being irked by content issues. I own a copy now, which says something.

I agree on the dulcimer. I really liked that melody and it would have been nice to see more of it.

Thanks for the mention. ;) Great review!