Wednesday, September 22, 2010

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - First Class Visuals, Humdrum Story

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (animated fantasy in 3D)
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush and Hugo Weaving
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: John Orloff and Emil Stern, from the books by Kathryn Lasky
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: If we can be totally entertained by stunning 3-D visuals that astound us and take us on flights of fantasy like those of Avatar, this animated feature would definitely be as successful as that James Cameron epic. Alas, 3-D gimmicks and
cool computer graphics are only the tools to tell the story, not the other way round.

Thus when director Zack Snyder and his scripters opt to stay faithful to Kathryn Lasky's Guardians of Ga'Hoole children's book series (adapting her first three books), the narrative suffers because what works on paper (or books) does not necessary work on the screen. It is difficult to tell the owls apart, and when they are engaged in aerial battles, it is even more difficult to differentiate who is 'hoo'. So, after a while, the battle scenes become a mess of flying feathers - making the plot more cliched and ridiculous than it really is.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Soren (voice of Jim Sturgess), a young barn owl, is always fascinated by epic tales of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. When Soren and his older brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) fall from their treetop home, they are captured by the Pure Ones to be made slaves. Soren manages to escape with the help of other brave young owls, but Kludd remains.

Now, Soren and his friends, including the owlet Gylfie (Emily Barclay), must cross the sea and joruney through the mist to find the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians and his hero Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton). He must rally the Guardians against the Pure Ones and save the owls.

HITS & MISSES: I must confess that I was 'carried away' by the movie's breath-taking visuals and seascapes. It was like my first tour of Pandora in Avatar. However, this feeling soon faded when the narrative kicked in. The plot seems like an amalgam of kids' story tales like Narnia, Star Wars and The Golden Compass - about young minds being charmed by the Dark Side. The characters are just as familiar if not similar. Still, the voice cast, like Helen Mirren (as the evil Nyra), Sam Neill (as Allomere) and Miriam Margoles (as the snake Mrs P) lend a special touch and vitality to their characters.

However, the movie seems dogged by Catch 22 situation. Its premise and posters attract the younger children but these are the ones who would be frightened by the dark and serious atmosphere of the story. The older ones, however, would find the story too childish - and I don't think they will be too enamoured by the 3D effects and graphics. So, like The Golden Compass, this Owls Of Ga'Hoole looks destined for a short flight at the box-office.

N.B. This movie comes with a Roadrunner cartoon in 3D titled 'Fur of Flying'.

THE LOWDOWN: First class 3D visuals and effects telling a humdrum and cliched story.


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