By Dirk Sonniksen | September 23, 2010
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer(s): John Orloff (screenplay), Emil Stern (screenplay), Kathryn Lasky (novels “Guardians of Ga’Hoole”)
Voices: Jim Sturgess, Ryan Kwanten, Sam Neill, Helen Mirren, Anthony LaPaglia, Adrienne DeFaria, Bill Hunter, Barry Otto, Emily Barclay, Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham
Nurtured in the creative bosom of author Kathryn Lasky and brought to life on the big screen by director Zack Snyder, Legend of the Guardians is an unlikely little gem featuring talking owls in a story that pits good against evil. While I have certainly grown weary of talking animal movies and films that constantly pit good against evil, there is a lot of originality in Legend of the Guardians. While Snyder certainly dipped into his 300 toolkit for the film (see slow-motion battle scenes), he opted for a unique canvas, combining a well-written story with fantastic animation.
Our story follows Soren and his brother Kludd, young owls that are kidnapped by the owls of St. Aggie’s, a kind of slave labor camp for owls disguised as an orphanage. Upon arriving at St. Aggie’s, Soren and Kludd soon find that all is not what it seems, with owls being selected for various tasks based on their “abilities.” The weak are brainwashed and forced to work as “pickers,” while the strong are given the honor of becoming soldiers. Soren quickly makes the mistake of questioning the authority of his captors, while Kludd blindly obeys (Kludd is the strong one), thus separating the two and leading them down two very different paths.
Made in Australia, with a primarily Australian cast, Legend of the Guardians lacked the big names that come attached to its American counterparts—and that’s a good thing. If I have to sit through another animated movie with the usual suspects, I’m going to scream. Here we have something new, something fresh, and from down under. We don’t need to ponder how many millions-of-dollars each cast member made, or sit through an Oprah interview with Cameron Diaz discussing her take on a particular character. While the cast did a fantastic job on the voices for Legend of the Guardians, they take a back seat to the story. Remember the story?
As for Snyder, Legend of the Guardians was an interesting choice, and he certainly rose to the occasion. With 300 and Watchmen considered to be fairly successful endeavors, Snyder has added another to the list. Legend of the Guardians could easily have been weighed down by needless dialogue and over-indulgent action scenes, but Snyder struck a balance that makes viewing an effortless pleasure. You won’t be looking at your watch or laughing at cliché lines; here, in this unique world, time stands still.
And just as Soren and Kludd chose different paths, Snyder himself chose to veer away from the norm. How so, you ask? In general, Snyder opted to actually make a well-paced, action-packed film, which nicely balanced all the essential elements of a great film. This is in stark contrast to the majority of garbage churned out this summer, a lackluster few months to be sure. This wasn’t merely a film to satisfy a certain demographic (here’s some violence—enjoy!), but instead a proper homage to Lasky’s story. Legend of the Guardians is a fantastic adventure that should appeal to anyone, young and old. Whether you’re a fan of the books or a newcomer to this fascinating world of nocturnal, tree-dwelling heroes and villains, Legend of the Guardians will keep you glued to your seat and pining for a sequel.