Sunday, September 26, 2010

Movie Review- Legend of the Guardians

This past weekend, my mom and I went to theater to check out Lord of the Rings Owl Edition aka Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Being as obsessed with animated movies as I am, I've been excited to see this film since the beginning of this year. Legend of the Guardians is based off of the first three books of Katheryn Lasky's series titled Guardians of Ga'Hoole and is directed by Zack Snyder. You may know Snyder as the director of Watchman and 300 along with his upcoming film Sucker Punch. With those movies in mind, you can see how Synder has a very visually unique style he uses in all his movies. To be honest, Legend of the Guardians is probably by favorite film by him to date. Watchmen and 300 were both films that were beautiful to look at but fell short in a lot of other areas. Even with that said, I have a strange feeling that Legend of the Guardians will be his least successful film box office wise. Here's why.

Legend of the Guardians is Warner Brothers second full length animated film since Happy Feet came out back in 2006. The studio partnered with the visual effects company Animal Logic once again to produce this movie and wow! They've come a long way since producing Happy Feet. The graphics in Happy Feet were great but Legend of the Guardians takes it to a whole different level. It's almost impossible to tell that these owls are animated at all! Not only the owls, but the scenery shots of the oceans, skies and trees look as if they were filmed instead of digitally produced. The amount of study that went into observing owl flight and all the different species of owls must have been insane! I really like this unique style of animation that Warner Brothers has decided to take on. I feel like ever since Pixar came along with its CG animation style, many other movie studios have just tried to copy it in their own way. Dreamworks Animation changed from hand drawn animation to CG almost immediately after the success of Toy Story. Now it seems like Dreamworks Animation just creates a whole bunch of bad knock offs of Pixar's film (except for How To Train Your Dragon, but that's a whole other story). We also have Disney Animation Studios who also dipped into that CG style, dipped out for a little bit after a attempt by John Lasster to bring the animation studio back to its roots, but now its dipping back in with the soon to be released Tangled. The third major studio would be Sony Animation Studios who, just like the other two, seems to be trying to do the Pixar thing as well. I'll admit, Sony's CG animated movies are probably the best effort out of those three but their movies still don't quite meet my standards of a good animated film. I never saw Despicable Me but I'd be willing to check it out.

Now that Warner Brothers has decided to take a plunge into the animation department, I'm glad they decided to take a different direction. The obviously want their films to have a more serious tone so it can be appealing to adults and kids alike. I love the photo-realistic animation style they decided to go with as well instead of another Pixar CG knock off. I'm wondering if they will stick with talking animals in all their animated films. It seems to be what the visual effects studio they use specialize in. I can see that Legend of the Guardians was the film that WB was hoping would establish them as the next studio competitor in the animated films industry. The film began with a animated short, just like all Pixar films, and it was a Coyote and Road Runner short no less!! A bit of a homage to Warner Brother's classic animated characters. Enough of my blabbering, let's talk about the movie itself.

So Legend of The Guardians begins with a young owl named Soren who loves hearing stories from his father about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a band of owls who protect the innocent and vanquish evil!! So basically their a Knight of the Roundtable for owls. Soren's brother Kludd is unlike Soren and dislikes hearing about the legends and is jealous of Soren's natural flying abilities. One night, the two of them get into a small brawl and fall out of their tree. Right before the two of them are about to get mauled by a of badger or something, two bigger owls swoop them away and take them to the lair of the Pure Ones; a band of evil owls who kidnap orphaned owlets and turn them into either soldiers or miners for their cause. The Pure Ones are led by the evil Metalbeak and his mate Nyra who seek to rule the entire owl kingdom. The Pure Ones go off the belief that Tytos are the superior breed of owls and so they train them to become soldiers. All the other kidnapped owls are made to become pickers. Soren displays some outspoken behavior when he and his brother arrive and so is thrown in with the group of pickers. His brother on the other hand is chosen to train to become a soldier and he gladly accepts the offer. The owls chosen to be pickers are forced to mine some sort of magnetic element that could be used as a powerful weapon. Soren meets a young elf owl name Glyfie and the two of them decide they will learn to fly and escape from the Pure Ones. A owl named Grimble who works for the Pure One, notices strange behavior from Soren and Glyfie and reveals to them that he only stays because his family is being held captive and tells them that the Gaurdians do exist. Grimble begins to train to two of them to fly so they can escape and alert the Guardians on what's happening. Eventually Soren and Glyfie escape while Kludd decides to stay behind with the Pure Ones. The two of them run into two other owls named Twilight and Digg on their journey who help them find their way to the Sea of Hoolemere, where the Great Ga'Hoole tree is located.

In an effort for me to keep this summary short, I'll leave it off with the Guardians preparing for a big epic battle. The entire film takes a lot of concept and pieces from many of those classic midevil fantasy stories such as Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia. What makes it different though is the whole owl concept that was thrown into the mix. As cute as owls are, they're pretty scary and vicious birds. The movie just makes them all the more bad ass by adding armor and weapons on them. There are many instances where the owls are literally killing each other with these talon claw/sword thingys that they wear. This sort of violence not something you would find in a animated family movie by a major movie studio. Props to Warner Brothers for taking such a risky move. I saw this movie in 3D because it was the only version my local theater offered. The last movie I saw in 3D was Toy Story 3 and after being disappointed by its use of it, I lost interest in seeing any more films in that format. All I can say is, holy shit I glad I saw this movie 3D. I've decided that any movies that have flight sequences must be seen in 3D. If you're familiar with Zack Synder, you know he looooooves to slow motion shots and the flight scenes in this movie mixed with slow-mo made the 3D experience all the more better.

Okay, lets get back to my originally point. I read a article this morning stating how Legend of the Guardians is the first film by Zack Synder that didn't debut as number one in the box office opening weekend. What a downer, but I was honestly expecting that. I remember the audience reaction in my movie theater the first time a trailer for Legend of the Guardians played. I remember hearing some snickering and murmurs of confusion. Well first off, I don't think the general public likes to watch animated animals that look too real. They enjoy very cartoonish, goofy acting animals in their animation. Second, these owls are wearing battle armor and weapons- a concept that's too weird for the general public to accept. Third, at first glance, this doesn't look like a movie that kids would enjoy. It looks very dark and complicated so most parents will probably over look it as a film to take their kids to. Now for the few parents that do take their kids to see it, they will probably freak out over the fantasy violence and tell all their other parents not to take their children to watch it. Happy Feet had an advantage because it came out during penguin mania and people just wanted to see cute little penguins dance around. The owls in Legend of the Guardians doesn't really have the cute factor to play off of and I think you can forget about WOM.

This movie unfortunately falls into that horrible trap of not being able to reach the audience that it would most appeal to the most. I hope this doesn't deter WB from the animation industry. I really look forward to see what else the studio can come up with. We need a better mix of animated films in Hollywood! Rumor has is that Animal Logic (perhaps in partnership with WB again?) will be producing a remake of the classic animated film Watership Down. I wonder if they'll show the bloodied up General Woundwort and Bigwig just like in the original. That will help bring more children to the theater.

Final Score- 7.5/10

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