Zack Snyder has been a decidedly more mature director than many of his counterparts since his debut with the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Having gone with films that show the limits that an R-rating can carry, it’s decidedly interesting that his follow up to the graphic novel adaptation Watchmen, a deconstruction of the superhero in a most decidedly mature manner, is a family film in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.
It’s relatively simple tale. Soren (Jim Sturgess) is a young owl told tales of a group of Guardian owls by his father (Hugo Weaving) since he was a young child. A bit of a dreamer, his belief in the Guardians is put to the test when he and his brother (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by a group of owls called the Pure Ones. Led by Nyra (Helen Mirren) and Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton), the Pure Ones have a simple goal: domination of the Owl world. Escaping with Gylfie (Emily Barclay), and becoming friends with Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia) and Digger (David Wenham), Soren has only one chance at saving the Owl kingdom: find the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole and his childhood hero Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush).
A standard coming of age tale, Snyder takes what could be a perfunctory story and makes something more out of it. Soren is forced into adulthood via circumstance; he has to become an adult quickly but is still a child. It makes for an interesting dynamic, especially when dealing with those Owls who are adults and have to advise him as such. As he progresses through the film, he becomes the sort of hero himself that he only dreamed of as a child. Again this is all standard fare for the genre, just given an adventure setting and given Owls as characters.
What makes it special is that Snyder goes beyond just making it a coming of age film and gives it a grander setting. Snyder’s films since Dawn of the Dead have head a unifying theme about the mythos and construction of the hero archetype. 300 was a war story told by the last survivor of Thermopylae. Watchmen is about the consequences and deconstruction of the superhero. Guardians focuses on the childlike view we have of mythology through the eyes of Soren and his unwavering belief in the Guardians. Snyder has crafted a grand, epic story out of it that doesn’t disappoint because he seems to have an inherent grasp about the grander schemata of the hero myth. There’s a grander story being told here.
He also has a shockingly talented voice cast. All British or Australian using their natural accents, it gives the film something more unique than most animated films using all American casts (or foreign talents using American accents). There’s a uniqueness to it that’s hard to match given the diversity of the accents. It sounds more natural, oddly enough, that not every animal in the animal kingdom doesn’t sound like it has a flat, non-regional American accent.
It doesn’t hurt that this is easily the best looking animated film of the year, maybe the most visually arresting film of the year. Amazingly life like, this is a film that is stunning to view. Snyder’s animation team has done a shockingly good job of designing this film. Snyder is a visually inclined director and brings his trade mark slow motion style action sequences to the film. Some of the film’s slow motion sequences, including one with Soren flying in a rain storm, are jaw dropping in quality. There are certain things that one misses at first, like the difference in quality between feathers of the differing species of owl, which give the film a decidedly better look. Snyder has also brought his usual sort of epic opera infused rock scoring to the film, giving endless comparisons in scenes between 300 and Watchmen with this film for those looking for it.
Snyder is returning to his R-rated roots with Sucker Punch, but Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole shows a differing side to his directorial talents. While other directors in his generation may get more credit, and more hype, Snyder is showing that perhaps he has more talent. Guardians is the family film of the year.
Director: Zack Snyder Notable Cast (Voice Only):Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Barclay, Anthony LaPaglia, David Wenham, Ryan Kwanten, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving Writer(s): John Orloff and John Collee based on the book series “Guardians of Ga’Hoole” by Kathryn Lasky
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.