Blu-Ray Review: "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"

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When I hear Zack Snyder directing a film, I think of ‘300’ or ‘Watchmen’; action based, graphic novel inspired films that are full of visuals and sounds so intense your body feels every detail. Then I see that instead of a live action film, an animated feature, I get a little skeptical and proceed to forgo the film altogether while it was in release. Now I sit back at home to see this animated story at home and am left stunned. Not in a bad way but rather upset I did not see this film in its full glory on the big screen.

Snyder and Warner Bros. have teamed up with Village Roadshow and Animal Logic to bring to the screen the stories of Kathryn Lasky. Adapted by John Orloff and Emil Stern, ‘Legend of the Guardians’ will take you into the kingdom of the owls.

A young owl, Soren and his brother Kludd are ambitious owls who have been taken from their tree hallow. They find themselves with the Pure Ones; owls bent on taking over the owl kingdoms. Soren does not like this new place and with another young owl, Gylfie, need to escape. Believing in and following his gut, the two young ones set out to find the Guardians whom his father always spoke of. While searching for the path, they come upon an unlikely pair in Digger and Twilight. The newly formed band continues their quest to find the Guardians and bring them to thwart the plans of the Pure Ones.

Kathryn Lasky has created 15 books to date on the Guardians and has the first three brought to the screen by Stern and Orloff. The story they have weaved sets up a wonderful look into the lives of owls. The mirroring of human existence draws you into the story and yet still shows the raw spirit of these animals.

Snyder has brought his sight for breathing life into the story in a way many have not been able to do. Going from live action to animation is a tough transition in some cases and easier in others. Working with actors live on a set is easy in that you can yell ‘cut’ and do the scene over. Then again you may have an actor who can pull out a ‘prima donna’ and there goes your day. In animation you need to be more focused on the issue of several animators work on one character. So you better know what you want before they finish or you could have many people on your case. Snyder does the transition smoothly and works his magic very few have been able to do.

Working with these very talented individuals, Snyder has orchestrated a film for all to see. Much like the owls themselves, the artist ranged from the wise to young; such long time animators as Simon Ashton to new bloods Tohru Patrick Awa and Cecile Dubois-Herry. Along with a talented array of artistic visionaries, they have created an eye caching film that leaves your mind in an uplifting feel of air. From the smooth flight of these noble birds to the effects of flying thru a monsoon, the animation is breathtaking.

The detail Snyder has thrust upon them has raised the bar, especially in regards to the background and visual effects animation. Such details you can come to expect when doing a live action film but not so detailed in animation for something that may be seen for a fraction of a second. The visual effects alone are quite amazing when you feel as though it is filmed using a high speed camera and can see every drop of water that creates a water spiral or the breath of the flames in the forest fire. Bravo to work well done.

Bringing to life the characters to the big screen is a talented group of veterans with a couple new comers. Such notable actors as Sam Neill (Jurassic Park series, Daybreakers) as Allomere, Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Warriors Way) as Ezylryb, Helen Mirren (The Queen, Inkheart) as Nyra, Hugo Weaving (The Matrix series, V for Vendetta) as Noctus and Grimble, David Wenham (Public Enimies, 300) as Digger, Ryan Kwanten (True Blood, Dead Silence) as Kludd, along with journeymen Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace series, Happy Feet) as Twilight, and Joel Edgerton (Whisper, Smokin’ Aces) playing Metalbeak,  have lent their vocal skills to a wonderful film. New comer Emily Barclay has stepped in to playa lead voice role as Gylfie alongside Soren voiced by Jim Sturgess (21, Across the Universe).

With such a diverse choice of voices and styles of acting it is tough to say who stands out in this film. All do great bringing the inflection needed to get you lost in the film and forget the animation and enjoy the story.

If anything were to fault in the film it would be that of the title song, “To the Sky”. It is far from the 30 Seconds to Mars song used in the trailer, which fit the context of the film to a tee. The song used is by Owl City is bright and overly hokey for my taste.

Since this is a Blu-Ray review I should delve into what’s in store for the buyer.

The compilation includes the Blu-Ray along with DVD/Digital Copy discs. This is becoming a standard now among several studios to combine all three formats.  I enjoy the ability to have the digital copy but have consistently had issues after during the download process and have to contact WB’s customer service to get a new password. Once you do get it downloaded it is great to have available, especially if you have children and travel a lot.

The Blu-Ray is presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, for English, French, Spanish and Portuguese as well as the corresponding subtitles.

One issue arose while enjoying the film. During the first 20 minutes or so of the film some audio quality was present. The mixing of the background music and speech of the characters was either muddled or over balanced. It eventually was corrected for the rest of the film.

The special features include:

Maximum Kid Mode- Soren acts as a guide of what is in the movie versus reality in the wild. This way to watch the film is fun to educate younger audiences about where some of the owl tales get their real life start.

Legend of the Guardians: Rise of the Guardians- A animated short told by Sorens’ pa. The short is just that, short. The way it is shown feels as if it was cut from the original film and thrown in as an extra.

To the Sky, music video by Owl City- Enough was said earlier.

4 Artwork Galleries- Detailed sketches, watercolors and test used for the making of the film.

True Guardians of the Earth- A presentation with Digger and Rico Rodriguez, of the hit show ‘Modern Family’, taking you inside the true world of owls and how they exist with humans.

New Looney Tunes cartoon: Fur of Flying- This is the first new cartoon with the beloved Wile E. Coyote and that pesky Road Runner. Okay, yes I am biased and love Wile E. Why does that Road Runner have to always have the upper hand? I mean, come on don’t you feel a little sorry for the coyote. That darn bird is always… I apologize for my rambling. It is a fun animated short and foray into the computer animation realm for these tow longtime enemies.

Whether you rent or buy this lovely gem of a film, you
will be happy. It delves into the heart of the young and pulls out the spark of life. Love all who are close to you and never stop learning.

Never stop learning. That is a take away from this film. Soren learns first of the Guardians as legends a kind of folk learning. Then when all seemed lost an older owl takes him under his wing and helps him to learn on the fly, literally. Once out he takes his knowledge of the Guardians and seeks them out with the help of his new family. Learning by doing, hence keep learning. Once he finds the Guardians, an owl takes him under his wing and teaches him the wise ways… you see where I am going. We are never too young or old to learn new things. Some may even say you die a little when you stop learning. I enjoy writing these words knowing that someone will be correcting my English or punctuation (wink, wink) but I take it as a learning experience. Now yes I may come across as upset at the time I’m told. Remember, I am still learning. I will apply the new lesson in the next writing. And keep doing so till I get it right. It is an important lesson to never stop learning. No one person can know or do everything. And when you have a supportive family and friends behind you the sky is the limit. Fly high.


Thank you to Alejandra Meleldez for her input on the review and watching this enjoyable film.

[P.s. I’ll be waiting for those tips.  😉 ]

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