I'm personally not a fan of the work of director Zack Snyder. To me, his work seems to come off as gimmicky and feels like it appears to be more interested in showing off dazzling visuals, while his stories and characters feel very inferior. He really does know how to make a movie look stunning, but that's really about it. After making grand and glorious epics before in the past, it seemed fitting he would try to take that epicness and put it into animation. He now has with "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" based on a series of books written by Kathryn Lasky. While the film is very dazzling and gorgeous to watch it is, unfortunately, like his other films, clumsy and it does struggle to really take flight. It's a shame though since the potential for greatness is there.
In the forests of Tyto live a family of barn owls where two young brothers named Soren (Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are told about legendary stories of owls known as the Guardians by their father (Hugo Weaving). Though one day, the two brothers, who still cannot yet fly, end up falling out of their home and are kidnapped by owls known as the Pure Ones and taken to the far off land of St. Aegolious. When they arrive Soren is made into a picker by the second in command leader of the Pure Ones, Nyra (Helen Mirren) while Kludd is made a soldier after not speaking out of term and disowning his brother. Sensing evil among the Pure Ones, Soren and another young owl named Gylfie (Emily Barclay) fly away and escape with the help of one of the upper owls and are told to find the Guardians. From there, the two set out on an epic quest to find the Guardians and help the enslaved owlets from the Pure Ones.
This film really does have the makings of a great story. It's darker than I initially expected yet it really did keep my interest with its strong themes of good versus evil and interesting tales of legends. Though it's pacing was really terrible. This film has scenes that are not as developed as I think they should've been and are far too short, unlike another epic film that came out the same year, "How To Train Your Dragon" where every scene was paced perfectly and the scenes aren't too long or too short. As soon as a scene in this film felt like it was starting, it suddenly ends and moves on to the next one. For a film that's an hour and a half long, I really feel like had this film been longer, it would've worked a lot better. Snyder should've given more breathing time to the film and developed some of the scenes out a little bit more. The animation for the film really is a sight to behold. Animated by Animal Logic who also animated "Happy Feet", this film definitely shines with it's rich and gorgeous visuals. Every scene felt striking and the backgrounds were simply beautifully rendered. The details given to the owls' feathers were simply miraculous. Yet there was a thing about the animation that really annoyed me to no end. There were way too much slow motion scenes. Even from the very beginning of the film, Snyder decided to emphasize certain little moments with slow motion and it got annoying really fast. There were way too many slow-motion moments to count and I felt they were all unnecessary and pointless. The time used for all those slow-motion moments should've gone instead to expanding the scenes and not making them end so abruptly. As far as the characters go, I feel they are also really good. Soren is a good hero for this story and I do think the villain Metal Beak played by Joel Edgerton was a real threat. Even the side characters were fun like a snake named Mrs. P. and Gylfie make for charming side characters. Though I do Kludd should've been developed a little bit more and I feel more should've gone into him being brainwashed by the Pure Ones. If more went into that, we could've gotten a good sympathetic villain for the film.
As is though, I'm a little disappointed in "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole". There's a lot in here that is great, but I feel it doesn't reach its full potential. The story while strong at times is sometimes incoherent and clumsy, the animation is stunning though suffers from some gimmicks, and the characters are at least all likable and work. I can definitely see the potential it had in it and feel it really could've gone somewhere. It's just I feel if this film had a different director and a few more additional moments added to the screenplay, it really could've soared. As is though, it was a film that just wasn't quite there yet.