Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
dir Zack Snyder
prd Zareh Nalbandian
scr John Orloff, Emil Stern
voices Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Barclay, Ryan Kwanten, Abbie Cornish, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Joel Edgerton, Anthony LaPaglia, Sam Neill, Miriam Margolyes
release US 24.Sep.10, UK 22.Oct.10
10/Australia Warner 1h30
Legend of the Guardians
Lord of the Wings: Soren leads the charge

sturgess mirren rush
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Legend of the Guardians Spectacular animation and a terrific voice cast go a long way to making this soaring adventure feel much more original than it is. Despite heavy echoes of other movies, it's thoroughly engaging and often genuinely thrilling.

Soren (voiced by Sturgess) is an idealistic owlet who dreams of one day meeting his heroes, the mythical Guardians of Ga'Hoole. Then he and his brother Kludd (Kwanten) are kidnapped by the evil Pure Ones, led by Queen Nyra (Mirren) and Metalbeak (Edgerton), as slaves for their nefarious plan. In their wasteland hideout, Soren meets the feisty dwarf owl Gylfie (Barclay), and they flee to Ga'Hoole for help. There, Soren meets the quirky Ezylryb (Rush), who helps teach him to fly properly and punctures some of his heroic ideals before they head into battle.

Snyder obviously has a love of epic action movies, and he packs this film with visual and thematic references to everything from Star Wars to Avatar. But the saga it most resembles is Lord of the Rings (actually, Lord of the Wings would have been a better title than this mangled moniker). And in addition to silly comedy and scary horror, there are clear echoes of the War on Terror and political overtones in the Nazi-like Pure Ones.

But besides diluting the film with familiarity, none of this really hampers our enjoyment, mainly because the animation is so staggeringly beautiful. Every feather is rendered with loving detail through wind, rain, snow and fire. And the settings are simply dazzling, all captured with a swooping, exhilarating sense of perspective that makes our hearts beat just a bit faster, especially on the Imax screen in 3D.

The large number of characters and elaborate mythology makes this feel like a chapter in an epic chronicle. Fortunately, each of the many owls and other critters (including Margolyes' snake-nanny and Barry Otto's prophetic echidna) has a distinct personality that comes to life thanks to both the detailed animation and the lively vocal work. It also helps that we're experiencing this story from Soren's perspective, which endearingly combines naivete, curiosity and courage. Watching these young owlets find their own particular kind of heroism is surprisingly inspiring.

cert pg themes, violence 16.Oct.10

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