Saturday, 11 October 2014
Coming off the back of the tremendously successful comic-book adaptations 300 and Watchmen, an animated feature may seem an unusual next move but proved to be an apt fit for the talents of director Zack Snyder. Adapted from the popular series of children’s books by Kathryn Lasky, Legend of the Guardians pitches the audience into a world of stunning natural beauty where an epic conflict rages between two different races of owls – the power mad fascistic Pure Ones and the noble and honourable Guardians of Ga’Hoole – for dominance of the owl kingdoms. The story may be created from the rehashed pellets of countless fantasy adventures but with strongly defined characters and an impressive voice cast that unlike that of most animated features doesn’t sound blandly American, the story never drags or feels tired but sweeps the whole family along and crucially buys everyone into the idea of owls as protagonists. Those who raised eyebrows at Snyder directing a film about birds will quickly be silenced when faced with the visual splendour of the worlds he has created; soaring through vast intricately detailed landscapes with his titular characters, the director shows off a painter’s eye for light and texture, creating images of such richness its easy to forget that it was all created inside a computer. In particular the predilection for slow-motion that Snyder first showed off in 300 is used to astonishing affect; when lead owl Sorren first learns to fly with his gizzard (read instinct) during a rainstorm the camera slows down to capture each individual water droplet beading along his wings in a glorious display of artistry that perfectly captures the moment a hero is born. Those who come for a child friendly film with talking animals and a nice message maybe taken aback by the serious owl-on-owl violence that never graphically depicts any bloodshed but doesn’t shy away from the animal intensity of the battles. Similarly the overall earnest tone leaves little room for knockabout fun and games (the comedy sidekicks feel like perfunctory additions and barely get any laughs) but for those looking for something more from their animated output, Legends of the Guardians is a visual treat.