Buff Review Show: The Scowls of a Fool
I am aware this isn’t the review for ‘On Stranger Tides’ (let me just eat some pizza and I’ll finish it, I promise!) but someone else requested my opinion on, what I believe, to be on of the few DECENT 3D films that’ve appeared on our screens in the past two years, so for @iguanahat on Twitter, this is another classic review:
The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
If you ever wanted to make a film akin to Lord Of The Rings aimed at the under ten’s and based around an animal that is both cool looking and cuddly, but can also be used as a decent villain, then Kathryn Lasky, author of successful ‘Guadians of Ga’Hoole’ series of children’s books, has hit the nail firmly on the head, and the film isn’t too shabby either.
Actually, I would go as far as to say it the best looking FULLY ANIMATED 3D film that I’ve seen, and it even gives Avatar a run for it’s money in several scenes. Well-done CGI films are good, but this film goes one further by portraying the owls so life-like you can see individual feathers that all move differently in the various weather effects used throughout the film. Take into account that owl feathers are incredibly fine and fluffy, and THEN factor in the fact that they have to be wet or on fire or wind-blasted at times as well, this film is an absolute feast for the eyes. And, for the first time, I was actually stunned by several moments in the film when the 3D rendering made something leap out of the screen, forcing me to hurl away my popcorn in reckless abandon and try to swat away whatever it was that was flying directly towards me. No other film has achieved this, including Avatar! (Those pink gibbering things that floated past the screen every so often did little to pique my 3D interest)
It’s a very kid friendly film, but it does balance that wonderful blend of being suitable for kids, but also intelligent and well made enough that adults watching can enjoy it too. In fact, like a lot of kids films these days, even as close to half term as we are, there were relatively few kids in the audience.
The film has a great blend of characters, visually different enough and with vibrant personalities that children can pick them apart from each other without getting confused, and also deep enough that the adults don’t get bored. This is the first kids film for a long while that I can class up there with some of the other CGI greats like Finding Nemo and the original Toy Story.
That isn’t to say it’s the greatest piece of written cinema ever, but neither was Avatar and it still ranks incredibly highly in my, and many other reviewers, standards. Our hero for the piece is Soren, if we were to look through the big book of all things the underdog hero should say and do, then Soren ticks every box. But again, we can forgive this film for following more simplistic and still interesting characters; we have to remember this is aimed at kids. If this was an adult film we could tear it to pieces for being far too simple- as a film for pre-teens, it works well.
The film is based around the events of the first three books in The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series. Soren and his brother, Kludd, are kidnapped my some less than cuddly owls (the MItchell Brothers or the Owl world, if you will) while out practicing to fly one night, although I have to say for a film about owls there is an awful lot of action that takes place during the day. And when the film does have it’s various night shots it’s often very dark, and the 3D doesn’t lend itself to picking out the light that does appear, such as stars, moons and other sources: that may seem like a very minor gripe, and fortunately it didn’t happen too often, but I did have to take my 3D glasses off a couple of times to figure out what was going on. But that’s the technology’s fault more than the film’s so I am willing to overlook it somewhat.
So having been kidnapped by the owls of St Aggie’s, which is ostensibly an orphanage for owls in the same way that a spiked mace to the back of the head is ostensibly a cure for headaches, a place where young owlets are brainwashed into becoming soldiers- and those unsuitable to become soldiers are used to mine Flecks, a metallic material that does something to the gizzards of other owls, causing them to stop flying and fall to the ground in a big blue haze. It’s a little odd, but again it is simple enough for kids to sort of understand, if maybe a few adults watching it will roll their eyes slightly and just agree with what the film says.
Our hero Soren, a dreamer at heart, manages to escape the clutches of the evil Queen Nyra, voiced by Helen Mirren (sans the machine gun and rifle she was seen using in Red the same week) and, collecting a bands of varying other owls of different sizes, shapes, breeds and flavours of comic-ness, must set out to find the legendary guardians of Ga’hoole, who can help put a stop to the evil queen and her husband, the evil Metal Beak!
All the good in the film makes me more than happy to sit through an slightly by-the-books story that is told, and voiced acted, incredibly well. One gripe would be the presence of an “Owl-City” song in the middle of the film (I guess there is a distinct lack of Owl-related musicians in the charts these days, but still) is a little distracting, especially alongside the 30 Seconds To Mars track used in the trailer and credits which has no mention of owls at all. Otherwise, I give it a firm recommendation to see in all it’s 3D glory at the cinema, if not grab it on DVD when it swoops into shops in the New Year.