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Feature FilmTalkback

“Legend of the Guardians” talkback

Zack Snyder’s adaptation Kathryn Lasky’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opens today. The critics opinions are mixed, the LA Times says it looks great but is too dark for youngsters; the NY Times considered this a minor release and let a C-string reviewer cover it. I’m seeing it at an ASIFA-Hollywood member’s screening next Thursday. If you’ve seen it, or are seeing it this weekend, let us what you think.

  • Iain

    I liked it. It’s kind of predictable and comically annoying at times, but it has a nice epic feel and the 3D visuals are great to look at. Zack Snyder did did a good job taking on a children oriented movie for the first time, better than Shyamalan tried with “The Last Airbender” earlier this year.

    While I enjoyed “Owls of Ga’Hoole”, I REALLY enjoyed the Road Runner short that pre-faced it.

  • Karen

    Computer’s can do a lot of amazing things. Except, in this case, create a compelling story or characters.

    • amid

      Karen – Have you seen the film or is this a random comment? This talkback is intended only for those who have seen the film. I’d be curious to hear more about why you felt the story and characters weren’t compelling.

      • Karen

        Yes, I did see the film. Really, I’d comment more about it, but all the visual detail in the world can’t make me care about the characters or situations in this retread of a story. And technically, I wasn’t very impressed. Personally, I thought Ratatouille and Kung Fu Panda were more visually impressive.

        I don’t care if it’s live action, hand drawn, or cg. Just make me care–a little.

      • amid

        Thanks for clearing that up and elaborating, Karen.

    • Dr. Ivo Robotnik

      I don’t like things that are new, because that automatically makes them bad, and arbitrarily criticizing them makes me look cool.

      There will always be room in animation for traditionally animated films. Criticizing the medium in the way you are is effectively criticizing the work that went into it and implying that the team that worked on it had it easy, when, in a lot of ways, animating something by a computer presents a lot more challenges than, say, “scribbling sketches on a bunch of paper” (if I may utilize your own demoralizing tone).

      I have my reservations about the movie’s writing, but that’s not “a computer’s” fault, and certainly not the fault of the crew that worked to design everything, create the models, rig the feathers (with a brand new system that they created), animate every frame down to the last blink of an eye, adding effects, spending an extraordinary amount of time rendering it, editing, and so on and so on.

      In short, what you’re implying is extremely insulting. Well done, 10/10.

      • I can of course commend any crew that works this hard on a film, but Hollywood thinks that a beautiful veneer can cover for bad writing. It can’t. In this case I thought the writing was pretty good. Maybe the theme’s been done, but so has everything else. It’s the point of view (owls) that makes it original. I had a good time.

  • Toonio

    Technically it was freaking impressive. Dunno what particle system they used but it was truly something. Somebody post an article on the technical side of the making of this movie.

    This movie will technically shake the bejesus of other studios. I fear Dreamworks will the one falling behind due to their “more movies with less quality is better” approach.

    This is one of the few movies out there that uses the 3D with a purpose and not as a gimmick. Being the other Avatar.

    Once again Snyder followed the book without deviating too much which will make people mad like it happened with watchmen or 300. I call it ye’olde bad if you do it bad if you don’t.

    To whoever (maybe a Disney minion) out there that states the Hero’s journey storyline has been beaten to death, I dare you to mention a Disney/Pixar movie that haven’t used it somehow.

    Being owls the main characters, with the wisdom paradigm and all, I was amazed what they did with them. Good jobs guys!

    Unless you have a 3D movie theater at home and are wiling to wait some time. I highly recommend you to go out and watch this movie.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Bad Story. Freaking BEAUTIFUL though. Too much slow-mo. Oh, how I hate slow mo. I hate the word “gizzard”

    • ArchTeryx

      Well, that really isn’t a fault of the movie itself; Zack Snyder’s rather infamous for using lots and lots of slow-mo, and Guardians of Ga’hoole is no different, sadly!

  • Dee

    “This movie will technically shake the bejesus of other studios. I fear Dreamworks will the one falling behind due to their “more movies with less quality is better” approach.”

    Right, because How to train your dragon and kung fu panda were low quality right? Dragon’s 3D was much better than avatar which suffered from extreme strobing.

    • tedzey

      Nope, he is right. “How to train your dragon” and “Kung fu Panda” were anomalies. Apples and oranges when you look as blatantly offensive movies like “Shark Tale” and “Madawho-har,” the movies made like they were straight from the katzenberg conveyor belt.

      So why don’t people think about “Prince of Egypt” anymore when Dreamworks is discussed?

      And, i’m sorry guys at the brew, I haven’t seen Guardians yet. Looking forward to it by the end of this weekend though! Looks like Snyder is tapping into his inner-Bluth, cause I feel this major Secret of Nimh-vibe that’s turning me on! Delete this comment if it has no relevance to the purpose of the article, but ask yourselves why Dee has her post when she talk about the movie?

  • tedzey

    I mean not talk about “Guardians,” typo!

  • John

    Oliver you don’t like violence and war for the sake of it? Shame on you for using your brain!

  • I thought “Guardians” was a technical marvel but I was disconnected to the story. However the detailed characters, environments as well as sound design created a very lovely and detailed world in which this story could unfold.

    Perhaps it’s time for one of these studios to adapt “Watership Down” using similar technology. I know it’s been done already as a 2D film but it would be interesting to see how such a strong story could be adapted.

    Or perhaps it would be a grave mistake. The nice advantage of 2D animation is that by its very nature, it’s impressionistic and 3D strives to be photo-realistic.

    I guess that’s one of the problems I had with Guardians. Everything seemed so carefully designed to make you believe that these realistic owls had this wonderful culture and mythology, while at the same time my mind is pulling me out of the story because I know that these characters aren’t real. It’s that “uncanny valley” phenomenon in some sense.

    The 2D version of “Watership Down” was impressionistic and therefore you accepted the story, as wel as the rabbit’s culture and mythology simply because it was rendered in 2D. Your mind wasn’t fighting you all the way telling you “it’s not real, it’s not real, but oohhh look at how incredibly beautiful and realistic those feathers and trees and skies are”.

    Just a thought…


    • I got to see the director of Watership Down give a talk in Seattle sometime in the late 90’s. He said he originally intended the film to be photorealistic: he planned to do the whole thing with furry stop-motion puppets. But the early tests weren’t life-like enough, so he chose hand-drawn 2D instead.

      (I haven’t seen Guardians yet, so feel free to prune this comment if it’s too far off topic!)

  • I loved it! Animation seemed pretty flawless for the birds, although I had a few issues with the non-flying animals like the snake and echidna. I can’t imagine it’s very easy to show emotion on a photorealistic animal face without it looking cheesy, but I really think they pulled it off. Beautiful, no, GORGEOUS cinematography. My best guess is that those that loved Avatar will love it, for the same reasons: simple story, well told, with fantastic imagery. Those that won’t like it probably can’t get into talking animals anyway.

    • djm

      If you’re reading this blog, you like talking animals.

  • Like the new Road Runner cartoon.

    Movie itself was good. But a little too many “Matrix” shout outs.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Shoulda been called “Lord of the Owl Jedis” How many conventions could this film possibly rip off? Use the force-er..I mean your gizzard!

  • Swindy

    That was the most beautiful animation I have ever seen. Everything was great. The story has been made many times, but it was brought to screen magnificently.

    Well the best word to describe this movie : BEAUTIFUL.

    Mostly after seeing Alpha and Omega, that made my eyes and ears bleed!

  • Owls has a standard fantasy story and is rushed along too quickly. I would have liked more character development and time to become attached to the characters. Other than that, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and found it immensely enjoyable. It was cute, bad-ass, beautiful, funny, and the end credits were very pretty. I think little children would be scared of this, but for older children, the kind who may be reading fantasy series like Redwall, this movie is exactly what they’d be craving.

  • Initially interesting for school age children, but way too intense for very young kids, we left the theatre early. Another hero’s tale as depicted by owls. The violence and fighting was way too frequent for me, it made me long for the days of G movies, which the studios just don’t produce any more. It seems that PG is a low as they will go, which is too bad. The animation itself is top notch, wonderful particle animation, feather rendering and stereoscopic 3D integration. Also too much slow motion for my taste. How much variety of action and emotion can you get out of a bird other than flying, fighting and eating? Tough challenge, I kept thinking of Watership Down via the air.

  • JMatte

    I’ll agree with a lot of the other comments posted above.
    Technically beautiful, very nicely animated. The FX are gorgeous. A big bravo to the whole team for pulling it off!
    The story is classic hero’s tale, told effectively enough. Has plenty of adventure and perils. Yes, it is a bit more dark in tone, so parents used to let their kids only watch brightly colored and funny stories may be wary a bit(personally, when I was a kid, I did prefer the darker stories).
    I also do wish the characters were developped a little bit more, but I can understand there must have been time constraints. You can almost guess there was a hint of a budding relationship between Soren and…ah see there? I forgot her name. That owl they meet at the great tree in Gahoole that is their guide. It was passed over so quickly that it barely registered.
    I also had a moment at the very end that made me start asking myself a whole lot of questions (spoiler ahead): Heroes celebrate their victories back in Gahoole, and Soren’s parents are there: how did they find the place? Did other owls go and get them? Or was it something his own father knew all along, or…
    Might have been better off not showing them, but that’s just me.
    And yes, a whole lot of slow motion. A whole lot of it. Too much in parts.
    So in short: beautiful well made film, a known formula in term of story, still very nicely executed.

  • Chris Padilla

    Shorts, when utilized appropriately can function to enhance the presentation of the main feature. Pixar knows this very well, of course. Screening a cartoon before a realistic looking animated feature, in my opinion, is not a good programming match. Snyder’s film is indeed gorgeous to look at. But, for me, after the cartoony looking road runner bird, there was an adjustment period of several minutes before I was able to acclimate to the realistic looking talking bird owls. Once I got over that initial bump, the ride got smoother and I found myself starting to connect with the characters. The characters as well as the arch of the story were indeed noticeably familiar from other sources, but that was not a deterrent for me. I like to go into a theater without a critics mind and enjoy the movie in a state of innocence, not loaded down with baggage from films I’ve seen while I’m watching it. In other words, I would like to sit as wide-eyed as the six year old next to me. The story, which echoed other films, as was pointed out in an earlier post above, is based in a classic kind of adventure, an amalgamation of stories that have been told and retold, over and over throughout the history of the world for over two millennia. I would liked to have seen, instead of the corny jokes, more life based humorous scenarios. The kind of jokes that Katzenberg likes to decorate his movies with have become the DreamWorks brand. When he was at Disney, the brand then was musicals. So, where the void is, or the opportunity to establish a new angle or claim an unexploited niche for a studio to brand their animated features with, is stories accented by humorous moments rather than jokes. For example, if you’ll notice in George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope, while it’s an epic adventure, based in science fiction and fantasy, it’s many humorous moments actually perpetuated the momentum of the movie and made the adventure all the more fun. In fact, I distinctly remember when I saw it for the first time in a theater that it had more laughs than most comedy films that year. So, the one big hole in Snyder’s beautiful “realistic” looking tale was its lack of “realistic” humor, which could have brought the film to the level I think he was aspiring to reach. Real life humor and drama is what made Charlie Chaplin’s films so great as well as the films of Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy, to point out a few examples. But the humanity that is played out in all of their films are timeless, and that’s why they’re relevant today.

  • It’s obvious they crammed 3 books in a 90 minute movie. The entire film is poorly setup and undermotivated. Scenes just smash cut into each other making it hard to keep up with what’s going on and not giving you the context to care.

    And while the hyper-real style was well done, it also made it hard to tell some characters apart from one another, especially in the action sequences.

    If you’re well-versed in the books this might be a good film, but if you skipped that prerequisite it’s simply dreadful.

  • Mike Johnson

    It’s been said before, but is well worth repeating: this film is breathtakingly beautiful, spellbinding in parts, and is eye-candy of the very highest order. Indeed, everyone involved with the visuals in this film deserves all the kudos they get, and then some.

    That being said, I suppose that my position as a non-industry, regular everyday Joe may have something to do with the fact that I had no real problems with the story. Sure, the “hero” thing has been told countless numbers of times (some better than others, of course) but in this particular case I enjoyed it.

    The music was quite wonderful, and although the decision to feature the Owl City song within the body of the movie itself has raised some feathers for some, I wasn’t really phased by it.

    Really liked all the slow motion stuff…one of my favorite things about 300. I love the balletic feel it gives, and I think it enhances the film rather than detracts from it.

    I loved the film as a whole, and will certainly add it to my DVD collection when it becomes available. One of the best films of this year as far as I’m concerned.

  • Jonathan Lyons

    Pros: Breathtaking visuals. Exciting action sequences. Darn good animation.
    Cons: Owls just don’t have enough facial features to connect with. Despite valiant efforts of some characters, was pretty much humorless.
    Take Away: I loved it anyway.

  • I think it was a film full of unearned moments. Very beautiful, something I really have not seen before, but the story was not developed enough to keep me very interested. I could tell that this was a story that tried to combine more then one book. When trying to condense a big book to fit a film, or tell three volumes worth of a story in one movie, you need to start to get rid of characters and plot lines. Because they did not get rid of enough characters or plot lines they made everything feel mediocre. We are supposed to feel for Soren and his relationship with his brother, however there is so little time spent with the building of their relationship and the turn that Soren’s brother makes to the “dark side”, that the fight they have at the end is very dry and rather uninteresting. Because they try to fit the relationship Soren has with his brother into the movie, the relationship Soren has with his idol Ezylryb become mediocre as well, because it is not given nearly enough time. Nothing was developed enough.

    I think it is a common mistake for directors who are used to doing big “Adult” films, to think that a “Children’s movie” does not need as much depth because, “kids don’t care about those things as much”. In reality, kids often have the best ideas on what good character development is, because they do not have many of the biases that we as adults often have. It was a foolish thought by director Zack Snyder to think that he could combine three books into one movie. I saw many characters that could of been interesting if given enough time to be developed. I thought there were many interesting plot lines. Some of the animation was very powerful, I thought the slow motion was very useful especially sense the owl animation tended to be really fast. I thought the environment they were able to create was extremely beautiful. However, STORY and CHARACTER should always be put first, in the case of Legend of the Guardians they were obviously not.

  • Eric Graf

    I enjoyed the battle sequence at the end (including the slow motion) and thought the entire movie was gorgeous, but the script just didn’t do it for me.

    I didn’t know anything about the books (I found out there were 3 of them just now while reading this) and I didn’t see 300, but I still felt like I was being asked to fill in a lot of blanks – the ones that were supposed to make me interested in the characters and their story, the ones that would have turned this movie into something more than a parade of quickly referenced movie cliches. Meanwhile, the nature of the threat – the glowing blue metal stuff, was never even slightly explained as far as I could tell. That bothered me. Did I black out briefly and miss it, or was I just supposed to accept that if you give a piece of tinfoil to a bat, it’ll mess up your mojo?

    I was also pulled out of the story several times by plot developments that were just too … darn … convenient. (Of all the snakes in all the trees of all the forests in the world …) Yes, it’s a movie about talking owls who wear battle armor, but come on.

    In short – enjoyed the animation and art direction, enjoyed the battle, but came away very disappointed overall.

  • Hal

    Honestly, the end credits sequence may be the most beautiful use of 3D I’ve ever seen. It may even be worth the price of the ticket.

    The movie itself is quite breathtaking to behold, but its good in a Don Bluth/Dark Crystal movie kind of way – the narrative has solid concepts that just don’t get developed enough and for all the interesting designs there’s a feeling that it isn’t quite weird ENOUGH… The end battle, however, is quite possibly the best directed action scene Snyder has ever done. I’m LOVING how the move to pure animation by live action directors know for stylization (George Miller, Wes Anderson and now Snyder) leads to them finally freeing themselves of the constraints of reality. But again, the narrative is full of quirky characters that don’t really amount to much and a whole lot of undercooked subplots, some of which are just ignored in the third act and feel like they’re part of a larger story from the book series they shoehorned in for fans… Its all the good and bad qualities of Don Bluth movies and The Dark Crystal, and will probably have a cult of animation fans down the road just like those two films.

    Too bad, since the core dynamic between the two brothers and the Obi Wan Kenobi owl is really good. Also too bad that the villains are essentially Darth Vader without the personality and Helen Mirren reprising her Excalibur role minus the hot outfits (I’d think a LITTLE sparkly chainmail fan service would get in there…). Also, why is it that almost no movies have memorable scores or music anymore? There’S a montage with one of the WORST songs I’ve heard in a long time… Even an AMERICAN TALE had “Somewhere out there” and that was over 20 years ago.

    The end battle is, however, the kind of action I wanted from 300. Its big, operatic and dynamic as hell, and despite the aerial combat I had no trouble following what was going on. There is seriously the owl equivalent of the Death Star trench run, with the owl equivalent of “Use the Force” for good measure. I chuckled since its a nice little in joke, but the scene still worked. Hugo Weaving seemed to voice most of the bg owls, so it has that going for it too.

    The Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote short was a pleasant surprise, and brutally violent. I laughed a lot. The gimmicky use of 3D was fun and noticeable, as opposed to the movie itself which lost all the vibrant color I saw when I took off the glasses and (as I said) was too cinematically composed to really feel 3D. I can’t help thinking FANTASTIC MR FOX if it had been 3D would have been the best damn 3d movie ever.

    After the feature I got to explain owl pellets and dissecting them to the wife – high five Boston Museum of Science field trips in elementary school.

    Still, that end title sequence really was something.

  • NC

    Was I the only one that found the main character’s eyes kind of dead?

    • Rebecca

      No, I thought that as well. I think that may have been a factor in the detraction of the personality of the characters overall.

  • Ken Brown

    I took my 6-year old son to see Guardians during the opening weekend. His comment afterwards, “That was a really great movie,” says it all.

    He has just opened his fruit chews before the final act and ended up clutched the empty bag in his fist until the end of the movie.

    For me, a spectacle of absolutely beautiful animation, and the classic Snyder “time slow down” was used to perfection.

  • Erin

    As a parrot owner and bird lover, I squeed everytime some genuine bird behavior was exhibited on screen. Correct owl screeches, clacking, defense postures and discussions about owl biology were a special treat to a bio-nerd like me (though I’m fairly certain owls and other birds aren’t affected by magnets like that, but that was a qualm I had with the original books too).

  • OtherDan

    I went in knowing virtually nothing about the movie. My 4yr old daughter wanted me to take her. I wouldn’t compare it to some of the other CG films mentioned above. I think it was most akin to Happy Feet. I actu-WE ACTUALLY enjoyed the movie. There wasn’t a boring part. Actually, I was surprised how intense the story was. My daughter is not your typical 4yr old girl: she loves T-Rex’s and killer whales. So, she actually wasn’t frightened by what I would equate to a children’s version of Brave Heart-kind of an oxymoron. It was rich visually, and I generally liked the design-especially the armor. So, “Pleasantly Surprised” in a nutshell.

  • I apologise for commenting when I haven’t seen the movie, but I don’t intend to see it and I just wanted to make this point:

    There is no character design in evidence here – or in the utterly insipid Happy Feet. Attempting photoreal is boring, and it’s never likely to be completely flawless, so just me make an appealing cartoon with a good story, thankyouplease.

  • Rebecca Forth

    This movie was… for lack of a better word…MEH. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. My friend I saw it with made a good observation, “It’s like a watered down Lord of the Rings with owls…” Animal Logic nailed the feathers of course, but the intense, photo-realistic CG seemed to take away the childish aspect of the movie. My little brother who is a big fan of the books claims that the story was pretty accurate to the books, but that it wasn’t as fun to watch as he thought it might be. Also, like msny here have said, wwwwaaaaaaaayyy too much slow-motion, it drove me crazy!!!

    Positives? The lighting was well executed throughout the film, I thought. Digger was a cute little owl too, I really liked the animation on him. Also, I really liked the CG Looney tunes short!! I have loved Wile Coyote and the Roadrunner shorts since I was a toddler, and thought that the short did some pretty nice justice to the classic. Was it Chuck Jones material? No, not quite, but the animation was superb, and both characters were translated into 3D swimmingly. If anything I enjoyed the Looney Tunes short far more than the movie!

  • Kyle Remus

    I thoroughly enjoyed the film, probably because this sort of style appeals to me and I like seeing animated films with epic scale. What sold me into seeing it in the first place was the incredible presentation of the tailors. The presentation of “Legend of the Guardians” is absolutely impressive, though it does lack a little depth in the storyline. I feel, story-wise, the film had a lot of potential to go deeper. I haven’t read the books, but an hour and a half isn’t nearly enough time to tell this part of the story completely. Some areas seemed a little rushed for it. There are all sorts of ideas and character relations made of gold, and I would have liked to see a little more depth in that area.

    Though, what I’ve found is that “Legend of the Guardians” is a film you really have to feel, not analyze, in order to appreciate it. Some of the visuals and emotional moments brought me to tears at times. It really is a beautiful movie, in this way especially.