Epic battles and coming of age tales of adventure filled with heroes and villains fill the stories we tell our kids all the time. Whether we are telling a tale of Cinderella overcoming her evil stepmother or we talk of David slaying Goliath, we love to rally around the stories of ancient lore. Director Zack Snyder tries to bring about re-birth to a popular series of books, The Legend of the Guardians. But as I watched this film I wrestled with one re-occurring theme- I simply didn’t know who this movie was for.
Zack Snyder is not exactly the first person you would think of directing a kids flick about flying and fighting hero owls. After all, Snyder’s previous directing credits come in the form of the Frank Miller’s 300 big screen adaptation as well as 2004’s Dawn of the Dead and the R rated graphic novel adaptation of Watchmen. Snyder has a knack for being attached to film that aren’t exceptionally bright and cheery, and yet they put him in charge of a series about dueling owls. Should one really be surprised when this film turns out to be darker and more pretentious than any “family” film should be?
From start to finish, Guardians sticks to a frightful and violent enough plot that it will have little ones shaking in their pajamas at night. With an evil over lord enslaving young owls, its up to a young owl and ancient clan of owls known as the guardians to gear up for battle and defeat him. Thus a battle ensue with owls that donned in razor sharp talon swords in a grueling fight to the finish. The film is heavy on thematic elements and owl death and I can’t seem to find it being suitable for most kids who would enjoy this type of animated flick. Sure we pull away from the shots of impalement and graphic owl death, but it doesn’t take much to use your imagination and visualize it.
Visually Snyder wants to give you a 3-D world of owl wonder but the whole universe looks and feels like a dark, dreary video game that has sub-par graphics. His CGI world looks flat and boring despite the film’s best efforts. With it’s dark and dreary landscape the film’s sound track enhances the dark, dreary tone of the film except for a bizarre song by Owl City that is upbeat and peppy enough that you would think LFO had come back from the dead to perform. (Owl City song in video on left, LFO on the right…similar if I say so myself) I’m not too familiar with Owl City, but they did play their song in the movie’s Owl City and it really felt like a jolt out of place. The song felt forced, as if Snyder hoped for a “best song” nomination in his pretentious owl flick.
Characters had names that were confusing and unrecognizable. I’m not even going to attempt to name them, because the spellings and pronunciations are so different it would be a waste of breath. I felt as though I was watching a 90 minute mash up of Lord of the Rings with owls- except this film was just plain bad and directed by someone who thinks he is God’s gift to directing. The problem is like all Snyder films, Guardians reeks of a snobbish aspiration that only the films of Snyder could provide. You can almost tell Snyder thought he could take this little film and make it into some epic groundbreaking masterpiece, yet wound up with another Watchmen-like pretentious pile in the process. (Sorry Watchmen fans, but that film sucks)
My biggest question as the credit rolled was who was this film for? Snyder’s “violent” and “dark” tendencies definitely showed through in the film, and Warner Brothers as a studio should not be surprised by this at all. Marketed as a happy family film about owls, it was dark, frightful and violent- totally different than what was suggested by the studios. The wee ones will be frightened by it, and there was really nothing ground breaking or revolutionary for the adults to flock to theaters or rental shelves to check out either. Teens won’t flock to animated features about fighting owls; that is not going to score you any cool points. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoole really is a movie that was meant for….Ga-Who? Your guess is as good as mine.