Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga'Hoole

Legend of the Guardians, the Owls of Ga'Hoole.

Me: I don't like birds. I mean, I don't have such visceral feelings against them that I would say that I hate them, but I am not fond of them. I'm not frightened or skeeved out by them; they just kind of annoy the piss out of me. Sure, blah blah, majestic and flight, blah blah. I get it, but they still annoy me. I'm not sure where it comes from, but really birds don't have a great cultural background in literature and movies. I mean, the Eagles in the Hobbit and Return of the King are just deus ex machina, the crows in Dumbo are racist stereotypes, Woody Woodpecker is a douche, Daffy and Donald are both short-fused asshole foils for their counterparts, and Heckle and Jeckle are some kind of incestuous gay magpies - or maybe they are, I've never quite figured out their relationship. And even Foghorn Leghorn, who is portrayed as the protagonist in most cartoons, is really the instigator in each situation and Jonathan Livingston Seagull is just a Taoist propaganda seagull whose nonconformity ultimately becomes the new conformity at the end of the book as he returns to find all of the outlawed nonconformist seagulls and teaches them to be just like him.

So that is what this movie had going against it with me when I took Molly to see it. But this is the time of year when kids movies stink. It's the time of year when the choices are rather limited. It's the time of year after the summer releases, but before the Thanksgiving and Christmas releases. It's the time of year when you try to get grandmom and pop-pop take your kids to the movies. But Jessica is out of town for the night, so I let Molly pick what we did.

The movie is about a pair of owl brothers who are captured by these evil owls who want to control the owl kingdoms and have some weird, unexplained magic...  or possible magnetic... device that can ground owls because of some metal flecks that they find. Anyhow, one of the brothers escapes and finds the Guardians who are legendary owls that are good guys. The other brother, however, remains with the bad owls (or "Pure Ones" - feel free to connect the really huge obvious dot for the "Master Race" analogy) and embraces their ideology and becomes one of them.

Oh, and in battle the owls wear armor. You may think that this is weird (as I did), but they later point out that some owls excel at and are trained to be blacksmiths.  Yeah... I wasn't exactly content with that gloss over myself and would have thought that a much more interesting movie would have been about the first owl who created a forge and became a smithy. Let alone all of this is rather odd when you consider that wearing metal helmets would probably be a little unwieldy  and heavy in flight for the owls.

Anyhow, the good owl brother escapes and finds a Misfit Band of Friends (TM) and ventures off to warn the Guardians. Along the way he, he finds his inner strength and his potential at being a leader and friend. Blah, blah, blah. Standard story. However, there are a couple of things worth noting about the movie.

First of all, I have no clue how much time passed in the movie. I mean, passage of time just seemed this abstract thing. The movie was 90 minutes long, so I suppose that at least 90 minutes must have passed in the story. Probably more time, but I couldn't tell you if the story they told took place over 90 minutes, 90 hours, 90 days, 90 weeks or 90 months.

Next, I have to say that for all of the computer animated movies I have seen, this one is by far the most technically beautiful. The detail is absolutely stunning and so incredibly real looking that it is amazing. It's just a shame that they took that level of intense detail and wasted it on a movie about birds.

And finally the battle scenes were fucking intense for a kid's movie billed as being "from the makers of 'Happy Feet'".  The battles in the movie would cut to super-slow motion scenes of where metal-bladed weapons used by the owls would come perilously close to decapitating another owl, but he ducks and rolls just as the blade cuts above his head. Honestly, the owl battle scenes looked like the battle scenes from 300. Then during the end credits I noticed the director: Zack Snyder, who directed 300 and Watchmen. The battles are just as intense as they are in either of those movies, but you don't see the blood flowing. But instead, you get implied gore and death, such as an owl battle helmet bouncing on the ground after a razor attack, implying, instead of overtly showing, decapitation.

Molly: (As usual, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we speak, then I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in a Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting on next to my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Legend of the Guardians?
Molly: Well, I liked when the eyes was white.

Chuckie: Which eyes?
Molly: I mean, the white eyes on the owls. When they looked at the moon.

Chuckie: What was the movie about?
Molly: Um, owls.

Chuckie: Well, yes, but what about them, Pixie?
Molly: Well, they scratched each other.

Chuckie: Why did they do that?
Molly: Because one of them was bad and he was trying to get the other ones gone.

Chuckie: I thought that the slow-motion battle scenes were a little over-the-top for a kid's movie. What did you think?
Molly: Um, I don't know about that.

Chuckie: Alright, fair enough, but I also thought that the battle scenes were a little intense for a movie billed as "from the people who gave you 'Happy Feet'". Did you think that the movie was mismarketed as well?
Molly: Um, no.

Chuckie: So, you think that the movie should get the Happy Feet market crowd as well?
Molly: Yes, Daddy. I have happy feet too.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie?
Molly: Well, my favorite part was where they singed together.

Chuckie: Was there anything that you didn't like about the movie?
Molly: Um, yes.
Chuckie: What?
Molly: Where the two guys fighted.

Chuckie: There was a lot of fighting in the movie, Pixie.
Molly: Yeah, but when the one fighted the other one in the fire and he fell in and was like "AAAAAH!" and I was like, "You have wings! Fly! Duh!"

Chuckie: Good point.
Molly: Thank you, Daddy.

Chuckie: Do you think that the fighting was too scary for younger kids.
Molly: Um, no. Not for me, it wasn't.

Chuckie: What ages do you think the movie was for?
Molly: Um, four year olds.

Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because I watched it and look at me. No nightmares, Daddy.

Chuckie: Fair enough. The movie was in 3-D, but you didn't want to wear your glasses. Why not?
Molly: Because it would be scary to me.

Chuckie: What would, Sweetie?
Molly: When I put my glasses on and everything would come out of the movie and into my eyes and take me over and control me and then I'd have white eyes too.

Chuckie: (laughing)
Molly: I'm serious, Daddy. That would really happen.

Chuckie: Okay, okay. So, how would you rate the movie, Pixie?
Molly: You mean give it stars and moons and suns?

Chuckie: You can rate it however you like.
Molly: Okay, then, um... sixteen and twenty one stars.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Um, Daddy, I don't know. Because sometimes I make the wrong choices.
Chuckie: What do you mean?
Molly: Because sometimes I make the wrong review of the stars and moons and suns and give it the wrong number.

Chuckie: That's okay, Sweetie.
Molly: Okay. Then sixteen and a hundred and thirteen moons.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of two, Daddy.

Chuckie: And suns?
Molly: A hundred and one out of one.

Chuckie: Do you think that people would like this movie?
Molly: Um, yes. Excellent question, by the way, Daddy.

Chuckie: Um, thank you.
Molly: You're welcome.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like this movie?
Molly: Well, I think Eva would, but she really likes horses so she can pretend that the owls are horses then she'll really like the movie better.

Chuckie: Anything else you want to say about the movie, Pixie?
Molly: They should see it because it's a fun movie and it's great.

So, that's our review. I thought that the movie was visually stunning and an amazing demonstration of what computer animation can look like. However, the story fell short on many levels from taking the cliché route, to failing to flesh out characters to even explaining what the hell was going on and how much friggin' time passed in the movie.

I give it one and a half out of five stars. The computer animation is gorgeous, but ultimately I don't know where it will satisfy an audience. If you are really into owls, the owls look real, but ultimately don't act like owls because they have a blacksmith and forge weapons and armor for war. If you really love amazing battle scenes, well, the battles are epic, but it's hard to get past the fact that it is just a bunch of owls fighting. Ultimately this movie will probably only really satisfy a niche audience of people who love both owls and war equally.
Molly gives it sixteen and twenty one stars, sixteen and a hundred and thirteen moons out of two and a hundred and one out of one suns. She also thinks that the movie can be improved upon by just pretending that the characters in the movie are something other than owls if you happen to like something else more. I wish that I had thought of that before watching it.

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