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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’

Take a break from work: watch a trailer…


This must surely rival Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief for the champion Mouthful Title of the Year. (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is now a distant third.)

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something rubs me the wrong way every time I see this trailer. The animation is lovely, but something about the birds is odd. And something about the obvious hero’s-journey structure of the story the trailer is hinting at hits so many of those notes in such a way that it all feels like a it’s supposed to be a joke, a parody.

Is it just me?

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opens in the U.S. and Canada on September 24, and in the U.K. on October 15.



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movie buzz | trailers
  • Drave

    I think what rubs me wrong about the trailer is that the birds are too realistic. It is at odds with the tone of the story. I think a more stylized and less photo-realistic type of owl would suit it better.

    I’m still going to see it, of course. I mean, holy crap. GORGEOUS animation.

  • Rose

    Help, I’m having visions of talking Aussie owls backed by bad soft rock.

  • JoshDM

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something rubs me the wrong way every time I see this trailer.

    What rubs me the wrong way is my originally accidental and subsequently deliberate mispronunciation of “Ga’Hoole” and its various humorous middle school-level applications.

  • Funwithheadlines

    Creeps me out too.

    But it’s also this season’s winner of the trailer-I’ve-seen-too-much. I’m so sick of this trailer I can’t wait for this movie to come out so I never have to see it again until the DVD is released. Marketers, there is such a thing a slogging your product too much.

  • Sarah

    (in a few weeks)

    S: We’re going to see this. It has baby owls in it.

    S’s Boyfriend: But it looks derivative, and the voice casting is distracting, and the soundtrack is ludicrous, and it’s going to be long and overwrought and –

    S: Did I mention the baby owls?

    S’s Boyfriend: …I’ll get my coat.

  • gensing

    What’s the name of that theory that says the closer animation looks to reality the creepier it is when it deviates from it? (something like that, anyway)

    I find the morphed lips/beak combo for the mouths really creepy, but I suppose they wanted to increase the range of facial expression possible.

    I would personally skip it, but would be happy to take someone younger to see it for sure.

  • Steve

    I gotta admit, this one intrigues me. The animation’s *quite* lovely and I wonder if the “owl” twist might put a new spin on the “hero’s journey” fantasy story. Plus I’m a sucker for “fantasy animal societies” (loved Robin Jarvis’s Deptford Mouse trilogy).

    Must admit though that the trailer looks extremely derivative. I want it to be great. It’ll probably be…okay.

    I’m still waiting for an awesome fantasy flick, possibly for younger audiences, that has a *female* main character kick ass.

  • Barb

    I’m not really sure about this one. It was a trailer on a recent Blu-ray release. Nice animation but I keep thinking about Happy Feet for some reason (maybe since it is animal-centric).

  • AL

    What’s the name of that theory that says the closer animation looks to reality the creepier it is when it deviates from it?

    That theory is called the uncanny valley. It was developed specifically regarding depictions of humans, but there is no reason for it not to apply to other animals.

    I don’t find this to be creepy, despite the fact that superimposing human expressions on to the faces owls should be terrifying. If anything it should be deliberately scary. Some horrible animal screeches and natural posturing could really enliven the tired hero’s journey.

  • gensing

    Cheers, AL – I knew someone more knowledgeable than me would be able to answer that!

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    No, I also felt like it was trying too hard. Overly dramatic with a lot of super-slow-mo shots and excessive bloom.

    That said, I’d be squealing with delight over this if I was still in grade school.

  • Isobel

    I thought the animation was absolutely beautiful, and I love owls (even if the barn owls outside my window make the most godawful noise that wakes you up in a panic thinking that someone’s being murdered). I’d probably see this if someone else mentioned it, I’m not averse to a bit of hero saves the day schmaltz.

    @Barb – the trailer said it was made by the same people as Happy Feet, I think?

  • Magess

    I actually find the animation to be the off-putting part. They look too much like real owls. And barn owls have always struck me as terrifyingly odd looking.

  • JT

    Might just see this because Zack Snyder is directing, and his ability to create amazing visuals never fails to astonish me…

    Of course, knowing the polarizing reactions to his past two movies, that may be a turn off to some folks.

  • the rook

    i’m sure talking owls come off all romantic in a text only book. but real owls can actually be quite creepy looking,,,

    http://my.spinsite.com/northgait/uploads/owlsgrown.jpg

  • Orangutan
  • Isobel

    Aw, I dunno. The local wildlife centre has a hand-raised rescued barn owl that will sit on your arm and you can stroke him – he’s very sweet and rather beautiful. Feathers are so soft you can hardly tell that you’re touching him.

    We never complained about lions not being cute enough in Lion King, but in reality they’re pretty frightening when they’re ripping open a zebra!

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Owlformers! Transform and… AAGH!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es52WQKLumI&feature=related

    (Three modes. Owl mode, puff mode, and eeeevil mode.)

  • Ryan H

    I saw the trailer for this in 3D recently and it took my breath away. I think that this might be the first film since Avatar to really justify 3D and use it to enhance the experience. The scene flying through the raindrops was magical. It felt like I could reach out and stroke the feathers in the earlier clips with the owls sitting around and talking in the sunlight.

    My guess is that the story will be forgettable but that the film will justify its existence purely as a visual experience. And that’s OK. There is room for that too in our movie diet.

  • RogerBW

    The thing that struck me as “off” was the feathers immediately between the owls’ eyes – I thought at first it was a rendering error, because it looked so strange…

    Whether or not it’s what was intended, it distracted me from the (admittedly very simplistic) plot hints.

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