Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (review)

I come to you with all honest sincerity and humility to say that I cannot, for the life of me, tell you what the hell this damn movie is about. I’ve been pondering it for several weeks now, and I’m utterly baffled: I can’t remember ever feeling quite this way about a movie before. A bare sketch of the plot cannot begin to convey how the movie utterly fails to register on any level. There’s an owl, Soren (the voice of Jim Sturgess: The Other Boleyn Girl), and he’s a dreamer, as young owls often are, apparently, and he likes to fantasize about the Guardians, who are the rulers of the owls, it seems, and yet are also legends, as in “ineffective because they’re absent,” although then comes the question as to how they became legends. (This seems to be not the best basis for government, though perhaps it’s no worse than what’s going on in Washington at the moment.) And then Soren and his brother are kidnapped by evil owls whom the Guardians are supposed to be keeping in check, a job they have clearly completely failed at, but later the Guardians show up and everyone cheers. There’s something about good and evil, and an attempt to turn “Trust your gizzard” into the new “Use the Force,” which fails, and troubling questions arise, such as: “How do owls do blacksmithing with no hands?” My brain realized, while I was sitting in front of the movie screen getting my brain bombarded with slo-mo owl battles and such, that someone believed there was a story here, but the complete lack of a sense of place or of character — no one seems to be motivated by anything authentic, merely by the fact that they’ve been allotted a good guy or a bad guy slot in the narrative — and absolutely no genuine emotional content whatsoever makes this an experience beyond empty. (The film tries for grandeur, but that requires feeling.) It’s a screensaver, pretty pictures of owls flying around, and nothing else. What the hell was the previously fairly awesome Zack Snyder (Watchmen) thinking?

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