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Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'hoole

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Legend of the Guardians (2010) still
> Interview: Zack Snyder

A delight to watch from behind 3D goggles, it's a highly entertaining animated adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Alas, this description refers to the three-minute Road Runner cartoon that's being shown before the main feature. Once poor Wile E. Coyote is finally thwarted and his avian nemesis lets out his last 'meep meep', it's downhill all the way. For 300 director Zack Snyder has done it again - creating a movie that is initially visually arresting but quickly seeps into an incomprehensible storytelling mess.

Instead of Spartans though, it's CGI owls that serve as mere fodder for Snyder's desire to conjure up a barrage of stylish slow-mo images with iconic pretensions. The convoluted and ill-conceived plot involves a cute young owl called Soren, who becomes entangled in a battle to save his brethren from a vicious faction of his own species intent on racial purity. Beyond that, it's fairly hard to describe what happens, as the narrative constantly shifts location and routinely introduces hordes of new nondescript supporting characters that soon flap off into the sky, having made minimal impact. By the time that climactic battle sequence arrives, you'll certainly be wishing you were dining in hell - wolfing down owl fritters.

The first portion of the movie does bear a sustained stream of spectacle that utilises the 3D format well, before both novelty and interest levels subside. The visual rendering of the owls is striking, with their swooping flights into the nightmarish skies and tempestuous seas utterly captivating. However, the eye candy on offer also proves to be a major distraction from the torrent of tedious backstory and plot developments that the beaks bombard us with. Many have lampooned Avatar for the simplicity of its story, but it managed to harness the plot and imagery without either overshadowing each other.

For a purported family film, the tone is perhaps too akin to the horror genre for the little 'uns to enjoy. On this front, it does help that it's hard to find the plight of such poorly-conveyed protagonists upsetting. As for the voice artistes, none of them make their mark - not even the regal Helen Mirren as the villainous Nyra.

It's a shame that the painstaking work of the CGI animators was ultimately doomed to failure by the script. If only the same amount of time was spent on refining the story into a palatable proposition, as was clearly devoted to Snyder's meticulous shot composition. There's clearly a lesson to be learned from the coherent marvels of Road Runner.


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