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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Owls? Really?

I don’t know who makes the financial decisions at movie studios these days, but I suspect some head is going to roll over this one.

Not that there’s anything wrong with adapting Kathryn Lasky’s series of books, which essentially recasts the Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings genre for kids aged nine through 12 and populates it with anthropomorphic owls. I don’t know if the books are any good, but there are 15 of them, so someone has to be reading them.

But those readers are presumably between the ages of nine and 12, a demographic that has not previously been the turf of Zack Snyder. Maybe whoever green-lit this computer-animated 3D movie assumed that the director of Watchmen, 300, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead wanted to expand his range.

Never assume. If Snyder meant this movie to appeal to the core audience of the books, he failed. It’s too dark, portentous, and violent. But if he thought these stories had the basis for a tale that would engage older audiences, he was just as wrong. The visuals are swell, predictably—all that takes is spending enough money on the computer guys—but the story is yawningly familiar from generations of fantasy fiction. There’s this tribe of fascistic evil owls—the “Pure Ones”—who are planning to take over the, um, owliverse with the help of slave labor and advanced weaponry. (That any weaponry is an advancement for birds is something you’re not supposed to dwell on.) Our young heroes fall into their clutches, escape and plead for help to the Guardians, a semi-mythical council of owls who watch to protect…

Oh, I feel silly even trying to describe it. For all I know there are a legion of college freshmen who grew up on these books and will flock to see this. But to anyone not already invested in the story, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is as unpalatable as its clunky title.

—m. faust

Watch the trailer for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

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