Rated PG for some sequences of scary action.
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Written By: John Orloff and Emil Stern
Staring: Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, David Wenham, Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Essie Davis, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Helen Mirren, Barry Otto, Miriam Margoyles, and Richard Roxsburgh
When one thinks of Zack Snyder they think of Dawn Of The Dead, 300, and Watchmen. All are visually stunning films, but also films extremely adult oriented, so one wonders how exactly he’ll handle a family animated film about flying owls. The film wasn’t a fully successful on many levels, but the touches of Snyder were more than evident throughout even though his art clearly suffered the interference of outside sources that made Guardians feel like it was constantly struggling to find it’s niche. Was it an animated action epic or another piece of “G” rated repetition lacking original thought or execution? A little bit of both.
The mood is dark and without restraint initially. The tension between the characters lays a prelude to the continuing story, but the darkness is illuminated by a glimmer of light and hope personified through the main character Soren, a young Owl who lives for the stories of “The Guardians”, told by his father to himself and fellow fledglings. The Guardians were a supposed ancient group of Owl protectors that once fought against another not so friendly Owl clan that threatened their freedom and glory. These tales were more than stories to Soren, but to his less than enthused brother Kludd, a source of irritation. Soren’s obsession is fueled by his natural ability to fly and motivation to succeed as a growing owl, while for Kludd the most basic attempts are a constant struggle. His parents, little sister, and the strange caregiver snake seem to support both young Owl’s and encourage them, yet one the tension between the twobrothers is tangible. In the midst of the discovering more about Soren and Kludd, they become captured by evil Owl’s and taken to a dark and forbidden mountain seemingly doomed with sadness and depression. Soren rebels against his takers, while his brothers accepts their offers to join them. They are separated and the film begins it’s true design of showing how two brothers from the same family become very different people, not because of who they are, but who they choose to be.
Throughout Soren’s epic journey he takes on a group of comrade’s, and this was a place where the story itself was very successful. With a plethora of characters to acclimate to, not to mention the constant wonder of recognizable British accent and trying to play pin the tail, all those new characters weren’t thrown in without the sake of knowing them well enough. Some of the secondary ones could have been given more time to develop and their roles would have seemed more important at climatic points, but it was generally successful. At least our main group was well developed and given ample time to define their roles in the journey, but most importantly we really got to understand Soren and his brother Kludd.
Where the story was at it’s best was in the world of animation. It’s seldom any love of 3D is given from me, and for it I opted to see the 2D version (also because I was joined by my five year old that is anti-glass wearing), but instead of lukewarm affection from me, I feel I would have been utterly blown away as the 3D was rumored to be in the style of Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon. I may have missed the boat on this one and been completely lost in the beautiful excitement of this world in the sky in which these owls existed. Even so the 2D was thoroughly impressive, and as Zack Snyder always delivers, visually the film was intoxicating. The darkness and the beauty were all textured with realism, and a world quite different than anything I’ve felt or seen in any other movie, except maybe nuances of Snyder’s other films. His touch is evident, and the final delivery exceeded all hopes.
What was terribly distracting and off-setting were the moments where Snyder’s touch and input were clearly compromised. Some of the comic moments felt forced, as though they HAD to be there, because kids movies have to be quirky and silly and maintain a constant level of slapstick humor. This kind of gimmick was ignored through the majority of the story, so when it did show up, it felt almost out of place. The score was haunting and mystical and yet in the middle of the movie there is a song full of lyrics playing and we are distracted by some Curious George moment where the owls and flying and enjoying themselves happily. Not only does it absolutely crush the sense of impending doom and tension building to the climax, it excerpts from everything the film has thus far established. It was difficult to re-acclimate to the intensity that immediately followed afterwords. The finale was a beautiful mix of great character moments, action, crisp animation, and an ending that wasn’t all one neat and tied up bow. The redemption of the finale left the film as it should have been.
Guardians wasn’t constructed to be a typical kids movie. It wasn’t meant to make five year olds laugh or ten year olds think it was cool. It was a real story, with real characters, telling a tale in a far darker tone than Hollywood delivers anymore. If Snyder had been left to do exactly as he pleased, and I had the opportunity to see the 3D version, this film could have been one of the more “exemplary” films of 2010, but it missed the mark in too many spots to warrant even much excitement for a possible sequel in the future. Guardians is for an older audience that can appreciate the somber mood, and should be seen with those silly expensive glasses.