[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=5513&w=l[/img]Title: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, Anthony LaPaglia, David Wenham, Hugo Weaving
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: John Orloff (Screenplay), Emil Stern (screenplay), Kathryn Lasky (novel)
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 101 min
Release Date: 12/17/2010 (Blu-Ray)
Soren is a young owl who daydreams his way through life, constantly wishing he was one of the heroes in his father's stories. Soren's father tells him about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a clan of owls who fight to protect the weak, mend the broken and vanquish evil. Soren wants nothing more than to grow up and be like his hero, Lyze of Kiel who won the battle of the ice claws against the nemesis of all owls, Metalbeak. Soren and his sister Eglantine are ushered off to bed by their nursemaid Mrs. P (a snake) but shortly thereafter Soren and his brother Kludd decide to try to fly some more. When Kludd becomes jealous of Soren he swats him in the back, causing both of them to tumble to the forest floor. Unable to get off the forest floor, the two brothers are attacked by a Tasmanian devil who almost kills Soren before they are snatched up by two large owls named Spoorn and Grimble. Soren and Kludd are taken to St. Aegolius and informed that they are now orphans and that they must serve the "pure ones" a group of fascist Tyto owls who are believe all other owls are inferior.
Shortly after being captured, Soren stands up for a small desert owl named Gylfie and as a result the two are sent to become pickers, tasked with sorting through the coughed up waste of other owls to search for fragments of metal. Soren's brother Kludd refuses to stand up for Soren and is taken in by the queen of the pure ones to be groomed as a soldier.
When Soren and Gylfie reach the pit where they are expected to work the young owlets are told to go to sleep whilst staring at the moon. Gylfie warns Soren not to do this, explaining that owls who do this become "moonblinked" and forget who they are. Soren and Gylfie pretend to stare at the moon but manage to avoid being moonblinked. The next day when they are attempting to work, one of their captors named 'Grimble' takes Soren and Gylfie into a cavern, and informs them that he is not actually a villain. He plans to teach them to fly so they can escape and reach the Guardians.
After what appear to be several days of lessons, Soren and Gylfie are able to use their wings to much greater effect. When they are in the midst of a lesson Grimble starts to explain what happened to his family and why he is now forced to work for the pure ones. At that very moment the queen and Kludd enter the chamber. Grimble warns Soren and Gylfie to flee and locks himself into combat with the queen. Soren stands at the ledge and begs Kludd to come with him. When Kludd refuses Soren and Gylfie are forced to fly for their lives as soldiers of the pure ones pursue them. After an exhausting flight Soren and Gylfie land to find a place to rest, where they are greeted by a peculiar owl named Digger, who as his name implies is a burrowing owl, likes to dig holes.
Digger brings Gylfie and Soren into his hollow where they begin to relax as a great gray owl named Twilight lands, holding Soren's nursemaid Mrs. P in his break, proclaiming in a loud voice that dinner is served. Twilight and digger are the comedic relief in the film and do a great job lightening the mood. With Twilight's help, the band sets off toward the sea, in the hope of finding the Guardians. After an exhausting flight the band of owls is trapped in a ferocious ocean storm as they struggle against wind and snow. Digger begins to lose altitude and falls, spiraling toward the ocean. Soren dives to try and catch Digger but all he finds are waves - as Soren is about to turn around a Guardian rises from behind a trough of water, carrying Digger in her massive talons.
The Guardians take Soren and his friends to the Ga'Hoole tree, where they relate their tale to the ruling council. The King orders one of his trusted lieutenants, Lord Allomere, to take two of his best owls and confirm what Soren has told them. Allomere and his owls depart immediately and Soren is left to begin his training to one day become a Guardian.
Some time later Allomere returns alone, injured and holding two owlets. He advises the King of Ga'Hoole to attack with full force. The King accedes to his request and the Guardians leave for war. Soren discovers that one of the recovered owlets is his sister, Eglantine, kidnapped and then moonblinked. Despite great odds, Eglantine recovers and tells Soren that the owl who rescued her didn't save her, she was given to him freely. Soren suddenly realizes that the Guardians have been betrayed by one of their own and are flying into a trap. Soren and his friends must leave immediately and show more bravery than ever before if they are to save the Guardians of Ga'Hoole.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is rated PG for sequences of animated violence. While there are deaths among the villains in the film this is never shown, only the combat sequences themselves.
The 1080p AVC encode used to present Legend of the Guardians is a joy to watch, from start to finish. From the time I first saw the film in theaters I have been eagerly awaiting the Blu-Ray. The CGI in the film is spectacular and from the start I expected great things from this release. Thankfully, I was not disappointed in the slightest. This is yet another animated presentation that pushes the envelope of what we as viewers can expect from the format. The finely textured feathers of the owls throughout the film are superbly rendered and contain an impossible amount of detail. From starry night skies to blowing rain and waves, every environment and object in this film is a feast for the eyes.
The luminous eyes of the owls are a sight to behold with realistic reflections and gorgeous pigmentation. The color palette starts off in sepia and brown shades but as the film progresses the colors become more vibrant, further enhancing this gorgeous visual presentation. Blacks from start to finish are near infinite and combine with beautiful lighting and shadow effects to create a lavish and engaging picture that I could not take my eyes off of. Make no mistake, this is in every way a reference quality transfer, and in combination with the most impressive animated CGI I have ever seen outside Avatar this film is a must-see for videophiles.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack presented with Legend of the Guardians is a fine match to such a fantastical adventure. From the first frame sound effects are richly textured and engaging, whether it is the sound of an owl whispering through the night air or a metal clad talon clasping a rock shelf, every element of the sound design is perfectly placed and startlingly realistic. I was pleasantly surprised by the regular and authoritative use of the LFE channel to reinforce the sound stage throughout the film with the low-frequency effects being used for tasks as subtle as air being beaten by an owls wings. In a film that has plenty of dialogue it is important for the presentation to be as clear and uncolored as possible, and in this case character voices had a richness and authentic timbre that took me by surprise. As a big fan of Hugo Weaving's voice acting, when the film opened to a scene where Soren's father Noctus (Weaving) speaks to him I was immediately enthralled by how beautifully the full range of Weaving's baritone monologue was conveyed. This is a reference audio presentation that matches exceedingly well with the lavish picture.
[HD]Maximum Kid Mode (96 min): Soren is your guide through this journey into the exciting world of owls. Discover secrets about the movie, meet the gifted actors who bring your owl buddies to life, and uncover exciting real-life stories about the entire owl kingdom.
[HD]True Guardians of the Earth (15 min): Digger and "Modern Family's" Rico Rodriguez host this fascinating look into the world of owls and their unique environment.
- Armor Up with Soren & Eglantine - Help Soren and Eglantine dress for their next imagination inspired story with this interactive costume creator.
- Match the Owl Treats - Match all the owls favorite snacks in this fun and fast-paced interactive matching challenge
[HD]Artwork Galleries: Four concept art galleries -- "Soren & Friends," "The Locations," "Villains of St. Aegolius" and "The Guardians".
[HD]Music Video (4 min): Owl City's Adam Young performs "To the Sky."
DVD version of Legend of the Guardians [SD]
Legend of the Guardians is a beautifully told tale with an incredible story spanning 3 novels. While the film does thoroughly engage the viewer, it is obvious at times that a lot of material is being compressed into a 97 minute movie, which results in a somewhat complex plot with many characters to keep track of. That complaint aside, a story depicted as beautifully as this one is hard to complain about. The story is family friendly and kid safe, and though young children may be confused at times, I'm sure they'll be so busy staring at the cute owls that they will soon forget any confusion in favor of squeals of delight.
As a candidate for your Blu-Ray collection this film appeals to several audiences. For families with children this is a no-brainer, as it is combines the best technical aspects of the Blu-Ray format with a fun, and engaging story that is safe for the entire family. For the discerning AV enthusiast this is also a no brainer, whether you care for the story or not, this is soon to be another disk you frequently pull out as demo material. Though not a crowing achievement in film-making or story telling, director Zack Snyder's first foray into animated film-making is an impressive showing and I highly recommend a viewing to anyone who doesn't mind an innocent and kid-oriented story.