Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V –1; L-3; S-7;N-1. Running time: 1 hour 31 min.

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day
whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors
served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the
Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and
my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all.
He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 34:19-22

Two little brother owls are carried away to become either a slave of or a soldier for the Pure Ones.

2010 Warner Brothers

I have not read any of the 15-volume series by children’s author Kathryn Lasky in which owls are the he roes and villains, but after seeing the thrilling film based on the first three books of the series, I could wish myself back to that magical period of childhood again. Director Zack Snyder and screenwriters John Orloff and Emil Stern have lovingly adapted the story of a fantasy world ruled by owls, and this time the use of 3-D is definitely warranted, helping to envelop us in a wondrous world of forested mountains and majestic clouds. The flying sequences are equal to those in Avatar, and almost as good as the one at the beginning of the animated A Christmas Carol.

Young Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) loves listening to his father’s stories of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole and how they once saved the world from domination by the evil Pure Ones. His older brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), jealous of Soren’s close relationship with their father, scoffs at them. When the two argue and fight one night while their parents are out hunting, they fall out of the nest, and, with their immature wings are unable to fly back up into the tree. A fierce wolf is about to make them his supper when two huge owls swoop down, seize the owls, and rise up high into the sky.

Their captors are members of the Pure Ones, an evil band whose leaders are out to conquer the world of owls. Deposited far from home in the land of the Pure Ones, the brothers are told that they will be either soldiers or slaves. Kludd, of course, wants to be a soldier because he admires the Pure One’s philosophy that the strong must rule the weak. Soren and his new friend Gylfie (Emile Barclay) become slaves, but then escape with the help of a guard named Grimble (Hugo Weaving), who has befriended the young captives.

Soren and Gylfie set off on the long journey to the legendary city of Ga’Hoole and the Great Tree, where the old warrior Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush) will train Soren in the art of war. The last half of the film is taken up with the brutal battle between the Guardians and the Pure Ones, with Soren, at first told to stand back from the fray because of his youth and inexperience, playing an important part in saving the day.

The plot is familiar, but the spectacular animation is very good, along with the voice talents of such Australian and British actors as, Hugo Weaving, Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Sam Neill, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, and Jim Sturgess. Adults will see the parallels of the Pure Ones with the Nazis, with their desire to breed a “pure race,” the use of slave labor, and their worship of power. The film’s closing statement about “mending the broken, making strong the weak, and vanquishing evil” has a Biblical ring that all can applaud. Although the first grader who sat next to me with his grandmother loved the film, parents should be forewarned that the battle scenes, though not as graphic as some films, are very violent, the ethic of this film being more Old than New Testament.

For Reflection/Discussion

May contain spoilers.

1. Compare the two brothers Soren and Kludd. How has the writer given us a clue to their natures by their names? What other films or stories can you think of in which two brothers are so different? (Adults might think of East of Eden.)

2. How does Kludd’s choice about whom he will serve lead to his fate later in the film? Compare that scene amidst the fire with the ones concerning the fate of the villains in The Lion King and its sequel.

3. How is this more an “Old Testament” than a “New Testament” film? And yet it does not glorify war, either—what does the old warrior say to Soren about warfare?

4. Besides the Nazis what others have held the belief, “The strong shall rule the weak” ?

5. The following is not an exact quote, but nonetheless how does it resonate with the Scriptures (such as Luke 4:16-19), and even with Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address? “To mend the broken, to make strong the weak, and to vanquish evil.”