A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 3-D adaptation of Kathryn Lasky's best-selling Legend of the Guardians books is more intense and violent than most animated adventures -- even though the characters are all owls. The movie focuses on the conflict between a group of owls that considers themselves a master race entitled to enslave "lower species" of owls and the Guardians, a hidden group of warriors that fights to defend all owls from evil. With such a heavy plot and many action-packed battle sequences, this isn't age-appropriate for all young children. But kids old enough to read the books and mature enough to handle the themes will benefit from the movie's message that all owls (and therefore people) are worthy, not just those whom one group thinks are better than the rest. Note: The 3-D factor makes many of the movie's battle/fight scenes much more intense.
What's the story?
Based on Kathryn Lasky's fantasy book series, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS follows young Tyto owlet Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess), who loves his father's tales about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a legendary band of warriors that protects the owl kingdom from danger. But his brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), thinks the stories are just silly fantasies. One day the brothers are kidnapped by two menacing owls that take them to the faraway lair of Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton), the "Pure One" who believes that the Tyto owls are supreme to all other owl species. Soren and his new elf-owl friend, Gylfie (Emily Barclay), are taught how to fly by a resistance-fighting owl who tells them that the Guardians are real and that Soren and Gylfie must warn them about Metalbeak's plans to rule the owl kingdom. With help from Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia), a "warrior-poet" Great Gray Owl; Digger (David Wenham), a jittery Burrowing Owl; and Mrs. P. (Miriam Margolyes), the friends fly to the Tree of Ga'Hoole to train and eventually fight as Guardians.
Is it any good?
The collaboration between director Zack Snyder and Animal Logic, the Australian effects and animation company responsible for Happy Feet, has yielded a visually stunning animated film. Despite featuring animal characters, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS will appeal to tweens and teens. With many 3-D movies, the glasses feel like an unnecessary accessory, but here the technology is used artistically and imaginatively. The extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots are impressive, as are the intense moments that focus on a single feather, an eye, a claw. It's stylized action reminiscent of Snyder's 300 -- without all the blood and gore.
Soren's story is compelling and original -- even as it will remind you of many other heroes' journeys. There are so many layers to the plot -- from sibling rivalry (Kladd stays behind) to hero worship (Geoffrey Rush plays the wise legendary warrior that Soren idolizes) to family loyalty to political intrigue. It's obvious from the movie's ending that the filmmakers would love to make more films in the series, which is always a gamble -- but this story is in-depth enough and the visuals so captivating that it wouldn't be unwelcome.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's overall message about owl equality. How does that translate into human culture? Is it ever right for a group to decide that they should be served by others?
How does the movie's violence compare to that in other animated movies you've seen? Is it more or less scary because the characters are animals? Why?
For kids who've read the books, how does the movie compare? Were the changes understandable, or did they impact how much you enjoyed the movie?
- In theaters: September 24, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 2010
- Cast: Abbie Cornish, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten
- Director: Zack Snyder
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some sequences of scary action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.