Beauty meets beasts
After making his name with such hyper-violent entries as the remake of Dawn of the Dead, 300 and The Watchmen, director Zack Snyder seems at first an odd choice to helm an animated kiddie film about owls. Then again, the latter two of those films were pretty much cartoons anyway. But with his eye for stylized mayhem and a crack team of animators (the folks of the Animal Logic CGI studio, those of the Happy Feet), Snyder does a slam-bang job of bringing the first three books of Kathryn Lasky’s popular children’s series to virtual life. Damn near literally, with some very impressive animation, particularly with the eyes and facial expressions, that conveys the emotions of the feathered characters.
In fact, it’s pretty sad that we’re getting more expressiveness from cartoons these days than from the botoxed ciphers who pass as actors.
Too bad there’s not really a story to back up the visuals. Here we have a young owl from the boonies who is swept up in a longstanding feud between the forces of good and evil, mentored by a scarred veteran of the last epic battle, who is led to master an unsuspected inner power he must use to sweep in at the last minute and take the team to victory. Yep, it’s pretty much nothing more or less than Star Wars with owls. No heavy lifting here with the narrative.
But then, I suppose that isn’t really a concern with a kids’ film. What may be a concern for some parents, however, is the dark nature of the proceedings. Taking a note from nature, it is pretty brutal. Feathers fly and owls die. But also like nature, it’s very beautiful at times, as Snyder’s scenic palette dips alternately between the pastoral hues of Maxfield Parrish and hellish furnaces of Hieronymus Bosch. And this was the 2-D version; it could be even more impressive in 3-D