The hero’s journey is a classic. From “The Lord of the Rings” to “Star Wars,” the story of the young, untested kid being forced into an epic journey to find his inner strength and eventually vanquish the gathering forces of evil never gets tired.
That is, if you do it right.
The animated “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” tries to follow that arc as owlet Soren (Jim Sturgess, “21”) is kidnapped from his hollow, escapes from captivity and makes the journey to the mythical Tree of Ga’Hoole to enlist the help of the Guardians.
It seems like it would be easy to follow the usual pattern “ the call to adventure, the refusal, the supernatural helper, the transformation, etc. “ to move Soren along his destined path. However, director Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”) doesn’t seem interested much in making a coherent story.
Soren beings with his jealous, less-talented brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten, TV’s “True Blood”), learning how to fly and playing Guardian. When the sibs dare each other to go flying without parental supervision, they wind up on the ground, where they’re snatched up by roving representatives of the Pure Ones, a group of racist owls led by Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton, “Animal Kingdom”) and his mate, Nyra (Helen Mirren, “Red”).
The Pure Ones are gathering owlets to brainwash to their cause, which seems to be domination of the entire owl world, possibly with a side of ethnic cleansing. Toward this goal, they force their slaves to gather little bits of metal from owl pellets, which, when piled together, create some kind of magnetic field that disorients owl by doing something unclear to their “gizzards.”
Soren escapes, while Kludd embraces the warm fuzzies that come with being part of a fascist collective. Soren escapes with Gylfie (Aussie actress Emily Barclay) and they search for the Guardians, picking up a couple of other owls along the way, and finding Soren’s snake nursemaid, Mrs. Plithiver (Miriam Margolyes, “Happy Feet”). They travel together across the sea until they reach their goal.
Once there, they find that the Guardians are real, and the events that made them famous aren’t really that far in the past. Soren meets his hero, Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”), now a semiretired chronicler. He takes Soren under his wing, so to speak, and mentors him in the art of flying battle.
The look of “Legends” is fantastic, but the story feels disjointed. This is probably because “ like too many movies “ it’s based on a series of novels. This one supposedly covers the first three books. Unless those books are really short, that’s way too much to pack into one movie.
While it’s not a horrible start, if Snyder and company plan to produce sequels, they should spend a little less time making animated bird feathers pop out of the screen and a little more time nailing down the script.