Animal Logic, the digital-effects studio responsible for both dancing penguin phenomenon Happy Feet and Zack Snyder phenomenon 300, creates more anatomically accurate anthropomorphic protagonists and expressionistic landscape panoramas in Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Directed by Snyder and based on Kathryn Lasky's children's books, Legend of the Guardians involves the coming of age of a unique young bird during an adventurous quest across foreign lands, a classical heroic odyssey that boasts a spirit similar to that of The Secret of N.I.M.H., and is enhanced by sumptuous 3-D CGI that would make Pixar blush. Championing the vital importance of storytelling, this mythological fable centers on dreamer Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess), who, after escaping forced servitude to villainous deposed king Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton), endeavors to locate, and then join in battle, his legendary owl idols the Guardians of Ga'Hoole. Issues of faith, courage, loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal (the last perpetrated by Soren's brother) are all tackled by Snyder. Though the aerial skirmishes can't quite match Feet's buoyant song-and-dance mashups, the film's aesthetically stunning, muscular action and celebration of the natural world's fantastic majesty proves an ideal showcase for the 300 and Watchmen auteur's trademark stop-and-count-the-feathers slow motion.
Not screened in time for critics:
• You Again