Tonight, Warner Brothers and director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) welcomed members of the press to the studio’s lot for a screening of new footage from Snyder’s first animated film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole which features the voices of Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, and David Wenham. For those new to the program, the film is based upon “Guardians of Ga’Hoole,” the series of children’s fantasy books written by author Kathryn Lasky. The story revolves around brothers Soren (Sturgess) and Kludd (Kwanten) as the two take opposite paths when a fall from their treetop home results in their being captured by a collection of evil owls known as the Pure Ones.
In case you’re not completely sold on an animated owl adventure from the ultra-stylized Snyder, I might suggest easing your inhibitions. To be concise, the footage of the film screened tonight looked incredible. That said, for a general breakdown of the footage shown tonight, hit the jump. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opens in beautiful 3D (no sales pitch here, it truly is incredible to look at) on September 24th.
The screening began with a visibly enthusiastic Snyder introducing the characters and giving some anecdotes on the project itself. For example, he jokingly mentioned how the family-friendly Guardians was a logical step in his career given his previous, ultra-violent, directorial efforts. He also discussed how the opportunity to explore the hero archetype present in the film was a major reason why he and his producer wife Deborah were initially attracted to the idea. At this point, I feel compelled to point out that, regardless of how you feel about the guy’s films, Snyder has a sincere and genuine appreciation for the art of filmmaking that you have to respect.
Now, onto the footage. Opening with the trailer which appeared last month and closing with a montage of previously seen images, five separate sequences from the film were screened in between (a total of approx. 10-12 minutes). As best I can remember from my notes/memory, below is a brief overview of each:
Boasting a gorgeous forest landscape, the scene features brother owls Soren and Kludd learning to fly via “branching” (a joking Snyder pointed out that this is the actual term used by owls). Jumping from branch to branch, trying to get their wings beneath them, the pair eventually fall to the ground. The attention to detail that is visible via the 3D technology, both in the animals themselves as well as the environment they inhabit, is impressive to say the least.
I’ll refer to this as the owl chase sequence. As Soren attempts to escape an increasingly dangerous situation, he is literally forced to the end of his landscape…and the view is daunting. The amount of action and style present here is both visually intriguing and undeniably stylized to Snyder’s specifications. As he often does, slow-motion and the sudden absence of sound is employed as an effective tension-building device.
A more comedic sequence than its predecessors, here Soren and his ally Gylfie meet up with an eccentric owl named Digger. The most notable aspect to be derived from this is that the action/adventure film, while likely aimed at kids older than the Cars demographic, also utilizes elements of comedy that younger audiences will enjoy as well.
A beautifully rendered snowstorm encompasses Soren and others as they struggle to navigate the elements. Per usual, the 3D experience available here is incredible to take in.
Arguably the most visually encompassing of the new footage shown, here Soren and co. brave the elements once again in a devastatingly realistic rainstorm. I cannot imagine the rain on the feathers of the owls having any more fidelity as every drop hits with utter realism.
In spite of being a fan of a majority of Snyder’s previous work (while entertaining, 300, was a touch on the hyper-masculine side, but I’ll attribute that to Frank Miller’s source material), I really do value objectivity. With that in mind, though, I simply cannot put it plainly enough – visually, this film will amaze audiences. I truly believe it will give the oft-criticized 3D technology a leg to stand on for those (myself included) who routinely write it off as a fad that is sure to pass.
To all 3D non-believers (again, myself included): while we may or may not be correct about 3D’s staying power as a cinematic practice, after seeing Snyder’s Guardians, you may wish it would hang around a little bit longer.
Finally, here are a few pics of some swag that Warner Bros. handed out to members of the screening audience. I’m being completely honest when I say that I had no idea Beanie Babies still existed (Note: the sweet potato bag had no part in swaying my above thoughts in regards to the footage).