Legend of the Guardians / The Owls of Ga'Hoole : 3 of 5

Warner Bros. is doing a nice job getting me to see movies that I would never have considered going to by including new Road Runner cartoons with the main feature! The cartoon was too short, but a little funnier than the one included with Cats & Dogs, and I liked the crazy flying gadget that the Coyote made from ACME products! I had no idea what to expect after the "That's All Folks!", but Legend of the Guardians turned out to be a surprisingly good movie, especially because it's the first animated feature directed by Zack Snyder. Zack's style is evident all over the place, and since the plot includes a lot of battles, he gets a chance to stage them with his "sudden slow-motion" technique that he used in 300 and Watchmen. When I first saw a trailer for this film, I couldn't imagine how they were going to convey emotion using the relatively static facial features of owls, but to my amazement they completely pulled it off. You wouldn't think those tiny beaks and huge eyes could do much, but somehow the character's faces easily register everything from happiness to fear, while still maintaining the basically photo-realistic look that requires a pretty strict adherence to owl anatomy! Without going into the plot (which borrows a few elements from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, among other movies), I really enjoyed the creative owl culture, which includes armor and weapons used in the many extended (and truly exciting) battle scenes. At one point the heroes are fighting bats, and even the bats have blades attached to their wings! The overall tone of the story is fairly serious (without many comedic moments), except for the inclusion of a pop-song montage that is completely out of place and totally made me cringe (I really hope that Zack was forced into it by some clueless executive!). Of course, the stage is set for a possible sequel (and I believe the story is based on a series of books anyway), but we'll have to see if such an unusual fantasy film makes enough at the box office to pay for another film. I'd definitely enjoying renting Legend of the Guardians when it's released on DVD just to check out the cool animation again!