Warner Bros. today presented a short preview package of clips from Zack Snyder’s The Legend of the Guardians, a 3D CG toon about warrior owls with a taste for the mythic, and I was there for every last virtual feather of it.
I was told that the running time of the footage presented would be 26 minutes. It certainly didn’t seem that long, though the count did also include some video introductions and commentary from Snyder. He was recorded talking to camera and inviting us to “check out” the series of disconnected scenes, and beyond providing a little narrative context and just one or two – literally just one or two – anecdotes about the production, he had nothing to tell us. A lost opportunity, maybe?
By and large I was impressed with the footage, though it would have been impossible to judge the film’s pacing or overall narrative shape. One scene appeared to be developing a pro-war, military-vindicating subtext (hello 300) while a few minutes later, another appeared to be arguing against the same (again – hello 300).
On a shot-by-shot basis, however, the footage seemed pretty accomplished with some adventurous staging, exemplary lighting and texture work and a great deal of very good animation. The owl characters are delicately designed to seem both animal and other as well as very relatable, looking no more anthropomorphic than the Watership Down bunnies.
There’s a touch more anthropomorphism in the characterisation, however, not least as the owls are inexplicably industrialised , having wee helmets to wear and frightening looking metallic claws to put on their feet to better fight with. Charmers.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. are tied into using the Dolby Digital 3D system that’s a shade inferior to Real D (pun intended). It was clear, however, that the 3D work in the film is very good indeed – never obtrusive, always balanced, and richly realised to make some rather good use of stereo techniques.
Judging from the clips shown, there’s a class of owls that all speak with Australian accents. Why? Does there need to be a reason? Maybe the cause is no more complex than the film being produced by Animal Logic, the Oz-based animation house that previously realised Happy Feet. There’s consistency to the accents, though, and this means Jim Sturgess, the English actor playing hero-owl Soren, has had to adopt Australian articulation.
He’s not the only one having to modify how they speak – most of the cast were talking with lisps, which was a very nice touch, and something that played wonderfully in the close-ups where we could see the owl beaks forming the sounds.
All in all, it was whole a barrage of nice touches like that one, and my doubts on leaving were really about the bigger picture. Is this story going to stay interesting? Will I come to really root for Soren? Isn’t this a bit like Lord of the Rings for kids – because do we even know if kids would want Lord of the Rings?
Now… when do I get to see the whole thing and allay those doubts?