“Fellowship of the Owls”

Considering how much CGI he used in 300 and Watchmen, it seemed only a matter of time before Zack Snyder directed a fully animated film.  Based on the The Guardians of Ga’Hoole books by Kathryn Lasky, he turns out a dark fantasy film reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings that is a truly stunning work.  The film follows Soren (Jim Sturgess), the hobbit, uh, a young owl who grew up listening to his father’s stories about the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. While he internalized the folk tales with the secret hope of one day joining the Guardians, his older brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), rejects the idea.

Like the Biblical brother, Jacob and Esau, the brothers vie for their father’s favor, with Kludd’s jealousy leading them to a great fall from their treetop home to be carried off by the Pure Ones.  The Pure Ones in Mordor, uh, seek amass enough flecks to do great harm to the Guardians.  Soren escapes with the help of other owls, forming a fellowship as they soar across the sea in hopes of finding the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole.  Only with their help does he stand any hope of defeating the Pure Ones and saving the owlkind.

“Stories are part of our culture and history.” –Noctus (Hugo Weaving)

The fundamental journey of the hero, as described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), contains a number of stages, which includes: 1. A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline; 2. A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails; 3. Achieving the goal or “boon”, which often results in important self-knowledge; 4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail; 5. Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world.  Whether beginning (Mage: The Hero Discovered) or ending their journey (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), heroes share many traits: noble, trustworthy, loyal, just, and good.  Put another way, the essential story, the monomyth, echoes the story of Christ.

“We are for power and purpose.” –Nyra (Helen Mirren)

In the state of their world, the owls had fallen. Those held captive by the Pure Ones were moon blinked:  they bought into a lie (that they were orphans) and forgot who they were, to the point where they were slaves.  Pure Ones abhor weakness, all about empire and their twisted sense of values as they have bought into their system of empire and oppression:  the strong triumph, the broken should be put out of their misery, and honor is another word for weak.  Soren chose a different path.

“Words were the only proof I had that you were real.  And that didn’t stop me from believing.” –Soren

Motivated by the conviction of things not seen (the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1), Soren’s journey began as all of ours do, with discipleship. The journey is all about wrestling with our faith and choosing what we want to believe as we attempt to become who we were meant to become. Learning how to “trust your gizzard”.  The stories shape and form him in that he made the stories real through his faith and his life’s journey.

“I just want them to be prepared.” –Noctus

Discipleship is not instant but rather it was basically apprenticeship. The goal of the student is to become as much like the teacher as possible, as discipler and disciple are on a journey together to learn how to fly.  Discipleship would involve a changed in three areas: belief (as we turn to our Master-Teacher), behavior (our lives become slowly transformed, centering our lives around living out the kingdom mission; putting feet–action–to our faith and knowledge), and belonging (we join a specific faith community), in Soren’s case, to the Great Tree as a Guardian.  The guardians’ mission, in clear opposition to that of the Pure Ones, is to make strong the weak, mend the broken, and vanquish the evil.

Legend of the Guardian:  The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a truly marvelous film.  The animation was lush and Snyder brings his eye for cinematic action to the battle scenes.  Some of the battles may be intense for young ones who may be confused and thinking they are seeing Alpha and Omega or some other lighter fare.  This is not that kind of animated film.  It is dark, it is thrilling, it has great fight sequences, and it has depth (both cinematic and in its storytelling).  In short, to quote Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush),“That was exemplary, but we’re not finished yet, boy.”